Blazing a Trail to Sustainability: Examining the Integration and Utilization of the Appalachian Trail in Boiling Springs and Duncannon, Pennsylvania

Quinn M. Heist, Gettysburg College
Anna H. Lewis, Gettysburg College

Environmental Studies Senior Thesis


Non-automobile transportation paths and networks are essential elements in promoting the three pillars of sustainable communities. National trails – like the Appalachian Trail – can serve as unique resources that bring significant environmental, public health, and economic benefits to the communities with which they intersect. The Appalachian Trail Communities program is designed to maximize these benefits. The purpose of this study was to assess the integration and utilization of the Appalachian Trail through a comparative study of two Appalachian Trail Communities, Boiling Springs and Duncannon, Pennsylvania. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, we conducted surveys of trails users, local residents and business owners to discern commonalities and differences with regards to trail use in the two communities. Results demonstrate small but important differences between the two towns in terms of awareness of the trail, time of use, and reasons for use. We conclude that these distinctions reflect in part the precise location, setting, and local resources devoted to the AT trail in the respective communities. Use and benefits from the AT are also a function of each community’s unique character, history, and demographics. However, lessons may be drawn from each community that may benefit other AT Communities that participate in the program.