“This is My Trail”: Conservation, Community, & Connectivity Along the Ice Age Trail

Ice Age Trail

Molly Seidel

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail (IAT) is a 1,200-mile hiking trail that winds its way through the varied landscapes of Wisconsin. The trail stretches from Potawatomi State Park in the West to Door Peninsula in the east, and as one of eleven national scenic trails it serves as a statewide ecological corridor that connects landscapes of environmental and cultural significance.

This capstone project focused on the ways in which the Ice Age Trail has shaped the experiences and perceptions of trail users, specifically among individuals heavily involved in trail preservation through the Ice Age Trail Alliance. I spent the summer of 2015 interning for the Ice Age Trail Alliance and participating in multiple trail build projects, where I had the opportunity to interview trail users and builders as well as experience trail building firsthand. I was also able to apply my own personal experiences hiking, running, and camping along the trail over the past decade.

Overall, I sought to understand the ways in which Wisconsin residents relate to the trail, whether it is through recreation, trailbuilding/maintenance, or passive exposure. Additionally, I worked to connect anthropological concepts of place making to individual/community perceptions of the trial to gain a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between the IAT landscapes and its users. I analyzed the way in which trail users experience the Ice Age Trail and create a sense of place within its natural and cultural landscapes. Using a multimedia approach (which includes photographs, video, and recorded interviews) I worked to gain a greater understanding of the variety of connections that trail users form and the ways in which these connections influence trail conservation and stewardship behaviors among users.