Year of Award

2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Recreation Management

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation

Committee Chair

Dr. Norma Polovitz Nickerson

Commitee Members

Dr. Jakki Mohr Dr. Jeremy Sage

Keywords

quality of life, residents, alternative transportation systems, gateway communities, national parks, West Yellowstone

Publisher

University of Montana

Subject Categories

Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

As visitation to the national parks across the United States continues to increase, more and more park service units are exploring the possibility of implementing alternative forms of transportation to help mitigate some of the negative side effects associated with vehicle-related congestion issues. Although research efforts have examined the role of alternative transportation systems (ATS) in helping to improve the visitor experience in the national parks, fewer research efforts have focused on the impacts of these transportation systems on the affiliated gateway community, particularly with respect to the perceived impacts an ATS may have on quality of life in gateway communities.

Using West Yellowstone as a case study, this research aimed to address the gap in understanding residents’ current perceptions of the community’s quality of life (QOL), but more precisely, understanding how a hypothetically proposed form of tourism development (a voluntary shuttle system) could impact perceptions of QOL. Results show that characteristics of West Yellowstone’s community that contribute to a high QOL are environmental factors like clean air, clean water, and opportunities for outdoor recreation. Conversely, residents expressed concerns over the lack of affordable housing within their community.

When assessing the perceived impact a shuttle system would have on their QOL, residents felt that it would enhance several characteristics of their community that were already contributing to a high QOL while exacerbating fewer, yet highly important issues that were detracting from it. Overall, residents displayed tepid support for the concept of a shuttle system that would originate within their community. Rather, residents wished to focus on issues that were currently detracting from their QOL, such as the lack of affordable housing in their community. It is recommended that the idea of a shuttle system that originates within the town of West Yellowstone be pursued with caution until more pressing social and economic issues are handled first, if a shuttle system is to be pursued at all.

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© Copyright 2020 Carter Wyatt Bermingham