Mountain biking economic analysis supports community decision making and engages students

  • Maddie Smith navigating a wooden ramp on a mountain bike

    Maddie Smith

Mountain biking is an increasingly popular outdoor recreation activity in New Hampshire and beyond. Communities recognize mountain biking's economic opportunity but often need more information to make any planning decisions. In the Fall of 2023, the UNH Extension Community & Economic Development (CED) team built on previous work with the city of Keene and its Recreation Director through a unique project focused on understanding the economics of mountain biking. Keene participated in our Downtowns & Trails program (access the report) and recognized mountain biking as a growing aspect of its outdoor economy. More data was needed though, so we started a pilot project between Extension, the city of Keene, and the UNH Graduate School.

UNH Extension is committed to supporting communities while also providing applied and career relevant experience for our graduate and undergraduate students. This collaboration was a perfect example of researching decision-relevant data needs in Keene, while also providing students with a professional, and thanks to the city of Keene, paid experience in the growing outdoor recreation economy.

Get to know our two fantastic interns who worked on this project during the Fall Semester. A link to their final report can be found here.

Maddie Smith, UNH Natural Resources & Earth Systems Science Doctoral Candidate

I am a PhD candidate in an interdisciplinary program that combines Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (NRESS) with Recreation, Management and Policy (RMP). My research focuses on understanding climate change's impact on outdoor recreation participants and providers in New Hampshire as part of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Prior to starting my PhD, I spent over 15 years working in outdoor recreation, most recently as the Outdoor Adventures program coordinator at UNH.  My goal is to conduct research that aids outdoor recreation providers in advocating for funding and policy that supports their program and facility needs. I enjoyed working on this project because it gave us the opportunity to work with Keene’s director of Recreation, Andy Bohannon, Dr. Rogers and Dr. Levine, to design this study, collect data, and present the findings all in one semester. Keene is already doing a great job with their mountain biking facilities, and I hope the results from our project will help the parks and recreation department continue to grow and thrive in the next few years.     

Ethan O'Leary viewing a trail map on a Keene Paths trail kiosk

Ethan O'Leary

Ethan O’Leary, UNH Recreation Management and Policy ‘23 and current graduate student

I am a first year MS student studying Recreation Administration in the Recreation Management & Policy (RMP) department. I graduated in December 2023 with a dual major in Outdoor Leadership & Management and Sustainability. During the research project in Keene, I had the opportunity to explore the overlap between outdoor recreation and economics. Many of my prior experiences focused primarily on outdoor recreation and its relation to sustainability, as well as working on federally managed public lands, so being able to work with Keene in a local parks and recreation/economic context was a great opportunity. The hands-on field visits, data collection, and weekly meetings to discuss our project plans worked well together to guide me through this semester-long project. The time frame was very convenient for me, especially as an undergrad in my last semester at UNH. Plus, having the experience with economic analysis in a local outdoor recreation setting provided me with a chance to explore something I hadn’t looked into before in my studies. With this experience of conducting research and working on a collaborative research team, I plan to continue my professional experiences in the field through working towards leadership positions in public land management.


Associate Extension Professor
Affiliated Faculty
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Extension State Specialist/Professor
Phone: (603) 862-5171
Office: Cooperative Extension, Nesmith Hall, Durham, NH 03824