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Professor, student studying shore path



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June 04, 2013 | 03:50 PM
LAKE GENEVA — Academics from Oshkosh will be studying the Geneva Lake Shore Path this summer and into 2014.

Paul Van Auken, professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and his research assistant Maggie Danielson are compiling survey results from area residents.

The idea to study how people use the shore path started more than a year ago.

"I've spent some time down on Geneva Lake in the last few summers," Van Auken said. "I've walked the path a little bit. It seemed like a very interesting anomaly to have this path that goes around the whole lake."

Danielson, originally from Orfordville, said she had never been on the path before learning about the project from Van Auken.

"I thought it sounded really interesting," she said. "it's kind of closer to my hometown, too. I did get to walk (the path) while I was doing research for the project. I really liked it."

Van Auken has studied socio-economic land use patterns in the past.

"In my dissertation, I compared part of Wisconsin to part of Norway," he said. "In Norway, that's the rule everywhere. Shorelines are open to anyone. It doesn't matter who's property it is."

The public shore path is an anomaly in the United States, Van Auken said.

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Danielson started researching the shore path and found no studies completed on it.

"As far as we could tell, nobody had really studied it," Van Auken said. "We made contact with the local library in Lake Geneva and got copies of the court case around it."

Local groups are also interested in gathering data about the path, he said.

"Over the last month, we've been in touch with people working with local governments and the conservancy there," Van Auken said. "There seems to be some interest. Those contacts have helped spread the word about the survey."

Van Auken and Danielson plan to send 3,000 postcards to residents in communities surrounding the lake.

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"It seems like something the local people are pretty interested in," Van Auken said. "They may have some strong opinions about it."

They hope to have at least 300 people take the online survey.

"We really want to know how different people from different positions in the community, year-round residents, seasonal residents, lower income people, upper income people, feel about the shore path," he said. "We want to know how people develop in places and impact the environment."

There's no firm deadline for the survey, but Van Auken said he hopes to have the results complied by mid-summer.

After that, information will be shared with the community, and more information will be gathered through interviews.

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"We're going to try to get information from a bunch of people, and then do in-depth interviews over the next year," Van Auken said. "We'll put together a report about the findings so that it can be useful to the communities."

Danielson graduated this spring with a degree in social work, but she plans to continue with the shore path study.

"I think after the survey is out, it will be fun to do the interviews," she said. "I'm on board to continue with this project."

The end goal for Van Auken is to produce academic research articles for publication.

"That can take months after the data is gathered," he said.

To take the shore path survey, go to http://tinyurl.com/ShorePath.

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