Park Planning: Be An Effective Participant

Understand the planning and decisionmaking process

Some level of planning is going on in every park all the time. The National Park Service prioritizes its decision making through a set of plans for each park that range from policy-level guidance to annual work assignments for individual park employees. Understanding the kinds of decisions to be made at each step of this process will help ensure that your comments are timely and influential. The right idea at the right time can be more effective than a great outpouring of support or concern when a decision is not imminent. On the left side of this screen you’ll find links to discussions of why and how the National Park Service plans, and an overview of the laws, regulations, and policies that govern park planning.

The National Park Service will provide continuing formal opportunities for public involvement in this planning and decision making. The earlier you become involved, the greater chance you will have of helping to shape the future of the park. The more you stay involved, the more you can help ensure that what people have agreed is important actually gets done.

As a general rule, get involved in:

  • general management planning if you want to influence the character of the park
  • strategic planning if you want something in particular to get done
  • implementation planning (river management plan, museum collections plan, site development plan, comprehensive interpretive plan, etc.) if you care about the details of facilities or programs

Offer constructive criticism

The fact that you may well have information or a perspective that can lead to better decisions for the park is a major reason why the National Park Service encourages public involvement. However, Park Service planning is not a voting process, and the fact that 500 people support one alternative over 300 people supporting another may not sway decision makers. On the other hand, even a few people can make a difference if they provide a compelling argument for their preferred alternative.

Focus on major issues and encourage proposals that protect park resources (communities of plants and animals, historic structures, night skies, archeological sites, geologic features, etc.)

As an advocacy group, NPCA members can be most effective by focusing on a set of critical issues that can make the biggest difference in the overall preservation of park resources. Reading NPCA comments may inform you about what is at stake in a particular plan. You will find a link to the NPCA comments on the left side of this screen.

When commenting on plans, especially at the draft-planning stage, be sure to support ideas you agree with as well as criticize things you want changed. Without support, good plans run the risk of being revised to the detriment of the natural and cultural environments.

Stay involved after the general management is approved

Each park’s strategic planning is used to identify projects slated for funding and implementation within the foreseeable future. NPCA members need to be involved in park strategic planning, as well as general management planning and implementation planning, to help ensure that issues important to NPCA get NPS priorities and funding.

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