About Park Plans

Everything that the National Park Service does in a national park is the result of planning. Planning is also the one National Park Service function that requires public involvement.

Public involvement occurs in two primary ways:

  1. Before a plan is written, the Park Service may solicit public opinion on how the park should be managed. This is known as scoping.
  2. After a plan is drafted, the Park Service will ask the public to review it and provide comments. This is the public comment period.

It is critical that the Park Service hear from a broad range of the public when developing a plan; nearby residents, occasional visitors from outside the region, resource experts, environmental organizations, recreation groups, etc., all have important ideas on how best to manage a park.

The Park Service does want your input, and public comment frequently changes the final form of a plan. Thoughtful comments that include suggestions on how to improve plans have the greatest impact on the National Park Service.

Types of Plans

The National Park Service develops many kinds of park plans. The overall plan is called the General Management Plan. In it the Park Service lays out what the ideal conditions of the park environment—both natural and cultural—should be. For example, it might state that the park will seek to preserve a particular endangered species or a historic cabin. The general management plan also gives the range of visitor activities appropriate at various areas in the park.

The schedule of projects necessary to meet the goals stated in the General Management Plan is defined in a park's five-year Strategic Plan. The details as to how the Park Service actually is going to actually accomplish a goal are explained in a variety of Implementation Plans. For example, how an endangered species population or historic cabin is protected would be explained in a Resources Management Plan. The design and location of a new visitor center would be contained in a Development Concept Plan. A new visitor shuttle service would be designed as part of a Transportation Plan. A Backcountry Management Plan would provide specifics on the management of park trails.

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