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Park Planning Program

Planning Framework

Each unit of the national park system is required to have a formal statement of its core mission that provides basic guidance for all planning and management decisions, the park foundation document. A foundation document establishes the basis for all future planning and is the core element of each park's planning portfolio. The planning portfolio is the assemblage of individual plans, studies, and inventories, such as climbing management plans, general management plans, visitor use studies, and cultural landscape inventories, which guide park decision-making. The portfolio structure encourages the use of targeted, small-scale planning products to meet a broad range of park planning needs.

For information on the types of plans, studies, and inventories that may be included in the park planning portfolio, please see the Catalog of Products and Services. For information on active planning projects across the seven NPS regions, click on the following links: Alaska Region, Intermountain Region, Midwest Region, National Capital Region, Northeast Region, Pacific West Region, Southeast Region.

image of the types of plans that make up a park's foundation document framework for park planning

Offices and Programs

Multiple offices and programs assist with, manage, and carry out elements of the NPS Park Planning program. The Park Planning and Special Studies Division in the national office provides overall direction for park planning.

Each of the seven regional offices has a planning division that supports the NPS Park Planning program. The regional planning divisions are responsible for plan production and technical assistance to parks. To contact a regional planning office, go to Contact Park Planning and indicate in the body of your message which region you are trying to contact - Alaska Region, Intermountain Region, Midwest Region, National Capital Region, Northeast Region, Pacific West Region, Southeast Region.

The Denver Service Center Planning Division supports the NPS Park Planning program by providing plan production and planning services to parks and regional offices. To contact the Denver Service Center Planning Division, go to Contact Park Planning and indicate 'Denver Service Center' in the body of your message.

In addition to these offices, which are specifically charged to conduct planning, many other NPS programs are involved in park planning projects and provide capacity throughout the agency to address park planning needs.

Other offices and programs that conduct planning:

The Commercial Services Program is responsible for ensuring access to quality visitor services and activities that provide for visitor use and enjoyment in national parks. Commercial services planning provides a logical decision making process to determine which types of activities and services will be provided by qualified businesses, and determines the appropriate tools (concession contract, commercial use authorization, and/or lease) to manage those activities and services.

The Denver Service Center Transportation Division manages implementation plans for transportation projects in collaboration with parks and partners to ensure that park resources are protected.

The Environmental Quality Division assists with management planning by providing guidance, technical assistance, training, and advice on the National Environmental Policy Act to NPS staff to protect park resources and values for the enjoyment of future generations.

The Harpers Ferry Center Interpretive Planning Program assists by helping parks address visitor experiences in parks, including interpretation, orientation, education, safety, and resource protection. Interpretive planning is a goal-driven process that recommends strategies to help parks achieve their mission, protect their resources, and provide the best service to visitors.

The Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation. The program partners with community groups, nonprofits, tribes, and state and local governments to design trails and parks, conserve and improve access to rivers, protect special places, and to create recreation opportunities.