COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Placemaking in National Parks

Dec 31, 2008
Dec 14, 2017

What is Placemaking in National Parks?

To the visitor, parks are really a series of many places. The entrance to a park is a place, as is the interpretive center and the spaces around it. So are the streets around the park, the gateway community, and even the parking lots and shuttles. By focusing on a particular place and then identifying and working with the partners who use, manage or who are somehow involved in that place to come up with targeted and affordable ideas to make it better, a park manager can immeasurably improve their park quickly and inexpensively. In a nutshell, this is what placemaking is all about.

Partnerships help park managers prioritize issues and identify short-term fixes, as well as longer term enhancement strategies. The resulting vision can greatly help a to optimize park funding and get the best result for minimum investment. Partners can also provide alternative funding sources, especially if they are involved in identifying activities from the outset.

Yogi Berra said "You can see a lot just by observing!" And placemaking is a lot about observing a place to see how it works and then making changes to it that reflect this insight. Over the past 28 years, Project for Public Spaces, Inc. (PPS) has use placemaking in its work in making urban public spaces function more effectively for people. Starting with its work in National Parks in 1975 (in the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Tetons and Gateway National Recreation Area) PPS has developed a series of tools and techniques that are still being used in National Parks today (e.g. in New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park).


  • Improves visitor experience
  • Encourages community stewardship
  • Identifies potential partners
  • Locates short-term improvements
  • Improves links to gateway communities
  • Protects and enhances cultural and natural resources
  • Prioritizes funding needs
  • Achieves the best result for minimum investment

What is the National Park Service Partnership office?

The National Park Service (NPS) Partnership office works to develop and sustain partnerships inviting public participation, understanding and support of the national parks and the mission of the National Park Service. It works within the Service to continuously improve the NPS's capacity to create, nurture and expand partnerships to enhance our ability and fulfill our mission.

The Partnership office coordinates policies, procedures and training to promote effective partnerships to expand the capacity of the NPS for outreach and public involvement.

The Partnership is widely accessible with office locations in the seven regions of the NPS, including our Washington D.C. office and the Denver Service Center.

PPS & the NPS

Since 1975, Project for Public Spaces (PPS) and the National Park Service have collaborated on creating great parks. Some of the projects include:

  • Gateway National Recreation Area
  • New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

Park Renewal

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park

Research Applications

  • User Analysis in Park Planning & Management
  • Film in User Analysis


  • National Capitol Region
  • Western Region

Training Programs

For more information, please contact:

Kathy Madden, Vice President Project for Public Spaces (212) 620-5660

Linda Moery, Assistant Director, Partnerships Office National Park Service 12795 W. Alameda Parkway or PO Box 25287 Denver, CO 80225-0287 (303) 969-2411

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