For three years National Parks Traveler has served as a forum not just to inform the general public about issues concerning the National Park Service and its system, but to encourage debate and discussion over how the agency and its parks can become stronger. Now there's another forum with a similar goal in mind.
Designing the Parks is a joint effort by the National Park Service and the National Parks Conservation Association. The initiative featured a three-day conference held in May in Charlottesville, Virginia, that explored both the park system's natural landscape and its cultural components.
Another conference is scheduled for December in San Francisco and "will focus on contemporary challenges and opportunities and will produce a set of design and planning principles to guide future park policy, development, and management over the next century."
"The goal is to bring together forward thinking designers, planners, park and resource managers, scholars, preservationists, conservationists, social scientists, students, and other professionals who understand the critical issues that must be addressed in public park design and planning to maintain their relevancy and sustainability in the 21st century."
There's one other component of this initiative that is open to the public: an on-line forum intended to stimulate discussion in advance of the December conference.
It should prove interesting to see what fruits this effort and that of the National Parks Second Century Commission bear. Will their work be inclusive or exclusive of the general public? Will their efforts be combined, or fork off in different directions? Will they succeed in charting a strong course for the National Park System? Only time will tell.