Welcome to the Park Planning and Policy Lab website. It provides an overview of the research activities of the Park Lab.

Mission Statement

The Lab conducts research directed at understanding park and protected area development, including community-based decision-making related to park policy. The Lab specializes in research investigating social processes of park development within watershed or ecosystem contexts.

Value Statement

The Lab is committed to social justice and empowerment of stakeholders. We do not advocate park development. We advocate the accurate representation of stakeholder values within the context of land use planning processes. Through our research, we strive for representation of stakeholder values, for opportunities for social learning, and to reach decisions about land uses acceptable to the community of stakeholders.

Why a Park Lab?

The limitations of jurisdictional planning frameworks have become obvious within most land management discussions, and because of this, expert-only decision processes are becoming a thing of the past. For a variety of reasons, public and private sector groups have become oriented toward landscape-based frameworks (e.g., watershed, ecosystem, regional scale) often tied to adaptive management concepts in which expertise informs community-based forums. These landscape frameworks are still in their infancies and struggling for tools to facilitate discourse on public values related to nature. With citizen involvement becoming more central to park planning contexts, visitor-based information is less relevant to decisions compared to information connected to collaborative learning, contested meanings of place, empowerment strategies, and social justice. As a consequence of this shift, land managers are finding themselves in roles that require stakeholder dialogue processes rather than being analysts who make decisions. Managers are inadequately prepared to address stakeholder-based issues and in most need of information that would facilitate the transition. Research from the Park Lab does not so much advocate this shift, as taking it as a premise that dramatically influences the relevance and roles for social science. See more click here.

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