National Park Service
Civic Engagement


Images of Community Members at MLK NHS, Japanese Monument at Manzanar Historic Site, Student studying in Vermont and historic photo of Slave Quarters

Welcome to the National Park Service Civic Engagement Website!

“Civic engagement” is a philosophy, discipline, and practice defined by the National Park Service as “a continuous, dynamic conversation with the public on many levels that reinforces public commitment to the preservation of heritage resources.”  More specifically, civic engagement is about enhancing and maintaining relationships with local communities and other interests, both near and far, in order to encourage stewardship of resources on both sides of park boundaries. To help parks and communities work together toward these goals, this website offers:

  • information about the process and impact of civic engagement
  • resources that can help you understand and practice civic engagement
  • case studies to learn from the experiences of others

New Assessment Handbook Tool!

The Conservation Study Institute and its partners developed Beyond Outreach Handbook: A Guide to Designing Effective Programs to Engage Diverse Communities pdf 798kb.

This handbook represents an important new tool to assist National Park Service (NPS) managers and practitioners and their partners in developing programs that successfully connect diverse communities with their local national parks. It guides practitioners through an assessment that identifies gaps in readiness and informs the development of an effective engagement strategy.

Congratulations to Barbara Little, Archeologist, NPS who has been recognized by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Center for Heritage & Society as a 2011 honoree!

University of Massachusetts Amherst
Center for Heritage & Society

Barbara has a long standing commitment to civic engagement in her work. She recently participated in a panel at the GWS conference and noted, "Archeology as a profession working both with local and descendant communities has increasingly found that civic engagement is a component of good practice."

NPS Archeology Program Public Outreach
We invite you to download:

Stronger Together: A Manual on the Principles and Practices of Civic Engagement

In September 2009, the National Parks Second Century Commission, an independent bipartisan commission, issued its report, Advancing the National Park Idea (pdf), after a year-long examination of the work of national parks today, and in anticipation of the National Park Service’s upcoming 2016 Centennial. The report cites civic engagement as critical to the future of the national park system and to conservation of special places. The National Park System Advisory Board is helping to carry forward some of the commission's key recommendations.

According to the commission report, “the long-term viability of the parks and the quality of life in surrounding communities increasingly depend on the Park Service building strong constituencies across the full spectrum of our population, as it engages with Americans both locally and nationally.” The report cites the education mission of the Park Service as an important avenue for connecting with Americans, especially youth. It also recognizes the importance of engaging local communities in collaborative stewardship and providing service learning opportunities for Americans of all ages.

This website offers many resources to the National Park Service and its partners in these efforts to engage all Americans in their national parks.

The National Park Service Conservation Study Institute ( manages this website. We welcome your feedback. You can contact the Institute by email:


Featured Resources on Civic Engagement

Stronger Together: A Manual on the Principles and Practices of Civic Engagement

Leading in a Collaborative Environment: Six Case Studies Involving Collaboration and Civic Engagement

Learning to Make Choices for the Future: Connecting Public Lands, Schools, and Communities through Place-based Learning and Civic Engagement

Engaging Young Adults in a Sustainable Future:
Strategies for National Parks and Other Special Places

21st Century Relevancy Initiative:  
Identifying best practices to improve program effectiveness in engaging new communities. For more information, see a PowerPoint presentation and related narrative.

Many more civic engagement resources can be found on this website’s Resources page.







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