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Historic Preservation Planning for Local Communities

What You Can Do in Your Community
to Promote Preservation Planning

Learn about planning in your community.

  • Check out information on who does planning and how to find your local planning office from the American Planning Association.

  • Learn how your community plans for growth, land use, housing, the environment, transportation, tourism, and other efforts that shape your community’s future.

  • Learn how historic preservation issues and concerns can be integrated into those planning efforts.

  • Get to know staff in city hall and in the planning department, and learn how the planning, zoning, and development review processes work.

Get involved in the planning process.

  • Attend planning meetings and workshops to share information about historic and cultural resources that are important to the community and how they can be preserved.

  • Remember that planning is just one component of the preservation process.

  • Always consider planning’s effect on historic buildings, landscapes, landmarks, archaeological sites, and other cultural resources in your community.

Encourage others to get involved.

  • Sponsor a neighborhood meeting to discuss and learn about preservation and planning topics.

  • Invite community officials and staff to share information about their activities.

  • Develop networks among neighbors, preservation organizations, and your local government planning office.

Inventory the special places in your community.

  • Understand that it is difficult to preserve historic resources if their existence and importance are unknown.

  • Identify the places and characteristics that make your community special.

  • Volunteer with your local or state historic preservation office to conduct a survey of the important historic and cultural resources in your community.

  • Collect photos, maps, and other historic records to document the changes that have taken place in your community.

  • Help your community planners incorporate the results of your surveys into local planning efforts.

Know and educate your elected and appointed officials.

  • Recognize that these are the folks who ultimately make the decisions about whether or not historic and cultural resources are preserved.

  • Get to know the staff who recommend how these officials should decide certain issues.

  • Explain to staff and local officials why it is important to protect your community’s heritage.

Serve on boards and commissions.

  • Learn about the process by which members of boards and commissions are appointed by local elected officials.

  • Understand how these bodies make a valuable contribution to the local decision-making process by providing opportunities for the public to share their views and by evaluating public and staff information to develop recommendations for action.

  • Volunteer to serve on your local preservation review board, planning commission, or other similar body to make sure that preservation issues are addressed effectively in the decision-making process.

Understand the trends affecting your community.

  • Learn how changes in economic conditions and demographic trends influence your community’s character and vitality.

  • Understand how preservation can help meet the goals of other efforts, such as:

    • tourism,

    • economic development,

    • affordable housing, and

    • open space protection
  • Explain these relationships to community leaders, elected and appointed officials, and planners.

Develop community leadership.

  • Look for leadership programs offered by local colleges, chambers of commerce, and other organizations.

  • Participate in these programs, and encourage others, especially young people, to do the same.

Get to know your local media.

  • Become familiar with your local newspaper, radio, and TV reporters who regularly cover:

    • history

    • archaeology

    • historic preservation

    • land use

    • comprehensive planning

    • the environment

    • and other related topics
  • Provide them with accurate and interesting stories about your community’s heritage and efforts to protect it.

  • Write articles for newspaper, radio, or TV programs.

Celebrate successes.

  • Celebrate your community’s heritage and preservation by organizing and participating in special events, such as:

    • a history fair

    • an award ceremony

    • a public lecture series

    • school poster contest

    • other activities that get people involved


This information has been adapted from the following sources:
  • “Ten Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Community.” American Planning Association, Chicago, Illinois (no longer on APA’s web site by July 2010; some of it has been incorporated into "Planning in Your Community," on-line;

  • From the concluding chapter in the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Planning for the Future: A Handbook on Community Visioning, on-line; and

  • “Taking the Initiative: What You Can Do to Protect Archeological Sites,” Strategies for Protecting Archeological Sites on Private Lands, on-line.

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