National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
NPS-California State Parks Statewide Partnership

Description: While there had been cooperative ventures between the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) and NPS since the late 70s, this decade-long, formal partnership had its roots in a heated 1993 controversy over whether NPS would take over three state parks within the Congressionally-authorized boundaries of Redwood National Park (described in the Redwood National and State Park case study). When the issue was addressed at the headquarters level, the Deputy Director for California State Parks (CSP) insisted that NPS and CSP also jointly look at other NPS-CSP adjacent operations in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles -- which was done in Fall 1993. Each agency appointed five members not directly involved in the Redwoods issue to the California Coordinating Committee on Operational Efficiencies and a one-week field review was conducted of the three clusters.

It became obvious there were potentials for closer, cost effective operational efficiencies through collaboration at each of the three park clusters and between the headquarters in Sacramento and in San Francisco/now Oakland. The decision was made that a side by side, integrated operation at Redwoods offered greater advantage than taking over the three state parks. Having surveyed the range of possible partnership initiatives, the California Coordinating Committee on Operational Efficiencies produced a report of findings and recommendations in March 1994.

A formal five-year master Memorandum of Agreement was signed at the headquarters-level in June 1994 and the three park clusters and headquarters each negotiated annual work plans. The headquarters directorate and staff provided staffing, evaluation, troubleshooting, and accomplishments reporting. In June, 1999, an updated General Agreement was signed by new CSP and NPS directors for a second five years. Based on the successes and cost savings in the first five years, the second agreement added four additional clusters of adjacent parks - Mojave, San Simeon, Marin, and the 1,000 miles of the Juan Buatista de Anza National Historic Trail in California which intersects with 23 state parks units. The General Agreement was re-negotiated for a fourth five-year term in 2009.

Geographic area covered: State of California as far as overall programmatic collaboration and area-specific where there are adjacent park properties and side by side operations.

List of partners and relationships: California Department of Parks and Recreation aka California State Parks and Pacific West Region of the National Park Service. The Santa Monica Mountains Cluster also included the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy as a full partner.

Accomplishments to date: Many specific accomplishments and cost savings and efficiencies by park function have been documented in annual and biennial progress reports. The Redwood National and State Parks cluster is a showcase agency-to-agency partnership that has greater capacity to manage the park resources, and serve and educate visitors. NPS and California State Parks came out of the initial catharsis with a strong resolve to cooperate more closely and look out for each other's interest throughout California where they manage adjacent lands or common interests. There were additional spin-off statewide initiatives such as the California Roundtable on Recreation, Parks and Tourism, the California Park and Recreation Leadership Institute and Statewide Symposiums on Visitor Use Management and Recreation Futures.

The "aha" from this experience strongly influenced the approach NPS took to other multi-agency land-based management challenges, including the Desert Managers Group for the 25 million-acre Mojave Desert in California and Nevada.

Each of the clusters documented cost efficiencies, staff coordination, equipment and facilities, and jointly defended park resources.

Both parties have used the partnership as leverage to get higher priority consideration on funding and allocation decisions.

Combined General Management Plans and General Plan updates were prepared by a joint planning team and process for Redwood National and State Parks and the Santa Monica Mountains. Through this combined effort common policies, management strategies, and priorities were adopted and tough park controversies resolved.

NPS was able to ensure that CDPR received a donation of 100 TH!NK electric vehicles as part of a statewide donation from Ford Motor Company through the National Park Foundation.

In partnership with CDPR, NPS negotiated and managed contracts for baseline studies and brought in the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation to assist in the preservation of Angel Island Immigration Station on Angel Island State Park. CDPR transferred funds to NPS since NPS contracting authorities enabled larger and concurrent contracts to get the job done faster than CDPR authorities allowed.

NPS and CDPR have collaborated very closely on the NPS Fort Hunter Liggett Special Resource Study and are working in tandem on a new area to recognize Cesar Chavez.

Most recently, the CSP provided their Aubell Ranch site as a solution for relocating NPS's central maintenance facility at Redwoods, which is currently operating from an unsustainable location. This will lead to a side by side state of the art central maintenance operation.

The Partnership has been favorably received by citizens and taxpayers and increased respect for both agencies. Both agencies are motivated to look out for each others' interest.

Key success factors:

  1. The critical decision to partner rather than co-opt was resolved objectively at the headquarters level through an equitable due process and with staff and public input. Each agency appointed a liaison to follow-up, staff documents, address perceptions and rumors, trouble shoot, assemble reports and agreements, coordinate evaluation. Close interest, observation and support were given to ensure that the agency to agency partnership would succeed at all levels.
  2. Once the hard decision was made, the superintendents resolved to broker and institutionalize functional partnerships at each level.
  3. A thorough integration process was planned, implemented, and re-enforced by a formal agreement, an annual work plan, annual progress reporting and oversight by assigned headquarters-based liaisons and the respective directorates. A RNSP Mission and Guiding Principles to govern partnership interactions was developed by a committee of diverse staff from both agencies.
  4. The succeeding superintendents and each succeeding manager and staff person has been selected for their ability to partner. Both Superintendents participate in the selection process for division level hires for both agencies. The NPS Regional Director consulted with the CSP Chief Deputy in selecting the new NPS Superintendent for Redwood National and State Parks.
  5. On-going statewide initiatives and strategic collaborations.
  6. Putting staff of both agencies in closer touch with directories, email, and dispatch facilitated communication.
  7. The partnership was in the spotlight and received state and national attention and recognition.
  8. Mid-point on-site interviews and evaluations were held. Concerns were addressed on a timely basis.
  9. Authority was provided to co-mingle funds between the two agencies at Redwood National and State Parks.

Frustrations: While the missions of NPS and CSP are in synch, funding and staffing are driven by out of synch fiscal and political realities in Washington, DC and Sacramento, CA. The partnership emerged in a time of compression for CSP followed by one for NPS. After some better funding years, both agencies are now taking budget hits with CSP's more severe. Overall, there has always been inequity between the NPS and the lower on-site staffing and budget profile of the California State Parks (CSP). There have been situations when it was impossible for CSP to commit capital improvement funds to participate in a new, shared facility, e.g. construction of a new South Operation Center in Orick, at Redwood National and State Parks.

Except for Redwood National and State Parks which has a special authorization to co-mingle funds, transfers of funds have been slow. When NPS agreed to use its Indefinite Quantities Contract to do baseline studies for Angel Island Immigration Station on Angel Island State Parks on behalf of CSP, it took 10 months to get the funds transferred to NPS to issue the contract.

Over the last ten years, there have been numerous key personnel changes. The Regional Director for NPS and the Director for CSP have both changed three times. The Superintendents and key staff at a number of the clusters have changed. One of the headquarters liaison positions was reassigned. These changes complicate maintaining continuity and momentum. Every effort is made to select replacements that are committed to sustain the intent of the partnership.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. With the right process and players, a close partnership can sometimes emerge from heated conflict.
  2. Use a combined "bottom up - top down" approach to forge the partnership - top down to get it rolling quickly and establish general expectations, and bottom up to tap practical work-based ideas and get staff ownership. Allow time for it to gel.
  3. Co-locate whenever possible. Distance is not a friend of partnering. Coordination is more feasible if the superintendents can be side by side and collaborating on key decisions and hires.
  4. Select superintendents and managers who are committed to the partnership, creative and are always looking for ways to make it work. Jointly review and approve top selections to ensure a close fit. The right chemistry between on-site partners makes a big difference in whether the relationship will succeed. In one cluster, the partnership results were limited because the two superintendents could not get on the same page over personal differences. Both were talented professionals but could not get past their differences. With the succession of one of them, the cluster relationship became more productive.
  5. Replace malcontents with players as opportunities arise.
  6. Adopt written annual work plans. Measure and regularly report results.
  7. Have oversight and accountability both internally and externally. Conduct periodic reviews - annually initially and then every two years if things are working well.
  8. Resolve problems quickly. If something is impractical, move on to more productive opportunities.
  9. Recognize and celebrate incremental successes. Demonstrate mutual appreciation and support. Learn from each other and adopt best practice.
  10. Obtain the capacity and/or smooth the path to co-mingle funds and staff.
  11. There are more advantages to the combined resources and political strength of side-by-side partner agencies than a stand alone operation. It makes a difference when the chips are down.

What would you do differently next time: Weigh in sooner to resolve a conflict. Start staff involvement from the bottom up sooner. Insist on doable annual work plans.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): 1994 RNSP Memorandum of Agreement, 1999 RNSP General Agreement. Annual RNSP Work Plans. Annual CSP-NPS Progress Reports. Legislative authorization to share funds. March 1994 Final Report of California Committee on Operational Efficiencies.

Memorandums of Agreement and Annual and Biennual Accomplishment Reports

For more information:

Name: Ray Murray, Partnership Chief
Affiliation: Partnership Office, National Park Service, Pacific West Region
Phone/Fax: 510-817-1439, 510-817-1505 (f)
Email/website: ray_murray@nps.gov

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvement __; Facility Management _X_; Design _X_; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services _X_; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X_; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services _X_; Transportation __; Mutual Aid/Emergency Services _X_; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism __; Community Relations _X_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Ray Murray Date posted: 11/07/03
Phone: 510-817-1439

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