State of the Parks

The image is a screenshot of a page in a report. The page shows condition information with colored circles with arrows. A small image of a human statue is included in a paragraph about archeological collections.
A screenshot of the State of the Park report for Ocmulgee National Monument (Georgia) shows the format for reporting on resources at the park, including a short resource brief at the bottom about archeology.

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NPS State of the Park (SotP) reports are a communication and education tool. They convey complex park condition information to the general public in a clear and simple manner. This promotes greater awareness of park conditions and needs, strengthening public support for NPS actions that maintain or improve conditions for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations. SotP reports are also a strategic management tool. They help track condition changes over time, assist priority setting as part of routine work planning, and provide information needed to develop a park's Resource Stewardship Strategy.

SotP reports summarize overall conditions for natural and cultural resources, infrastructure, and visitor experience at individual national park units (parks). Recent park activities and accomplishments and existing/emerging management issues and challenges are also highlighted. In the future, findings across all parks or logical groups of parks can be aggregated to portray a bigger picture of conditions and needs across the national park system.

The reports rely on inventories, surveys, monitoring data, condition assessments, and other forms of data compilations and resource evaluations. They also rely on institutional knowledge and professional judgment as provided by park staff and other NPS subject matter experts during SotP workshops and reviews.

A servicewide database enhances transparency and credibility for SotP reporting. It documents key data and information sources relied on for each park's report. This allows online readers to use "drill down" links to learn more about the supporting data and information. It also facilitates future updates to reports while preserving legacy (prior year) reporting information.

SotP reporting was formally launched as part of the NPS Call to Action (Action Item #28), which established a startup goal of 50 completed reports by 2016. The NPS is on track to meet or exceed this goal. As of May 2014, 11 reports were completed, 21 were in-process, and 31 parks were on a list to develop one by 2016. Regional offices work with the field to determine which parks are interested and ready to be added to the list.

The longer term goal is for most if not all parks to develop an initial SotP report followed by periodic updates: at least once every five years, more frequently as warranted by new data and information or rapidly changing park conditions.

Key Steps
The first step is a targeted review of likely data and information sources to develop draft input for condition reporting. Draft input from park staff and NPS subject matter experts is also solicited and entered into preliminary condition reporting tables.

The next and critical step is a one- to two-day workshop to review, modify, and update the preliminary condition information. Participants include park staff (representing all management divisions) and park-invited subject matter experts from NPS regional and national offices. The report is often 80-90 percent completed by the end of the workshop and can usually be finalized within one to two months.

After final review and approval by the park, Region, and Washington offices, data and documentation is entered into the database, and the SotP report is posted to a public web site.

Value and Benefits
Park partners and stakeholders are engaged and interested in park management issues. They want to know "what's going on" with resources and facilities and "what we're doing" to maintain or improve conditions and protect resource values. SotP reports contribute to effective and timely communication of this information to park partners and the public.

For park managers, SotP reports provide a quick synthesis and snapshot of current conditions across multiple program areas: resource stewardship, maintenance and operations, and interpretation and education. The effort draws on data, information, and expertise from many NPS sources and results in a consolidated report-out that helps managers allocate their limited staff and funding to priority park needs.

Last updated: March 30, 2015