National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Redwood National and State Parks

Description: This partnership-based park operation emerged out of conflict. The 1968 legislation that established Redwood National Park included three spectacular State Parks within the authorized federal boundary - Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Del Norte Redwoods State Park. In the early 1990s, Redwood National Park sought transfer of the three crown jewel State Parks, which set up a spirited local conflict between two park agencies despite their almost identical missions. The conflict spilled over into the adjacent communities and interest groups took sides. In August 1993, the respective headquarters directors appointed a 10-person review committee of five "outside" representatives from each agency to assess the situation on-site and make recommendations. The committee concluded that the advantages of a shared park operation, using the collective resources of both agencies, offered greater advantages than a transfer. After a report and a public involvement process, a 5-year Memorandum of Agreement was negotiated in 1994 and a second 5-year General Agreement was negotiated in 1999. Today Redwood National and State Parks is the most integrated park operation in the Pacific West Region and both agencies are proud and respectful of the partnership.

Once the decision to partner was made, the respective superintendents and managers planned how they could merge/coordinate their staff, budgets, talents, facilities, rolling stock and connections to best advantage. California State Parks recruited a superintendent, Rick Sermon, for the three state parks to work along side the NPS Superintendent, Bil Ehorn, who was quickly succeeded by Andy Ringgold. The respective management teams adopted a bottom-up process to get buy-in and ideas from the staff to make the partnership work. Counterpart staff developed lists of partnering opportunities and a joint annual work plan was adopted. The name of the park was changed to "Redwood National and State Parks". Ranger patrols, campground staffing, interpretation, resource management, and facility and roads and trails maintenance was closely coordinated. A unified logo was designed and installed depicting two side-by-side redwood trees and both agencies' logos. The logo was incorporated in a sign plan and displayed on parking entrance signs and signs throughout. This identity was incorporated in all printed materials, stationary and the way the phones are answered. The agencies also obtained special legislative authority to co-mingle funds. Training was integrated.

Geographic area covered: The 106,000-acre Redwoods National and State Park (RNSP) straddles Humboldt and Del Norte Counties along the Pacific Coast in Northern California just below the Oregon border.

List of partners and relationships: California State Parks and the National Park Service

Accomplishments to date: The many specific accomplishments and cost savings and efficiencies by park function have been documented in annual and biennial progress reports. RNSP 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.

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. The RNSP has documented cost efficiencies, staff coordination, equipment and facilities, and jointly fought off the widening of Highway 101 through the redwoods

The RNSP combined General Management Plan and General Plan updates were prepared by a joint planning team and process. Through this combined effort common policies, management strategies, and priorities were adopted and tough park controversies resolved.

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

Key success factors:

  1. The decision to partner rather than co-opt was resolved objectively above the park level.
  2. Once the hard decision was made, the two superintendents resolved to broker and institutionalize an operational partnership.
  3. A thorough integration process was planned, implemented, and re-enforced by a formal agreement, an annual work plan and annual progress reporting and oversight by assigned headquarters-based liaisons and the respective directorates. A RNSP Mission and Guiding Principles to govern partnership interactions were developed by a committee of diverse staff from both agencies.
  4. The succeeding superintendent 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.
  5. Putting staff of both agencies on the same email, directories, and dispatch facilitated communication.
  6. The partnership was in the spotlight and received state and national attention and recognition.
  7. Mid-point on-site interviews and evaluations were held.
  8. Authority was provided to co-mingle funds between the two agencies.

Frustrations: While the three state parks have some of the most significant resources, there has always been inequity between the NPS and the lower on-site staffing and budget profile of California State Parks (CSP). The attempt to fully integrate the two ranger staffs was only a partial success. When NPS relocated to the new South Operation Center in Orick, CSP was unable to get funding to co-locate. The respective Cooperating Associations have not consolidated.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. With the right process and players, a close partnership can 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 bottom up to tap practical work-based ideas and get staff ownership. Allow time for it to gel.
  3. Co-locate wherever possible. Essential to have the superintendents side by side and collaborating on key decisions and hires.
  4. Select superintendents and managers who are committed to the partnership and are always looking for ways to make it work.
  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.
  8. Resolve problems quickly. If something is impractical, move on to more productive opportunities.
  9. Recognize and celebrate incremental successes.
  10. Obtain the capacity 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.

What would you do differently next time: Weigh in sooner to resolve a conflict. Start staff involvement from the bottom up sooner.

Suggested resource materials: 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.

For more information:

Name: Ray Murray
Affiliation: National Park Service
Phone/Fax: 510-510-8170 / 1505

Name: Rick Sermon
Affiliation: California State Parks
Phone/Fax: 707-464-6101 ext 5001 1812(f)

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements __; Facility Management _X; Trails __; Design __; Program Delivery _X; Visitor Services _X; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X; Cultural Resources __; Education/Interpretation _X; Arts __; Information Services _X; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X; Tourism __; Community Relations __;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Ray Murray Date posted: 8/13/03
Phone: 510-817-1439

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