The Division of Parks and Recreation develops four types of plans that guide planning for the state parks system, individual parks, and state trails:

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Systemwide Plan

The Division's Systemwide Plan is a document that evaluates the state parks system's current standing, considers anticipated trends in parks and recreation needs, and details how the Division plans to continue fulfilling its mission statement.

This plan is legislatively mandated by North Carolina General Statute § 143B-135.48 (the State Parks Act). The Systemwide Plan must:

  • outline a method whereby the mission and purpose of the state parks system can be achieved in a reasonable, timely and cost-effect manner;
  • evaluate existing parks to determine their statewide significance;
  • identify duplications and deficiencies in the current state parks system and make recommendations for correction;
  • describe the resources of the existing state parks system and their current uses, identify conflicts created by those uses, and propose solutions to them; and
  • describe anticipated trends, detail what impact those trends may have on the state parks system, and recommend means and methods to accommodate those trends successfully.

The systemwide plan must be updated every 5 years.

Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP)

In addition to a systemwide plan, the Division is also responsible for developing the state's comprehensive outdoor recreation plan. The SCORP is submitted to the National Park Service every 5 years for the state to remain eligible for federal grant assistance through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

While the systemwide plan focuses on units in the Division, SCORP encompasses all outdoor recreation opportunities in North Carolina, including at the county and municipal levels. It assesses the recreational resources in the state, as well as examine trends and demands in outdoor recreation. Part of the criteria for scoring LWCF applicants is how well the projects align with the goals outline in the SCORP. For more information about LWCF, visit our:

Grants page

Master Plans

Master plans evaluate each park in its current or known future state. These lay out the 30-year plan for a park and act as a roadmap for future infrastructure projects and improvements.

Not all park units have a master plan yet. The Division is continually updating these for the park units in the system.

General Management Plans

General management plans assess a park and create a 5-year plan with detailed project concepts and cost estimates. The GMPs allow the Division to plan systemwide for future capital improvement, maintenance, and land development projects. The Division is required by N.C. General Statute §143.135.52 to have a GMP for every park and that they be updated every 5 years.


Development and subsequent revisions of GMPs involve multi-disciplinary input and collaboration from a group representing operations, natural resources, land acquisition, planning, environmental education, and design and construction staff. Prior to the GMP meeting, staff visit the park and meet with field staff to ensure an understanding of various park issues and needs. Visitor and park advisory committee (PAC) concerns are addressed, and input from parks and recreation surveys and use data are considered. Consensus developed at the GMP meeting goes forward as the park plan.

Internal staff review and comment on draft GMPs before they are presented to the PACs. Following PAC review and comment, the final draft is sent to the Secretary for approval from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Once approved, the plans are posted on the Division website.

State Trail Plans

North Carolina's state trails provide an abundance of opportunities to experience some of the state's most magnificent landscapes.

As units of the North Carolina state parks system, they are distinguished from other regional and local trails, while still offering regional connectivity and public access. While a state park is operated and managed by the Division, a state trail is composed of multiple, connected sections and, as a whole, epitomizes partnerships. Each section of the trail is sponsored by a federal, state, or local government agency; nonprofit organization; or private landowner.

Section sponsors build, maintain and manage their section of trail — deciding on location, design, surface, permitted uses, and amenities. The Trails and Planning programs staff manages the overall corridor planning and coordination, as well as provide guidance and assistance to all section sponsors. Each State Trail Plan is drafted through cooperation of all stakeholders; Division staff also seek public input once a draft has been created. For more information on State Trails, please visit:

NC Trails website