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Park Planning

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Park Planning

The North Carolina Park System is a dynamic and growing entity intended to enrich the lives of all North Carolinians.  The Parks Planning Program is charged with the identification/acquisition of critical acreage and, following acquisition, the preparation of the initial development guidelines in accordance with the State Park System Mission Statement. 

What We Do

The growth of existing and new parks begins with a corps of long-term planners and landscape architects. Most state parks have master plans, which guide growth and development over the long term as well as general management plans that guide day-to-day operations. Every potential land acquisition and new facility is scored for priority. In addition, the Division of Parks and Recreation maintains a systemwide plan, which directs the priorities of the state parks system and is regularly revised.


Dave Head, Planning Program Manager
NC Division of Parks and Recreation
1615 MSC Raleigh, NC  27699-1615
Tel:  (919) 707-9310


In 2017, the Division of Parks and Recreation conducted a study to determine the feasibility and desirability of acquiring land and establishing a state park on the Black River.

The study was submitted to the NC General Assembly on March 1, 2018. Access the full PDF: Black River Feasibility Study

The State Parks Act requires the preparation of a system-wide plan every five years, and directs that the plan:

  • outlines a method whereby the mission and purpose of the state parks system can be achieved in a reasonable, timely and cost effective manner;
  • evaluates existing parks to determine their statewide significance;
  • identifies duplications and deficiencies in the current state parks system and makes recommendations for correction;
  • describes the resources of the existing state parks system and their current uses, identifies conflicts created by those uses and propose solutions to them; and
  • describes anticipated trends, details what impact those trends may have on the state parks system and recommends means and methods to accommodate those trends successfully.

While the system-wide plan guides the overall management and direction of the entire state parks system, the State Parks Act directs that general management plans be developed to guide individual parks. General management plans provide a thorough and logical approach to planning. Once developed, components of these individual park plans are combined and used in the system-wide plan.

Click the links below to view information about general management plans and plans for specific parks.

About GMPs

Legislative Mandate:
The 1987 State Parks Act (G.S.114-44.7 through 114-44.14) requires each park to have an individual general management plan. The general management plans are required to:
…include a statement of purpose for the park based upon its relationship to the System Plan and its classification. An analysis of the major resources and facilities on hand to achieve those purposes shall be completed along with a statement of management direction. The general management plan shall be revised as necessary to comply with the System Plan and to achieve the purpose of the [State Parks Act].

Contents of a General Management Plan:

  • Park history and a description of park resources and facilities
  • Statement of park purpose, including an identification of the park's significant resources
  • Summary of interpretive themes
  • An analysis of demand and trends
  • Summary of laws and policy guiding park management
  • An analysis of natural and cultural resource management, including external and internal threats and research needs
  • Physical plant inventory, needs and priorities
  • Capital improvement needs and priorities
  • Operations and management issues and recommendations
  • Land acquisition needs

General management plans (GMPs) have been completed for 25 state park units. Others are underway and in various stages of completion.

Development and subsequent revisions of GMPs involves multi-disciplinary input and collaboration from a group representing operations, natural resources, land acquisition, planning, environmental education, design and construction staff. Prior to the GMP meeting, this staff visits the park and meets with park staff to insure an understanding of various park issues and needs. Visitor and park advisory committee (PAC) concerns are addressed and input from park and recreation surveys and use data are considered. Consensus developed at the GMP meeting goes forward as the park plan.
Draft GMPs receive internal staff review and comment before they are presented to the PACs. Following PAC review and comment, the final draft is sent to the Secretary for DENR approval. Once approved, plans are posted on the Division's website.

GMPs function to:

  • State the purpose of each park as it relates to the mission of the state parks system
  • Assess where we are and where we want to go
  • Focus energy and resources so we work toward the same goals
  • Explain how and why the park was established and the way it's operated
  • Produce fundamental decisions and recommendations that guide the park's operations and development
  • Explain park plans to legislators, park supporters and the public
  • Set priorities
  • Offer continuity as people come and go
  • Allow individual park needs to be incorporated into the systemwide plan
  • Allow a dynamic process for plans to be amended to react to changes

In any state park, careful planning is crucial to balancing recreational demands with our mission to protect the state's valuable natural resources. Each state park has a master plan. In essence, it's a blueprint for development. It is meant to be a dynamic document that evolves as knowledge develops about a park's natural resources and recreational demands.

Click the links below to view available park master plans.