Natural Resources Leadership Institute

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Involving the Public in Parks Planning
An Evaluation of the City of Raleigh’s Park Master Planning Processes

A Park Master Plan is a conceptual design document that generally describes and guides the future management and development of a park property. Its preparation is intended to be a public process to ensure that the needs of the public are met while preserving the ecological function and environmental quality of the site.  All parks should have an adopted, relatively recent Master Plan when intended for park development.Lake Johnson Waterfront

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the City of Raleigh’s park master planning processes to determine how, to what degree, and to what end citizens participate in decisions regarding the scope and character of future park sites. The study was designed specifically to assess:

  • How, to what degree, and in what form the opinions, needs, and desires of citizens were included in final park designs that resulted from both processes.  This will provide information about the inclusiveness of the planning process.
  • How well citizens understood the process and how their opinions, needs, and desires were factored into the final design.  This will lead to deductions about the transparency of the planning process.

This study reviews two planning processes: the formalized and committee-driven Resolution Master Planning Process (Resolution Process) and the less formal Community Meeting Master Planning Process (Community Meeting Process).  Public involvement in the planning of the following four parks was examined:   Horseshoe Farm view

  • Forest Ridge Park (Resolution Process)
  • Horseshoe Farm Park (Resolution Process)
  • Leesville Park (Community Meeting Process)
  • Timberlake Park (Community Meeting Process)


Focus group interviews and internet surveys were used to gather data from the following groups:

  • Raleigh Parks Department Staff
  • Raleigh Parks Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board members
  • Park planning committees
  • Citizens attending park planning meetings
  • Park planning consultants


We evaluated the Community Meeting Process and the Resolution Process with respect to whether and to what degree the processes have the potential to improve the quality, legitimacy, and capacity of park planning decisions.

Quality refers to decisions that (1) identify the values, interests, and concerns of all who are interested in or affected by the planning decision; (2) use the best available knowledge relevant to the above tasks, and (3)incorporate new information, methods, and concerns that arise over time.

Legitimacy refers to a process that is seen by the public as fair and competent and that follows governing laws and regulations.

Capacity refers to participants, including Department staff and consultants, (1) becoming better informed and more skilled at effective participation; (2) becoming better able to engage the best available knowledge and information about diverse values, interests, and concerns; and (3)developing a more widely shared understanding of the issues and decision challenges and a “reservoir of communication skills, mediation skills, and mutual trust.”

Adobe iconClick here to download a pdf version of the final report.

Adobe iconClick here to downlad a pdf verison of the Executive Summary.

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