Interpreting Impacts of Climate Change and other Strategies for Sustainable Parks

Over the last decade, the relationship between many parks and their visitors has become out of balance. Layers of challenges are adding up, beginning with the fact that many of our parks, especially national parks, are particularly fragile landscapes. COVID shutdown and visitor surges, decreasing staff and deferred maintenance, and climate change impacts are all putting pressure on these landscapes. Climate change awareness and the pandemic experience are reminding us how vulnerable and interconnected people and landscapes are.
Layers of challenges are putting increased pressure on park landscapes
So, how can we manage these challenges and rebalance the relationship between people and parks? Here are some strategies that have shown success.

Adapt

  • Implementing special management plans and designating a Peak Operations (Peak Ops) team during peak visitation.
  • Adding support staff so park naturalists and other specialists can be in the park, engaging with visitors during busy times.

Collaborate

  • Maximizing collaboration with external partners, including volunteers, climate scientists, environmental educators, interpretive planners, exhibit developers, and Indigenous ecologists and other knowledge keepers.
  • Bringing in specialized partners who can help visitors better understand how parks and their landscapes are changing.
Connecting to visitors with humor, from an interpretive wayside created by 106 Group for Badlands National Park
Connecting to visitors with humor, from an interpretive wayside created by 106 Group for Badlands National Park

Connect

  • Promoting lesser-known areas of a park and encouraging visitors to plan their trip during non-peak time through intentional communication and social media posts.
  • Engaging new park visitors and stewards by cooperating with organizations whose mission is to connect marginalized communities with the outdoors and nature.

Interpret

  • Educating new visitors about park etiquette and encouraging resource protection.
  • Recognizing Indigenous people as the original stewards of park landscapes and urging visitors to practice stewardship.
  • Honoring Indigenous ecological knowledge and relationships.
Stewardship call to action on wayside designed in partnership with Ho-Chunk/Ojibwe artist, Chris Sweet, for Garman Nature Preserve
Stewardship call to action on wayside designed in partnership with Ho-Chunk/Ojibwe artist, Chris Sweet, for Garman Nature Preserve
We recently had the opportunity to share some creative strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change and other challenges that parks face related to sustainability. Our session was presented at the National Association for Interpretation Conference by 106 Group interpretive planners, Regine Kennedy and Julie Davis, PhD, along with Joshua Tree National Park staff, Jennie Albrinck and Jo Lombard.
Click on the video below to watch our full presentation:
Regine Kennedy

Regine Kennedy is a resourceful planner, facilitator, and project manager whose award-winning work can be found in parks across the country, from Alaska to Florida.

Julie Davis

Julie Davis has worked extensively in interpretation, exhibit development, and strategic planning for museums, parks, and historic sites. Throughout all her work, Julie remains committed to creating engaging experiences that connect people with the past.

Jennie Albrinck

Jennie Albrinck is Chief of Interpretation, Resource Education, and Volunteers at Joshua Tree National Park where she has worked for nearly a decade.

Jo Lombard

Jo Lombard is a Visual Information Specialist (Exhibits Manager) for Joshua Tree National Park. She manages the park’s exhibits program for four visitor centers, 250 wayside exhibits, and temporary exhibits.