Research Article Open Access

Management Policy in and Typology of State Park Systems

Lowell Caneday, Debra Jordan and Yating Liang


Problem statement: Parks, with particular emphasis on national and state parks, host varied interactions between human and natural systems. In particular, state park systems manage important resources related to quality of life and also are mainstays in tourism, economic development and preservation of heritage and conservation of ecosystems. Management of these parks and the human activity occurring in them is an integral component of environmental science. Approach: This research focused on identifying the legal mandates, management policies and practices that define park operations in various states within the United States. This research was a precursor to benchmarking state park systems, essential to identifying similar and dissimilar systems for the purpose of identifying benchmarking partners. Utilizing the annual information exchange of the National Association of State Park Directors, the researchers conducted a K-means cluster analysis of state park systems across the United States. Results: A seven-cluster solution was found to be the best description of the fifty state park systems. Twenty five of thirty characteristics were identified as being significant factors in defining clusters of state parks. These significant factors included: (1) number of properties, (2) number of designated state parks, (3) number of recreation areas, (4) number of environmental areas, (5) number of scientific areas, (6) number of forests, (7) number of trails and (8) miles of trails. Interestingly, mission statements and types of oversight governmental agency were not defining factors in determining clusters of state parks. Conclusion/Recommendations: This cluster analysis of state parks is important as a foundation for benchmarking state park systems, permitting comparison with similar and dissimilar systems. It is also important for consideration of marketing state parks to visitors who desire particular experiences in specific environments. This analysis provided a better understanding of interactions between human activity and natural systems, offering management insight for improved practices.

American Journal of Environmental Sciences
Volume 5 No. 2, 2009, 187-196


Submitted On: 11 August 2008 Published On: 30 April 2009

How to Cite: Caneday, L., Jordan, D. & Liang, Y. (2009). Management Policy in and Typology of State Park Systems. American Journal of Environmental Sciences, 5(2), 187-196.

  • 7 Citations



  • State parks
  • benchmarking
  • park management
  • cluster analysis