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Reaching Out, Reaching In
A Guide to Creating Effective Public Participation
for State Historic Preservation Programs

Barry R. Lawson, Ellen P. Ryan, and Rebecca Bartlett Hutchison
Web Edition 2002 (originally published in 1993)


Reaching Out,
Reaching In

Table of Contents
A Note on the Authors
Section 1. Reaching Out
Section 2. Preservation Vision 2000
Section 3. Reaching In

Sources in Public Participation

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SLHR 2002

NOTE: Originally published in 1993, this publication remains timely in its advice for involving the public in historic preservation planning activities. The only changes that have been made from the original text are updated author statements and lengthier listings in the "Sources of Additional Information." Despite the title, this publication is relevant guidance for public participation at the local level. In addition, the information in the Section 2 Appendix about the Maryland Historical Trust was current as of the original publication date, but it may not be entirely up-to-date now. For more information about the MHT, please visit the MHT's web site.]


A Note on the Authors

Section 1. Creating Viable Public Participation Programs

  • The Value of Public Participation
  • Designing a Public Participation Program for Historic Preservation Planning
Section 2. "Preservation Vision 2000:" Public Participation and the Maryland Plan
  • Introduction
  • Designing the Public Participation Process
  • Conducting the Workshops
  • Assessment of Public Workshops
  • Lessons Learned
  • Appendix. The Maryland Historic Trust
  • Appendix. Public Opinion Questionnaire
Section 3. Reaching In: Using Available Resources Effectively
  • Introduction
  • Limited Resources
  • Hostile Audiences and Individuals
  • Advisory Committees
  • Leveraging Influence and Support
  • Case Studies
Sources in Public Participation


Public agencies at all levels of government are discovering the value of meaningful communication with the people they serve, their constituencies. Whether it be setting priorities for the expenditure of scarce resources, identifying controversial issues that require resolution, seeking advice on programs, policies and projects, or gaining acceptance and support for new initiatives, good managers recognize the benefit of being in touch with those they serve.

Meaningful communication can be public information, citizen involvement, community relations, or just plain outreach. In essence, reaching out to one's constituency is a vital step in marshalling the necessary resources and integral strengths of the organizations. For state historic preservation offices, reaching out to interested and affected groups as part of the state historic preservation planning process is no less a necessity. Reaching out offers at least one additional benefit: the possibility of gaining leverage in making these offices become an increasingly influential partners in state government and in historic preservation circles. Hence, the title of this guide.

In order to reach in and obtain the most from internal resources, limited as they invariably are, we must reach out for advice, direction and ultimately, support.

The National Park Service has a history of providing assistance to state historic preservation offices in preservation planning, simultaneously offering suggestions for public participation. Program guidance, regional workshops, and listening to the experiences of others with longer histories in working with the public have served as the centerpieces for this assistance. At the same time, many state offices have quite capably developed effective public participation programs as part of their own planning processes - and hence can serve as useful models for others.

This guide was developed to provide:

  • A way to think about public participation in planning,
  • An approach for designing public participation programs that are applicable and doable in a variety of state historic preservation office contexts,
  • An overview of how one state, Maryland, has designed and implemented effective public involvement in their plan revision process,
  • Typical questions and issues that most state historic preservation office staff are likely to have, and
  • Some of the accumulating experience of state historic preservation offices throughout the country.
Barry R. Lawson from Barry Lawson Associates, Inc. in Concord, Massachusetts has prepared the first and third sections of this guide. Ellen P. Ryan, a summer intern sponsored by the National Park Service working with The Maryland Historical Trust, and Rebecca Bartlett Hutchison, a preservation planner with the Trust, prepared the second section. Susan L. Henry, preservation planner with the Interagency Resources Division, National Park Service, edited the guide.

The guide is not meant to serve as the definitive word on public participation, nor as a reference to all one needs to know to design effective public participation for state historic preservation offices. It is intended, however, to suggest a simple yet successful way to approach reaching out to the public and reaching in to use the resources available for more rewarding state historic preservation planning.

de Teel Patterson Tiller
Chief, Preservation Planning Branch
Interagency Resources Division
National Park Service

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In the past two years the preparers of this guide have had the privilege of sharing ideas and approaches to public participation with state historic preservation officials. We have discovered that the challenges and opportunities in the preservation field are not so different from those in transportation planning, energy development, water resource planning, or waste management, to name only a few. The way to think about public outreach and the factors to be considered in designing an effective outreach program are amazingly similar.

This guide will apply these approaches to the state historic preservation planning context, and will consider some of the vagaries among programs through a series of what ifs.

The guide is presented in three sections. Section 1 addresses the value of public participation, the steps to take in designing a public participation program for a preservation plan, and the skills essential for successful implementation. Central to the design of a program is the choice of activities and the preparation of a timeline of outreach activities to support the technical work of the state historic preservation office. Suggestions for allocating and budgeting resources are also offered.

Section 2 is a public participation case study - a program designed to serve objectives of The Maryland Historical Trust's preservation planning program. This case study provides a valuable example of how the approach espoused in Section 1 can be applied in the real world. Section 3 addresses many harsh realities confronting state historic preservation offices - be they limited or dwindling resources, hostility and controversy, or gaining credibility and support.

Finally, a selected bibliography is provided to assist the public participation specialist in gaining additional skills, tools, and insights.

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Rebecca Bartlett Hutchison, co-author of Section 2, was Preservation Planner for The Maryland Historical Trust at the time of this study. Ms. Hutchison received her Master's degree in urban and regional planning from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Ms. Hutchison served on a committee of the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association that drafted APA's Policy Implementation Principle on Historic Preservation. As Preservation Planner for MHT, Ms. Hutchison directed the efforts to revise the 1986 Maryland Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan. In addition, she worked with citizens and both public and private organizations to identify and address preservation needs throughout Maryland. She participated in several multi-agency and organizational groups that worked to define greenways and heritage corridors. Ms. Hutchison also promoted the integration of historic preservation planning into all aspects of community planning, and encouraged local jurisdictions to consider archeological and cultural resources in all of their planning activities.

Barry R. Lawson, author of Sections 1 and 3, is a mediator and facilitator on projects involving multiple parties, often in conflict. He specializes in the environmental field and has assisted many federal and state natural resource agencies and non-profit organizations. His company, Barry Lawson Associates, founded in 1978, is located in Vermont. In addition to facilitation and conflict resolution, the company trains professionals in negotiation, communication skills, and the design of public involvement programs. Dr. Lawson holds degrees in economics and regional planning from Dartmouth College (A.B.) and Cornell University (M.R.P. and Ph.D.). He has served as faculty member for the American Planning Association and National Park Service and has taught graduate programs at Wayne State University, Boston University and Bentley College.

Ellen P. Ryan, principal author of Section 2, is Director of Planning Issues with The Municipal Art Society in New York City. In 1992, Ms. Ryan served as a NPS-sponsored summer planning intern with The Maryland Historical Trust to assist in developing and conducting MHT's public participation program, and to draft this case study. Ms. Ryan has a strong background in public participation and land use issues. While with the Institute for Environmental Negotiation in Charlottesville, Virginia, she helped design and conduct public meetings and worked on conflict resolution projects related to land use, historic preservation, and environmental issues. Ms. Ryan received her Master's degree in urban planning from the University of Virginia.

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