, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 93-104
Date: 14 Feb 2009

Effective Protection of Open Space: Does Planning Matter?

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High quality plans are considered a crucial part of good land use planning and often used as a proxy measure for success in plan implementation and goal attainment. We explored the relationship of open space plan quality to the implementation of open space plans and attainment of open space protection goals in Research Triangle, North Carolina, USA. To measure plan quality, we used a standard plan evaluation matrix that we modified to focus on open space plans. We evaluated all open space plans in the region that contained a natural resource protection element. To measure plan implementation and open space protection, we developed an online survey and administered it to open space planners charged with implementing the plans. The survey elicited each planner’s perspective on aspects of open space protection in his or her organization. The empirical results (1) indicate that success in implementation and attaining goals are not related to plan quality, (2) highlight the importance of when and how stakeholders are involved in planning and implementation processes, and (3) raise questions about the relationship of planning to implementation. These results suggest that a technically excellent plan does not guarantee the long-term relationships among local landowners, political and appointed officials, and other organizations that are crucial to meeting land protection goals. A greater balance of attention to the entire decision process and building relationships might lead to more success in protecting open space.