About Nature-Based Placemaking

What is Nature-Based Placemaking? 

Nature-Based Placemaking (NBP) is the next generation of a nature-based revitalization strategy. It begins in a community where a natural asset – a park, trail, river, etc. – is recognized and developed as an economic opportunity in the community. 

An evolving, integrated theory, NBP aims to utilize a community’s natural, outdoor recreational resources, the recreational activities associated with those resources, and the potential economic impact of those activities on the communities involved.  

Concept & Approach

The concept behind NBP is not brand new, but PDC aims to blend a variety of related theories and approaches into a strategic, thoughtful and practical revitalization program. The NBP project aims to: 

Structurally, NBP will combine the many facets of current outdoor recreation and economic development linkages into what PDC aims to be the most comprehensive and sustainable approach to recreation-based community revitalization to-date. Often, individual theories prove to be too specific or are limiting in their approach, whereas the idea behind this theory is to include multidisciplinary schools of thought in order to be applicable to all and impactful for most.

This project also will examine, to the greatest extent possible, the successes of existing recreation/economic development ideas based off of various area-based and corridor-wide initiatives, such as the Trail Town Program®, the various “rivertowns” efforts (as they currently exist within the commonwealth), the Pennsylvania Wilds Design Guide, the National Parks Service Gateway Community program and other such existing efforts.

Nature-Based Placemaking takes all of these theories and incorporates them into a contemporary approach to community revitalization predicated on their linkages with Pennsylvania’s natural recreational assets.

PDC will provide updates as the project progresses.

Why PDC? 

As the statewide coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program, and as the technical assistance link between the PA Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) Keystone Communities Main Street and Elm Street programs (see accompanying article), PDC has a unique understanding of and familiarity with Pennsylvania’s core communities. PDC is excited to partner with DCNR on this project and for the opportunity to help cultivate appreciation of and access to Pennsylvania’s natural resources, exceptional outdoor recreational assets and extraordinary towns.

The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has awarded PDC with a grant to support development of a project that originated from DCNR’s Pennsylvania Recreation Plan 2009-2013: The Keystone for Healthy Living

Goals of the Plan include: to strengthen the connections between outdoor recreation, healthy lifestyles and the associated economic benefits to communities and to create planning guidelines and to develop standardized benchmarks that can be utilized in communities with all types of recreational assets, of all sizes whether they are rural, urban, or suburban. PDC is developing a strategy that will address these opportunities and provide communities with the ability to develop them to their fullest potential. 


This project was financed in part by a grant from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, the Environmental Stweardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.