Urban planning alumnus takes skills back to nature


Michael Wanamaker

It’s easy to imagine the future careers of planning students to take place in big cities or even small towns. But for Brandon Stocksdale, a 2014 graduate of the Master in Urban and Environmental Planning program in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, his studies brought him away from the city.

“I love working as a development planner for the National Park Service. It gives me the ability to address the urban and natural interface necessary to help communities achieve their goals,” said Stocksdale.

Stocksdale currently works with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program in Orem, Utah. This program extends and expands the benefits of the National Park Service throughout the nation to connect all Americans to their parks, trails, rivers, and other special places. The program supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation area projects across the nation.

Each year, the program assists communities to conserve, develop, and protect more than 1,000 miles of river corridors, 1,800 miles of trails, and 50,000 acres of parkland, wildlife habitat, and open space. The National Park Service’s network of planning professionals partner with community groups, nonprofit organizations, tribes, and state and local governments to design trails and parks, conserve and improve access to rivers, protect special places, and create recreation opportunities.

“Brandon is a conscientious planner and has a strong commitment to improvement,” said David Pijawka, professor of planning with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “He has incredible potential to apply modern methods to solve real-world problems.”

And Stocksdale is doing just that. In his work at the National Park Service, Stocksdale develops urban-natural boundary protection solutions and designs creative conservation opportunities and recreation projects. The professional skills and real-life projects within the MUEP program provided Stocksdale with the experience to begin a career with the National Park Service, including experience with urban and forestry land use planning, economic analysis, and urban systems and natural environment interface.

“I had many great professional experiences and real-life projects in the Phoenix area that prepared me for a successful career,” said Stocksdale.  “In the future, I would like to do planning at the national park unit level, such as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, and eventually expand my career into park unit leadership.”