I'm looking to map "State Parks," and I found this phenomenal, but complex database. Has anyone ever worked with the PAD datasets before? (or know any easier way to map State Parks?)

In the PAD download there are several included shapefiles, including: fee, easement, marine, proclamation, and designation. It sounds like there is overlap in the datasets. So far my best guess is to use the fee shapefile, filtering on access='open access' and designation='state historic or cultural areas' or 'state park' or 'state recreation area'. But I'm just not 100% sure if I've gotten everything this way. The total number of features returned is 8,065, which is close to the number noted at stateparks.org (8,565 for FY 2017), but it's still 500 features short. When I add in designation='state other or unknown' it brings the total up to 8,447. Although I suppose this number could have (and likely did) go down since the latest release of the data. Still, it would be nice to know the exact query I should be using.

PAD-US Main Page

Data Download*

*I downloaded the "national shapefile"

I'm aware of all the following helpful documentation already:

Data Structure and Attributes

Metadata XML

PAD-US Data Manual:

“Any use of PAD-US data for showing recreational lands must be careful to show only those lands that have fee ownership and designations that are appropriate to recreational use – the PAD-US ‘Access’ attribute is a key tool for these applications, defining what is Open, Restricted/Permitted, and Closed for public access.”

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Gap Analysis Project (GAP), 2018, Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US): U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/P955KPLE.

1 Answer 1


I work on the USGS Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) as a cooperator from Boise State University. The queries you used make sense, although I would include the "Designation" feature class, as this feature class may include state parks and similar designations that overlap Fee owned areas. I would also exclude the public access query since some state parks and recreation areas may have access restrictions (such as seasonal closures, etc.).

There may still be a slight difference in the number of state parks and similar areas than other databases, as we receive state data directly from state and nonprofit partners. Some state data is more up-to-date than others and we are continuing to improve data quality with each update. You can look at the "GIS Source Date" attribute to see how old the data is.

Our nonprofit partner GreenInfo Network also has detailed information on data partners, which includes completeness estimates: http://www.protectedlands.net/data-stewards/. I also recommend reviewing their PAD-US help system, which includes detailed information on the different feature classes, FAQs, etc.: http://www.protectedlands.net/help/.

Please feel free to contact me (my email is in my profile) if you have additional questions. It would also be great to hear how you are using PAD-US in your research/project.

  • Thank you so much for your answer, Mackenzie. Sorry for the delay in approving it. We kind of stalled on this project for a bit, but I really appreciate you offering for me to reach out. Once we get to the next stage of our project I most certainly will!
    – Kristen G.
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 15:19

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