Linking community and national park development: A case from the Dominican Republic
National parks have complex relationships with local communities that impact both conservation success and community well-being. Integrated conservation arid development projects have been a key approach to managing these relationships, although their effectiveness has been increasingly questioned. Park-people relationships of the Armando Bermudez National Park in the Dominican Republic were studied, focusing on forests, aquatic resousces, community well-being and development, and ecotourism. The park, established in 1956, is well respected by the community, based on its long history and its role in protecting water resources that are critical to the community. However, management of riparian vegetation and local fisheries present challenges in terms of finding a balance between conservation and development. Hiking and trekking opportunities attract both national and international tourists to the park, and community members benefitfrom employment as tour guides and providing mule rentals. At the same time, tourism activities also present continuing challenges related to: (1) the distribution of tourism benefits between local people and outsiders, and within the local community, (2) maintaining the local economic benefits of tourism while protecting park resources, and (3) developing park- or conservation-related economic opportunities to complement tourism. The results highlight the need to develop site-specific strategies to manage park-people relationships through interdisciplinary analysis.