Does Your County Have a Land Use, Environment, or Recreation Problem? UMD’s PALS Program May Be Able to Help

The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program continues to assist counties and municipalities across Maryland to solve a variety of large and small sustainability challenges. PALS can work with local governments on land use, transportation, environmental, economic development, and human resources issues. A few past PALS projects have included turf management, succession planning, and stormwater management projects.

PALS is a low-cost assistance program that leverages University of Maryland (UMD) graduate and undergraduate students to produce “real world” solutions for local governments. The program is administered by the National Center for Smart Growth at UMD, College Park. UMD faculty and students from across campus are tasked with assisting on issues identified by a partnering local government. The program is scalable and can effectively respond to the needs of both large and small local governments.

PALS has previously worked with the City of Frederick, College Park, Howard County, Montgomery Parks within the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), and Harford County.

Most recently, PALS concluded a successful program with Harford County and has entered into a pilot partnership with the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The new pilot partnership provided PALS with an avenue to work on single projects in small communities across Maryland. For this pilot program PALS worked with the towns of New Market, New Windsor, and Essex.

In tackling the challenges posed by Harford County, New Windsor, New Market, and Essex PALS leveraged the work of 500 students, faculty from 12 schools across UMD, and 25 dedicated courses. Projects ranged from designing permitting inspection processes, market feasibility study in Essex, and an assessment of the therapeutic recreation program in Harford County.

For the upcoming 2019/2020 academic year the main partners for PALS will be the M-NCPPC Prince George’s County Planning Department and Department of Parks and Recreation. PALS is also continuing its partnership with MDP/DHCD and starting a program with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

PALS is currently designing its 2019/2020 academic year syllabus to link faculty and classes to:

  • 7 projects for M-NCPPC Prince George’s County Planning Department
  • 20 projects for the M-NCPPC Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation
  • 5 projects for MDP/DHCD
  • 5 projects for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

The projects already matched with faculty and courses include: (1) the history of redlining in Prince George’s County; (2) community engagement for vulnerable communities; (3) historic preservation in southern Maryland; (4) knowledge capture for retiring staff; (5) community gardening and education programs; and (6) exploring ways to make golf courses more sustainable.

More information about PALS and the past local government projects is available at or by contacting Kim Fisher at 301.405.4481 or

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of PALS Program