The purpose of this article is to analyse the relationship between sense of place and the governance of nature parks. Sense of place has been well researched, including in protected areas, but its relationship to and influence on the governance structure of a protected area has received little attention thus far. Over the last few years, the concept of (regional) governance has been increasingly used with respect to protected areas. It is often stated that governance actually reflects a desire for increased participation of the local population. We argue that regional governance structures will come about more easily in IUCN Category V protected landscapes, where bottom-up approaches are required and multiple interests have to be taken into account. The findings from a case study on the German Lauenburg Lakes Nature Park, one of the oldest nature parks in Germany, are explored against this background. Today, this nature park faces new challenges (e.g. structural and demographical changes, financial insecurity, weaker legislation, and pressure on nature conservation) and it is important to consider in which direction it wants to develop. More attention to regional governance and sense of place is important to improving the standing and acceptance of the park and to strengthening both regional development and biodiversity protection. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.