In many countries there are policies in place that impact on soils, but very few legislative or policy tools specifically for the protection of soil. Recent EU legislative proposals on soil protection have been met with opposition on the grounds of excessive cost and resource demands. With the need for evidence based policy, and recognition that involving the public in environmental monitoring is an effective way of increasing understanding and commitment, there has been growing interest in soil surveys. In addition, it is accepted that the success of environmental policies depends greatly on how effectively scientists, regulators, stakeholders, and society communicate. This paper presents the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Soil and Earthworm Survey as an example of public participation in soil surveys that aims to integrate the above. It is demonstrated how such surveys generate data that can be used to prioritise soil assessment, in order to address some of the concerns and objections to soil protection policies. Lessons from this pilot study in England highlight that with strategic planning of civic participation activities, this approach can deliver improvements in the quality of the evidence collected and allow for effective public involvement in policymaking and implementation, on top of direct educational benefits.