Jason Naivar Named Jones Park’s New Director

Meet Jones Park’s new director! Jason Naivar started as an education program coordinator at Jones Park in 2016 after a 13-year career working with marine animals. With Naivar leading the park, Jones Park visitors can look forward to new and innovative programs and services in the next few years.

Since becoming the Jones Park director in September, Naivar has stayed busy managing the park’s budget, developing new programs, and overseeing infrastructure improvements. Despite his hectic schedule, people remain his priority.

“Everyone has a passion for something,” he said. “I want to tap into that and allow staff to create programs they love.”

Creating awareness about the park’s historical and outdoor education programs is another goal. Naivar explained that many people visit the park, but they often don’t stick around to learn about it.

“I want to bring people into the park with programming in mind,” he said. “Once the county loosens COVID-19 guidelines, I’d like to snag the people coming into the park for outdoor activities and get them interested in a subject. Those people will want to come back, and that can translate into more volunteerism. It’s a snowball effect.”Visitors can also expect to see a revamped Redbud Hill Homestead and Akokisa Indian Village, with a newly rebuilt cabin and rethatched Native American structures. He said the improvements will ensure one of the park’s most precious treasures lasts for years to come.

Additionally, the park’s Homestead Heritage Day, an annual festival in February focusing on 1860s history, will be incorporated into Precinct 4’s Heritage Day at Spring Creek Park. Naivar said the change would allow Jones Park staff to host a new program focused on nature.

“We have multiple festivals celebrating history, but only one festival focused on nature,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to plan something new and fun.”

Naivar has already made several park improvements over the past four years during his time as the education program coordinator. He created the Native American Heritage Day event in 2017 to spotlight the history of the Akokisa and other native peoples in the park’s replica village.

One of Naivar’s first projects was designing an aquatics lab to offer new and hands-on education opportunities at the park. The custom space opened in February 2017, featuring a rainwater collection system, onsite storage, and a durable design that can withstand floodwaters. Its capabilities were tested to the extreme later that year during Hurricane Harvey.

He also helped expand Jones Park’s fishing program after Hurricane Harvey destroyed the park’s angling supplies. Through a new partnership with the nonprofit Fishing’s Future and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Jones Park offers several First Catch Center events each year that provide participants with all the necessary equipment and literature.

Streamlining the children’s pick-up and drop-off process during Summer Nature Camp was another success. Instead of requiring parents to park and bring their children into the Nature Center, Jones Park employees directed parents to line up in front of the Nature Center. The new process reduced the student pick-up and drop-off time to 10 minutes instead of 30.

“I got the idea from my daughter’s school,” he said. “It worked so well that we are planning to continue it in the future.”

Despite his big plans, Naivar said responding to the pandemic is still a significant hurdle.

As an early adopter of virtual programming, Naivar starred in and planned multiple educational videos for online viewing. But as guidelines loosen, he said, the park will return to limited in-person programs that allow for social distancing.

With many more projects on the horizon, Naivar looks forward to Jones Park’s future.

“Once COVID-19 is no longer a threat, I want the park at max capacity,” he said. “I want to see people enjoying the trails, out on the water, and our program attendance full.”