New Basin Rec director, an industry veteran, says trail crowding is a high priority
Dana Jones joins the district after three decades working with California State Parks
The new Snyderville Basin Recreation District director said her son had a pretty simple way to sum up her career.
“My son used to tell people when they asked him what his mom did — he said she fixes parks,” Dana Jones said in an interview last month.
In mid-December, Jones was named the new director of Basin Rec after 28 years working with the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
She took over for interim director Melissa O’Brien, who will resume her duties managing the district’s planning and legal affairs. The previous director, Brian Hanton, resigned in July.
Jones said she was excited to meet members of the community and for the opportunity to work in a place with active residents like Summit County.
“I’d love to sit at the Fieldhouse and say hi to everybody, love to be on the trails,” Jones said. “I definitely plan on utilizing everything the district has to offer.”
Jones said she knew even when she was very young what sort of work she wanted to do.
“I realized pretty early that I really wanted to be a (park) ranger,” Jones said. “And I wanted to be one of the ones in the flat hats doing singalongs near the campfire at night.”
Jones rose up through the ranks of the department, along the way picking up a variety of experiences including directing a museum and managing a motorcycle park.
She said she retired about four years ago, got rid of all her things and traveled extensively through the West in an RV, eventually moving further afield and hiking hundreds of miles in Spain and Portugal.
About a year ago, she said, she received an invitation to consult with a California parks district.
Jones said she hadn’t really thought about returning to work, but one day, when walking from her car into her consulting job, she said she realized she really missed working, and started to consider coming back to work fulltime.
Jones said she was picky about which jobs she sought and that Basin Rec was just about the perfect spot — large enough to have a variety of amenities, but small enough that she would be doing the kind of hands-on work she did less and less of as she rose through the ranks of the California department.
“When I retired from state parks, I was at a level where I didn’t have an opportunity to do that,” she said.
Jones said she thought she was selected because of her desire and ability to connect with residents and her ability to bring stakeholders together to achieve a common purpose.
Ben Castro, the chair of the administrative control board that oversees the district, said in a prepared statement that the district embarked on a nationwide search for a new director and was pleased with the caliber of the applicants.
“Dana rose to the top due to her varied experience in parks, open space, and trails,” Castro said in the statement. “She will be surrounded by an excellent team and we are all excited to see what she will bring to Basin Recreation.”
Jones’ first official day was Dec. 14 and the contract is set to run through 2022, with an option for the board to extend it another year. The annual salary is $140,000 plus benefits.
Basin Rec oversees hundreds of miles of trails in the area, thousands of acres of open space and recreation facilities including the Fieldhouse. Last December, the Summit County Council approved a property tax increase that could increase Basin Rec’s budget by $2.4 million annually.
Jones said while the tax increase wasn’t at the top of her list of reasons to join the district, it certainly didn’t hurt not to have to worry about impending budget cuts.
Basin Rec is a special service district of Summit County and, though the county council has final say on its budget, its administrative control board oversees how that is crafted. It recently awarded its employees salary increases for next year, a step the county said it was not able to pursue for its own employees given the fiscal uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
The district is faced with increasing land management costs as the county continues to acquire open space. Recently, the biggest public issues have involved trail and trailhead overcrowding.
The issue has been simmering between trail users and residents who live near trailheads, but the pandemic has brought more users to the county’s trail system, overtaxing existing infrastructure and highlighting the need for additional amenities.
“Not only do we need to solve the problem today, we need to think 10 years in the future,” Jones said, indicating that the issue would be one of her top priorities.
In the meantime, however, she said she was looking forward to getting back on a pair of cross-country skis, something she hadn’t done since she was a kid.
“I’m really looking forward to becoming part of the community,” she said.
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