Matthew Jones isn’t your typical park custodian. During his almost four-year tenure at the Conejo Recreation and Park District (CRPD) in California, Jones has developed a reputation not only for maintaining the cleanest public restrooms around, but also his prowess in the tech industry. Jones, along with business partner Matthew Edwards, developed CRPD Explorer, a handy smartphone app that gives CRPD visitors access to information about the agency’s 50-plus parks.
Jones attended high school in Michigan, then moved to Georgia to obtain his undergraduate degree in interactive design and game development at the Savannah College of Art and Design. After a brief post-graduate internship at a California video-game developer — which, to Jones’ chagrin, did not result in a full-time job offer — he was faced with a decision: Move back to Michigan or find a way to stay on the West Coast. Luckily, Jones spent his high-school summers back home working as a custodian, and continued that work to support his activities during college. “My (now) wife told me about CRPD,” Jones says. “She used to work and volunteer there, and they had this (custodial) position I was qualified for. I applied, and out of probably 50 or 60 candidates, I actually got the job.”
During his work with the agency, Jones developed the idea for CRPD Explorer. “Two or three people a day were asking me, ‘Where is this park,’ or ‘How do I sign up for this class?’” Jones’ app includes basic information about CRPD’s parks, interactive maps, field availability and other details. At present, CRPD Explorer is only available for the iPhone, but an Android version is set to launch in early 2014 with added features, including customizable calendars and opportunities for users to sign up for classes or recreation events right on their smartphones.
Looking forward, Jones envisions CRPD Explorer as a customizable template he can take to parks across the country. For now, he’s grateful to CRPD for supplying the opportunity to merge his chief interests — public service and technology development. “It’s been a blessing. You can’t really plan these things…it’s amazing how all of this pretty much just fell into my lap.”
Samantha Bartram is the Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine.