Alaska features some of the most gorgeous, rugged and intimidating terrain to be found in the United States, as well as many intriguing and resourceful park and recreation professionals. Jason Avery, manager at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, Alaska, certainly falls into that category. We recently caught up with the 38-year-old to learn more about his decades-long professional career and tricks of the trade.
Parks & Recreation Magazine: Give us a little background about yourself and your career.
Jason Avery: I grew up in Boulder City, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas, and I currently live in Fairbanks, Alaska. I have been with the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) for 20 years.
P&R: What’s your favorite aspect of Pioneer Park?
Avery: The connection that I have with this wonderful community. This park is truly a community park that preserves the history of Fairbanks while allowing for a plethora of events and activities throughout the year.
P&R: What’s one thing visitors to FNSB parks should be particularly wary of?
Avery: The one thing that we say while in Alaska is to be prepared for anything. We certainly have our share of wildlife, and it doesn’t take too long to be in the middle of nowhere where help is not quickly available. Pioneer Park is located in the middle of Fairbanks, and as I write this there is a moose walking by the window.
P&R: What’s the most-repeated piece of advice you give your employees, and how many folks do you manage?
Avery: I manage six full-time staff in the winter and more than 32 in the summer season. The most-repeated advice I give seasonal employees is, “When in doubt, clean the restrooms.” This comes from the [more than 10] years I worked in aquatics, and I’m obsessed with clean facilities.
P&R: Our intrepid research team discovered you were once a member of a “folkadelic cabin rock” band…. Elaborate on how this experience contributed to your parks career, and, where can we buy the album?
Avery: I did in fact play in a band named Mudfoot Brown for more than five years. It gave me the opportunity to travel the state while meeting some of the strangest characters Alaska has to offer. I did most of the bookings, so it helped me gain experience in event coordination and patience. You probably could still find some of our tunes online, but we never sold any albums.
P&R: What’s your favorite native Alaskan sport?
Avery: It would have to be the Alaskan High Kick. As with most native sports, the high kick teaches balance and helps to develop strength and endurance to survive the harsh climates. An athlete sits on the floor with one hand holding the opposite foot. The athlete then places his free hand onto the floor and then jumps up and tries to kick the target as high as they can with the free foot, while still holding their other foot. There are great videos online. Ear pull and knuckle hop are amazing to watch as well.
P&R: If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?
Avery: My heart is in Alaska, but I could do a couple of months a year in Belize or Costa Rica.
P&R: If you got stranded in the Alaskan wilderness, what three things would you bring with you?
Avery: A gun, a way to make fire, and Parks & Recreation Magazine.
P&R: What’s your personal mantra?
Avery: Treat people the way you want to be treated.
Samantha Bartram is the Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine.