In this interview series, I’m speaking with NPS rangers and Bureau of Land Management specialists across the United States. Today’s post features Jon Jasper, a Recreation Specialist for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
What is your name and job title?
My name is Jon Jasper and I am a Recreation Specialist for the BLM Arizona Strip Field Office.
Is this the first National Park you’ve worked at? If not, tell me what other parks/nature centers you’ve worked at.
The first National Park I worked at was Mammoth Cave National Park in southern Kentucky. I was a Cave Guide for the summer, leading tours of up to 120 people. Oddly, the main reason I wanted the job was for the housing. I wanted to be close to the world-famous caves in and surrounding the park. I chased after a career in the National Park Service as a Cave Specialist for eight years before heading to the BLM to work as a Recreation Specialist.
Where did you grow up? In the country, a city or a suburb?
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s a rather boring place for outdoor recreation but a really great place to encourage traveling. It had a great economy and great schools. Everyone I knew seemed to travel.
What did you love about the outdoors as a child?
I fell in love with the adventures of the outdoors. I most loved scrambling about and visiting caves. This led me into a career catching Cave Specialist jobs in the National Park Service.
When did you know you wanted to work in outdoor education?
Working at Mammoth Cave National Park made me wonder if I could make working for the National Park Service into a career.
Who encouraged you to pursue a career in outdoor education?
My friend growing up had a high school geology teacher who often took his students caving and camping. He was a huge influence on my friend. When I started to drive, my friend and I started to travel and hunt down as many caves in Kentucky as possible. I kept on adventuring.
What is the most common question you get from park visitors?
At the beginning of a cave tour, I’m asked, “Is this natural?” This is a question that bothers me to the core.
How can parents raise kids to love the outdoors?
They just need to take the kids outside as often as they can.
Anything else you want to share about your job or what you love about nature/being outside?
I always had a goal: folks should not be able to tell the difference between when you are working and playing. That’s when you know you have the career of your dreams.