An initial survey of a section of land along Spring Creek revealed an exceptionally beautiful setting with a rich floodplain forest, cypress ponds, and white sand beaches.
Named for the late Jesse H. Jones (1875-1956) whose achievements in oil, real estate, and the Houston Chronicle amassed a large fortune, and whose family philanthropic foundation, The Houston Endowment, Inc., donated much of the funds needed to develop the park property, Jones Park is one of 20 developed parks within the Harris County Precinct 4 Parks Department.
The development of nature trails, a boardwalk, playground, and picnic area began in 1982, and 1984 marked the dedication of the nature center. Development of the Redbud Hill Homestead and Akokisa Indian Village, beginning in 1986, has added a unique historical and educational dimension to the park.
Today, thousands of visitors come to the park each year. Many of the visitors to Jones Park are with school field trips, scout groups, senior adult groups, families, and individuals.
In 1978, Harris County Commissioners Court authorized the Cypress Creek Park Project to provide a greenbelt along Cypress and Spring Creeks as a recreational resource for the citizens of Harris County. This beginning effort laid the foundation for the current Spring Creek Greenway project that encompasses 4,000 acres of land purchased with public and private funds.
Jones Park is located in northeast Harris County within the boundaries drawn on many old Big Thicket maps, and contains bottomland hardwood-pine forest plants and wildlife. The park has over 300 fenced acres and more than one-half mile of frontage on Spring Creek. Cypress ponds, which are scattered in a west to east drainage pattern that roughly parallels the creek, contain some of the largest bald cypress trees anywhere near Houston. Huge, ancient magnolias give more character to the forest. Loblolly pines, water oaks, and sweet gum trees dominate among the tall trees, and yaupons and ironwoods in the understory.
Jesse Holman Jones was born in 1875, the son of a Tennessee farmer who brought his family to Texas with dreams of a better life. Then seventeen, Jesse completed a four-month business course in Dallas in only five weeks, and then became an instructor. Jesse soon found that teaching was not his calling and wandered from job to job until finally becoming a manager at his uncle’s lumber company.
Jones used his financial savvy and business instincts to go on to build a fortune in the construction and building industry. Thirty-five of Houston’s earliest skyscrapers were built as a result of Jones’ efforts to make Houston a top-ranking city. In order to lure the 1928 Democratic National Convention to Houston, Jones built the Houston Coliseum.
In addition to his extensive real-estate holdings, Jones was principally responsible for developing the Houston Chronicle into a major newspaper. He was a major influence in the construction of the Houston Ship Channel and the San Jacinto Monument. He was also cofounder of the Humble Oil Company, which later became Exxon.
Jesse Jones also made significant contributions on the national scene. He was appointed Director General of the American Red Cross by President Wilson during World War I, and later headed the powerful Reconstruction Finance Committee during the Depression.
Although he died in 1956, Jesse Jones’ legacy lives on in Houston through the works of the Houston Endowment Foundation, Inc. which Jones and his wife, Mary Gibbs Jones, established in 1937. Appropriations from the foundation exceeded $40 million in 1988, mainly providing scholarships, grants for medical research, religious and charitable endeavors, the arts, and other projects and facilities.
Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center itself was a result of the Houston Endowment Foundation when it made a large initial donation to get the Cypress Creek Parks Project going. According to Judy Bell, then head of parks acquisition for County Judge Jon Lindsay’s office, “The park is named after Jesse H. Jones because it was the Houston Endowment that donated the first $25,000 for the development of the park. Other organizations,” Mrs. Bell emphasized, “soon followed suit.”
Today there is the symphony hall, a bridge, a high school, a medical library, and several buildings at local universities, all perpetuating the name of Jesse H. Jones, the man probably most responsible for making Houston the city it is today.
—Dennis Johnston, Naturalist
Parkscape, Spring 1990
Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, a Harris County Precinct 4 nature park, is dedicated to environmental and natural history, education, wildlife conservation and passive recreation.
A variety of innovative, educational, and entertaining programs are offered on most weekends. These free programs include a cornucopia of natural science-related topics covering local reptiles and amphibians, butterflies, botany, wild edibles, tree walks, birding tours, park after dark activities, freshwater ecology, fishing, and wildscaping. Other activities include guided canoe and pontoon boat trips on Spring Creek, Second Saturday Settlers in the homestead, Second Sunday Pickers (folk music) in the Nature Center, plus much more.