Billy Barnett embodied Baytown. 

As a Baytonian, Barnett contributed his time, passion and expertise that served as an inspiration to those around him. 

To recognize his tireless efforts, the Baytown Parks Advisory Board approved a resolution Wednesday night to rename the Children’s Nature Discovery Area the “Billy Barnett Children’s Nature Discovery Area.” 

“Billy was extremely passionate about the playground,” Parks and Recreation Director Scott Johnson said. “He researched and created a lot of the equipment at the site, and worked hard on the pirate ship and entryway.” 

“I think the Children’s Nature Discovery Area is the perfect place to put his name,” he added. 

Over the years, Barnett served on the Baytown Parks Advisory Board, the Baytown Family YMCA Board and the Friends of the Baytown Nature Center Board. He was named a 2004 Baytown Sun “Unsung Hero,” 2008 Baytown YMCA Volunteer of the Year and 2011 ExxonMobil Refiner of the Year. As refiner of the year, Barnett was commended for his community work and ability to connect industry with environmental projects. 

To finalize the renaming, Baytown City Council will vote on the resolution at the Sept. 12 council meeting. 

The Friends of the Baytown Nature Center applied for the resolution. 

“He loved those animals down there and loved jumping with the kids in the pirate ship,” Lynne Foley, newly appointed president of the Friends of the Baytown Nature Center, said. “So I think it’s very appropriate to name it after him and something I think he would be honored to have.” 

In an application submitted by Terry Adcock, Barnett is described as someone that never sought the spotlight but a citizen dedicated to improving the Baytown Nature Center and Children’s Nature Discovery Area. 

Adcock described Barnett as instrumental in spurring activity as a member of the Friends of the Baytown Nature Center — always involved with businesses and volunteers. 

“I think renaming (the area) is worthy of him,” Adcock said.  

As a Baytown Family YMCA board member, Barnett worked on the YMCA Gator Ride Steering Committee since 1994. 

Barnett also served as a board member of the Friends of the Baytown Nature Center since is creation in 2003, serving as president for the last 11 years. 

And since 2006, he served on the Baytown Parks Advisory Board, taking over presidency in 2017. 

As a member and longtime president of Friends of the Baytown Nature Center, Barnett’s dedication was a major asset that led to the success of the Nature Center and development of the Children’s Nature Discovery Area.  

The Friends of Nature Center would raise over $20,000 to develop the unique playground that is also considered an outdoor classroom used by hundreds of schoolchildren every year. 

In 2008, when Hurricane Ike destroyed the playground, the Friends of the Nature Center secured over $35,000 in donations to reconstruct the playground, which was completed in 2012. 

Barnett would continuously search for new additions to the area, most recently a concrete frog and jumping measurement board that he constructed himself. Barnett also designed and constructed several of the “recycled instruments” installed in the Bayer Musical Garden at his own expense, including a hand-carved tongue drum, with each piece shaped like a whale. 

Barnett was the guiding force behind several additions to the Nature Center. He spearheaded a kayak dock launch project that was installed during United Way Day of Caring. 

When Barnett died on June 15, his love for the Baytown continued with a final request at his funeral: in lieu of flowers, Barnett asked for donations to the Baytown Family YMCA and the Friends of the Baytown Nature Center. 

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