In less than six months, Justin Bullock has made a mark on Greene County as the new Parks & Recreation Director, bringing creativity to the development of programs and collaboration with his staff and with the community.
Bullock, 34, took the reins in March and this week the fall/winter activity guide is hitting the streets. He ushered the department through a unique spring soccer season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and along with Program Supervisor Sean Sweeney ushered in new programs over the summer—from art courses to sport camps. This Friday will be the second Movie in the Park, showing “Aladdin,” with gates opening at 7 p.m.
“It’s been a really wonderful start,” Bullock said. “I’ve been able to interact with community members and community leaders and there’s just been a sheer excitement for the department, for the opportunities that we have and just the genuine desire for recreation. I think we have an amazing opportunity to do great things here and continue to expand our offerings, making sure folks know that we are here and the amenities we have available at the county park and throughout Greene County.”
The activities guide will come out three times a year, beginning with this first one that will run from September-December, a second one from January-April and a third one April-September.
“We want to develop a comprehensive set of offerings for residents to be able to partake in,” he said. “We’re going to continue to focus our efforts toward some of the mainstays and the popular programs that are here like the athletic leagues—youth sports is essential, especially in smaller communities and areas like Greene County—but we also want to work to expand our footprint and be able to provide diverse offerings open to all members of the community.”
A recently unveiled partnership with Anytime Fitness in Ruckersville offers unlimited access to group exercise classes for a discount of $30 a month, with a portion of each membership donated back to the parks and recreation department when used.
Bullock said he’s been active in Move2Health Equity Coalition, which is a coalition in the Blue Ridge Health District, which encompasses the counties of Greene, Louisa, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Nelson and the city of Charlottesville.
“We are working to provide opportunities to create a healthier community,” Bullock said. “Parks and rec taps into that just from the services that we offer and the wellness-based fitness curriculum programs to the amenities here at the park that provide opportunities for passive recreation and the chance to get outdoors and be active and live healthier lifestyles.”
Bullock said the idea for the Movies in the Park stemmed from resident surveys that showed not only a desire for more options but for special events. The first event was held Aug. 27 and on Oct. 30 the department is partnering with the Stanardsville Independence Day Committee and the Greene County Historical Society for an event at Greene Commons in Stanardsville. Haunted Stanardsville tours will be given with the society and “Hocus Pocus” will be shown at the pavilion behind the county administration building, 40 Celt Road.
Bullock and his wife, Portia, have two daughters: Kylese, who will be 9 on Sept. 11; and Kameron, 5; and all of them are a huge support system for him.
“They understand the work providing recreation services, what it entails, and my immediate family and my extended family understand the passion that I have for this industry and to provide the services to the community. I have a great support system,” Bullock said. “Our children have been involved in a number of the programs and activities. We’ve coached them and had them play in youth and athletic leagues. They’ve also been a part of before-and after-school programs and special events that are offered through the parks and rec department. I’ve been able to see how it benefits them—the social and the emotional benefits they are able to gain and the friendships they make.”
Before coming to Greene County, Bullock worked at Louisa County Parks, Recreation & Tourism as the recreation supervisor for four-and-a-half years and he and his family still live there.
“Coming to Greene presented the opportunity to be able to come into a community where recreation is desired and to be able to be part of the process to transition us into the 21st century,” he said. “It gave me a chance to be able to take my experience and skills to go to the next level and lead our department as it continues to expand the offerings and grows to best meet the needs of the community.”
Bullock defines himself as a “parks and rec kid” growing up, though he didn’t expect to make it a career.
“It came together during my time as an undergraduate student at Old Dominion University where I began my studies as a sports management major,” Bullock said. “Classes filled quickly and I couldn’t join classes that were part of that major so I found recreation-based programs and classes and joined in on them. I will never forget I had an instructor who was speaking to us about the benefits of recreation and they used the tagline that the ‘benefits are endless.’ That program allowed me to be able to reflect on my childhood and experiences with parks and rec programs and that’s when I knew this was something that I wanted to be part of and provide the services for the enjoyment of residents.”
Now Bullock volunteers his time encouraging youths to consider a career in this field, too. He serves on the board of directors for the Virginia Recreation and Parks Society where he has the chance to network with others in the same field.
“We work to develop opportunities to educate professionals and present networking opportunities where they can build relationships and a rapport with one another while continuing to enhance and uplift our profession,” Bullock said.
Something the department is asking the community for is time—if you have a skill you can teach to a group, no matter the age range, there will be a place for you in Greene Parks & Rec. The department needs volunteer coaches, as well. And if you have a skill but aren’t sure how to translate that into a course, Bullock and Sweeney are there to help. Additionally, Bullock is working on putting together a volunteer parks and recreation advocacy and advisory group. The department has another beautification/park cleanup scheduled for 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2.
“Parks are an important part of everyday living,” he said. “They provide opportunities for us to just relax and forget about the everyday stressors that we deal with. It gives us an opportunity to come out and make some of those changes that we want to personally—whether it be physically or mentally. They give us the opportunity to come together to socialize with our community.”
“We love to get feedback from the community—good and bad—as it allows us to evaluate the services and make changes where needed,” Bullock said. “As we continue this process and work to expand our offerings and services, it will not be possible without the support from members of the community and organizations here throughout Greene County.”
Bullock said he’s received a lot of support from Sweeney and has enjoyed working with him, as well as others in the county.
“I’m just excited to be here,” he said. “Greene County Parks and Recreation has an awesome foundation that has been set by my predecessors and leaders of this department. I am excited to come in and work with Sean together to build upon that and continue to enhance our services. What we’re looking to do with our department is to be able create opportunities with our services that allow our residents to interact with one another, build relationships, to be able to get folks involved in our programs and services to create life-changing opportunities. And to be able to create lasting memories that families can enjoy and look back on to cherish.”