Get to know Aaron Spitzer, director of parks and rec

Get to know Aaron Spitzer, director of parks and rec

By Madeline Otten

One of the biggest challenges that Director of Parks and Recreation Aaron Spitzer struggles with is the vast variety of customers he serves and trying to have a program or event that everyone can enjoy. 

 Spitzer has been director since 2015, but has worked with Fluvanna County Parks and Recreation since 2008 as a special events coordinator. He worked alongside the three previous directors within parks and recreation and plans to build on the success that they brought to the county while adding meaningful programs for county residents. 

 “We are currently working on expanding our programs to various districts within the county to try to reach as many residents as possible,” said Spitzer. “I am currently working on ways to update and expand recreational opportunities at Pleasant Grove Park and around the county as a whole.” 

 Spitzer’s experiences with parks and recreation activities started when he was just 5 years old playing baseball. He played a variety of sports and lived within walking distance of the main city park in Staunton, where he spent most of his time. After going to college and switching his major, his experiences with parks and recreation as a child helped him understand that he wanted to help future children have similar experiences to his own. 

 Now, after 10 years of experience in the parks and recreation field, he said what helped him the most was having a will to do what was necessary to grow programs to benefit local residents. 

 “I took the initiative to learn and help with different roles our department has, which has allowed me to support my staff in the variety of services we provide,” said Spitzer. 

 Spitzer has seen significant changes within the county as well as nationally. He pointed out local changes such as the renovation of the Pleasant Grove House to become a welcome center, the addition of a community garden and butterfly garden at Pleasant Grove Park, the expansion of the pens at the dog park, and two office locations instead of one (Pleasant Grove Park and the Fluvanna Community Center in Fork Union).  

 Nationwide, Spitzer noticed that people want to recreate outdoors more and have planned activities to do as a family. There has also been an increase in spray parks, and technology has produced different types of apps and activities that get people outdoors more, such as Pokémon Go. 

 When Spitzer first started his role as director, he was surprised by the amount of meetings required for the role. While at first he found it tough having so many night meetings, he learned as time went on how to adjust to make more time for both work and family. 

 Spitzer enjoys a benefit as parks and rec director that many jobs don’t share: No day is the same. Spitzer’s usual day starts at the Pleasant Grove House Museum, and then from there, he could be at county meetings helping his staff prepare an upcoming program, or he could be out in the park working on the disc golf course or removing fallen trees from the trail. Most of the programs within the parks and recreation department are offsite, since there is no tradition recreation center, which makes it tough to have a stereotypical day in the office. 

 Spitzer’s goal is to build a traditional, multi-generational recreation center at Pleasant Grove Park for county residents to use and enjoy. 

 As for shorter-termed goals, Spitzer has two planned. One is to get lights at Pleasant Grove Park for the athletic fields, and the second is to install a splash pad at the park. A splash pad, also known as a splash zone or water playground, is a recreation area for water play that has little or no standing water. This will eliminate the need for lifeguards due to the little risk of drowning. It often fitted with a safety surface and various nozzles, fountains, and features that can shower, spray, rain, and shoot streams of water. 

 Spitzer’s responsibilities also include managing the difficulties that arise from special events at Pleasant Grove Park, in which hundreds or thousands of people attend an event. Spitzer and his team keep traffic slow and orderly while keeping open the parts of the park not being used for the event. They also strive to provide adequate programs for the people attending. 

 “Our team really works well together to split tasks to keep confusion problems at a minimum,” said Spitzer. 

 In the end, Spitzer and his team find it most rewarding to provide multiple free, special events for Fluvanna residents, and to see children get out and enjoy themselves. 

 “Every day is definitely a new day and you never know what it will bring. My professional field is always changing and you have to find ways to change with the times,” said Spitzer. “Activities that aging adults, adults and children have done in the past are changing because people now seem to want to have more things to do.” 

 Spitzer went to school at New River Community College in Dublin, Va., and earned his associate’s degree in general studies. After community college, Spitzer went to Radford and originally started with a major in communication, but then switched to recreation, parks and tourism. However, he made a transition to Concord College in Athens, W.V., where he earned his bachelor of science degree in travel industry management. 

 Spitzer grew up in Staunton along with most of his extended family and moved to Lake Monticello in 2006. Spitzer has two brothers: one who works for the University of Virginia as an assistant director and the other as the town manager for Pineville, N.C. On the weekends, he enjoys playing with his 10-year-old son, spending time with family, playing a variety of sports, kayaking and hiking.

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