Newport News Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism


“I take photographs of the beautiful parks that are displayed in city buildings,” Michael Poplawski, director of Newport News Parks, Recreation and Tourism, says of his unedited photographs like the one on his computer screen behind him. “If you were there the same day, you would see the same thing.”

Current address: Fountain Plaza Two, 700 Town Center Drive, Suite 320, Newport News, VA 23606, 757-926-1400. Tourism office, 702 Town Center Drive

Contacts and titles: Michael Poplawski, director; J. Michael Nealer, assistant director–parks; Cindy Brouillard, administrator of tourism; Tammy Jordan, assistant director of tourism; Shelly Ezanno, superintendent of special events; and Roger Iles, manager Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter

Product or service: Public parks and recreation services, programs and facilities: special events; cultural arts (i.e., Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center); animal services (Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and wildlife rescue/rehab program at NN Park); tourism; athletic programs and facilities (Denbigh, Brittingham-Midtown, Doris Miller and Courthouse Way community centers); historical programs and facilities (Virginia War Museum, Endview Plantation, Lee Hall Mansion, Newsome House, etc.); 37 city parks; landscape services (public landscapes/irrigation systems); active lifestyles (senior) programs and centers; school-age programs

Year business was established: 1941

Reason for locating in Oyster Point: NN Parks, Recreation and Tourism was part of the 2002 city office relocation from City Hall to allow more convenient/centralized service to citizens.

How long have you been with company? 43 years (Poplawski)

Significant milestones: With the city since he was 17, Poplawski has been a part of many changes: Celebration of Lights, the first Virginia holiday light show with approximately 24,000 cars annually; Hollydazzle; number of parks has double; and the department’s 75th anniversary and Newport News Park’s 50th anniversary. “Being part of the department for so long, I was there for the 25th and the 50th,” he says. “However, there’s a good chance I won’t be there to open our time capsule in 25 years.”

Significant stories: To de-stress years ago, Poplawski drove a golf cart around NN Park’s backwoods. “Now I can go down to the animal shelter and start some of those kitty-cat motors. With all that purring, you can’t be stressed,” he says.

During the ’80s, when Poplawski ran NN Park’s rehab center, fawns that had imprinted on him before they were released ran with him through the park. Also, at the park rehab center’s first Earth Day in the ’70s, Poplawski arrived at work to find some of their animal hutches vandalized. “They were releasing the animals. Baby skunks (not de-scented) were in the back of the second one. Apparently, the skunks sprayed them. They had a rude awakening that night,” Poplawski says.

Why has your Oyster Point location been beneficial to your growth? It provides greater visibility and accessibility to parks and recreation administrative services because of its central location.

Plans for future growth: Complete Warwicktown archeology study at the previous City Farm site; complete interior restoration of Lee Hall Depot; build splash pads/water playgrounds in various city parks; renovate park restrooms, trails and roadways; construct additional dog parks; build second phase of Denbigh Community Center (with pool and water playground); install and upgrade athletic field lighting; renovate senior centers, Doris Miller Community Center and other recreational facilities.

Closing comments: “I’ve tranquilized a bear that swam across the James River and ended up in Mariner’s Museum Park. I’ve fought fires that burned 1,000 acres of parkland in my earlier career. I consider it an honor and privilege to work for the City of Newport News and its citizens. I get to improve and take care of the place where my family and I live,” Poplawski says.

About Cathy Welch 73 Articles
Cathy Welch is a Hampton Roads-based writer, photographer and book editor. She says her life is an eclectic mix of career and FAMILY. She earned our Bachelors degree in business administration at Christopher Newport University, minoring in Spanish. Her career has been full- and part-time as an administrator, an engineering assistant, a bookseller, a merchandiser, a naval photography layout assistant, an office manager, a grant writer and a human resource manager, all giving her experiences that feed her writing. She fosters pups and does what she can to bless those who are in need, whether human or canine. She can be reached at 757-870-0768 or at

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