Department of Parks
Elaine Walker Named Commissioner of Kentucky State Parks

Press Release Date:  Monday, December 05, 2011  
Contact Information:  Gil Lawson,
502-564-4270, ext 168

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Elaine Walker will be the commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Parks, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow announced today.


Walker, who has served as the secretary of state since she was appointed in January of this year by Gov. Steve Beshear, will begin her duties with state parks on Jan. 2, 2012. She previously served as mayor of Bowling Green for six years.


She replaces Gerry van der Meer, who resigned after nearly four years as commissioner.


 “Elaine Walker’s experience as a manager will be a good fit for Kentucky State Parks,” Sparrow said. “Elaine has demonstrated her skills as a mayor and as secretary of state and we look forward to having her oversee our park system.”


“I want to thank Gerry van der Meer for his service to the Kentucky State Parks,” Sparrow added. “We appreciate his hard work and dedication.”


The Kentucky State Parks are made up of 51 parks throughout the state and include resorts, recreation parks and historic sites. The department has approximately 900 full time employees.  The parks cover some 45,900 acres of land and include attractions such as Cumberland Falls, Natural Bridge, My Old Kentucky Home and three resorts in the Land Between the Lakes region. The park system has 18 golf courses, more than 250 miles of hiking trails, restaurants, campgrounds, marinas and a variety of recreational programs.


“Our Kentucky State Parks are beautiful jewels that help support our communities and attract tourists,” Walker said. “I look forward to working with the staff as we improve and protect our state parks.”


 During her six years as mayor of Bowling Green, the city created a number of new park facilities that include Circus Square Park, an anchor in downtown Bowling Green; the highly successful Skate Park; Kummer/Little Recreation Center and a small neighborhood park at Lee Square.  The city also operates the Crosswinds, Riverview and Paul Walker golf courses. “That involvement taught me that having a healthy park system is paramount to encouraging a healthy, active community,” Walker said.


Walker has also served in various leadership positions while she was mayor of Bowling Green and has been active in historic preservation. While mayor, Walker spearheaded programs to increase the rate of home ownership, streamlined the building permit process, worked to support the creation of small businesses and was a strong advocate for tourism and economic development.


Walker and her husband C. Dorian Walker have two grown children.


Deputy Parks Commissioner Steve Brooks will head the department during the interim period.






The Kentucky State Park System is composed of 51 state parks plus an interstate park shared with Virginia. The Department of Parks, an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, operates 17 resort parks with lodges -- more than any other state. For more information on Kentucky parks, visit our website at