Gov. Bevin terminates Burnside Lodge advocate
Change of administration in Frankfort has put aside an ardent supporter of General Burnside Island State Park, but Elaine Walker, now former commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Parks, has not lost her fervor for developing what she calls one of the most beautiful spots on Lake Cumberland.
Walker, with a smile in her voice, said she got a termination notice the day following Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s inauguration. A Democrat, Walker is a former secretary of state and served as the 39th mayor of Bowling Green. She moved to Bowling Green from California during the summer of 1993 with her husband and children. As co-owner of Peridot Pictures, Walker hosted a local public-access television cable TV show for nine years prior to her election as mayor.
Walker pointed out that Gov. Bevin has been quoted as saying he favors privatization of state parks. She expressed hope the new governor will follow through with a decade of efforts to find private investors to build and operate a lodge and other amenities on General Burnside Island State Park.
Donnie Holland is new commissioner of Kentucky Department of Parks. A telephone operator at the Tourism Cabinet told the Commonwealth Journal Holland is the new parks commissioner. Later, a media release listed Holland as commissioner, Deborah Cobb as assistant commissioner and Gil Lawson as information officer.
“I don’t know … I haven’t heard anything (about the lodge project) at this point,” said Lawson, a veteran public affairs officer for the Tourism Cabinet who has been transferred to the Department of Parks as information officer. He suggested calling Jessica Ditto, spokesperson in Gov. Bevin’s office. Ditto had not returned a telephone call at presstime.
Burnside Mayor Ron Jones, who has worked tirelessly on the lodge project for several years, said this week “ … I’m trying to let him (Gov. Bevin) get his feet on the ground and then I’ll move in with him, whatever it takes, to get this project done.”
About moving into the governor’s mansion, Jones probably was kidding; he was laughing. “I mean it,” he insisted. “Whatever it takes … I will try to inspire the staff of the Tourism Cabinet.”
Jones said he did not get a chance to talk with Bevin while he (Bevin) was on the campaign trail.
An announcement in November that there was no compliant response from Requests for Proposals (RFPs) issued earlier last year for private developers on the park effectively left in the hands of the new Republican administration an effort since 2006 to improve the park. Several previous RFPs over the years ended without a successful response.