Gov. Beshear Kicks Off 100th Anniversary of Kentucky State Parks, Calls for New Investments To Celebrate Centennial Year

LOUISVILLE/SLADE/PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (Feb. 2, 2024) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear joined local leaders to kick off Kentucky State Parks’ 100th Anniversary celebration, visiting three state parks across the commonwealth. At each stop, the Governor said this legislative session is the perfect time for lawmakers in Frankfort to pass his budget proposal, which invests in major upgrades to state parks.

To ensure the ongoing success of the parks, Gov. Beshear’s budget proposal dedicates $255.2 million to improve state parks, which are a significant contributor to Kentucky’s $12.9 billion tourism industry and employ up to 1,168 people yearly.

“The Kentucky State Parks system is one of the commonwealth’s most treasured legacies, helping preserve some of Kentucky’s most beautiful and breathtaking sites,” said Gov. Beshear. “In order to keep our parks competitive, support local jobs and generate even more tourism revenue, we should celebrate this anniversary by making new investments that ensure our parks are here for our families to enjoy for another 100 years.”

The Governor’s proposed budget includes $184 million for park projects, compared to $112 million in the House’s budget bill. The Governor also proposed $71 million from the last budget be released for more park repairs. The House budget only released $65.2 million, with $8.5 million for repairs and improvements to state park golf courses still not released. To review each park investment proposed by the Governor compared to the House’s budget, click here.

The Governor started the day at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville. Gov. Beshear highlighted $1.74 million in critical funding needs, including:  

  • $1,280,000 for recreational building upgrades;
  • $325,000 for pool improvements and repairs; and
  • $100,000 for playground upgrades.

Next, the Governor traveled to Slade to visit Natural Bridge State Resort Park, where he detailed $1.37 million in essential improvements that are needed, including: 

  • $1,000,000 for dam safety reconstruction and repairs; 
  • $296,100 for accommodation hospitality upgrades; and
  • $76,500 for structural and safety repairs.

Concluding the day at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg, Gov. Beshear noted $14.2 million in key upgrades needed, including:  

  • $12,200,000 for marina reconstruction;
  • $1,450,000 for a new archery center; and
  • $587,800 for accommodation hospitality upgrades.

“Kentucky State Parks play a major role in tourism for our state. From Pine Mountain to Lake Barkley, from Carter Caves to Lake Cumberland, the park system boasts sites with incredible natural wonders that attract visitors from near and far,” said Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Lindy Casebier. “As we celebrate the parks’ 100th anniversary, we appreciate Gov. Beshear’s support in recognizing that many of our parks are in dire need of improvements, and we hope that the General Assembly includes these vital upgrades in the final budget.”

“For 100 years, Kentucky State Parks have provided extraordinary hospitality for our people, from tourism attractions for families to aiding Kentuckians in need during natural disasters and the pandemic,” said Kentucky State Parks Commissioner Russ Meyer. “This historic entity has touched so many lives throughout the last century. For us to be able to continue our legacy, we greatly need budgetary support for critical improvements to our parks.”

The House’s initial budget also included a 95% cut to state jobs that were open, pending being filled across the 44 parks. But in their amended budget, House lawmakers restored more than 72% of these job cuts. Their first budget cut 86 positions and the amended budget cuts 21. Next, the budget bill moves to the Senate for consideration and further action.

“We have been working with lawmakers to make sure they know these investments are critical – we appreciate the steps they have taken this week, and but we urge them to fully fund our parks across the commonwealth,” Gov. Beshear said.

Carol TimmonsE.P. Tom Sawyer State Park Foundation president, highlighted the need for significant investment and development to maintain Kentucky State Parks’ status as quality tourism attractions: “Kentucky State Parks have a long and proud history of serving Kentuckians and visitors to our commonwealth. To maintain their status as quality attractions, our parks require significant investment, development and care. Our state parks provide vast opportunities for learning, adventure and experiencing nature. Throughout my childhood, my family enjoyed visiting parks all across Kentucky. We must not let these parks become victims of neglect and disrepair. Major financial investments are required in order to properly maintain these gems of nature and recreation.”

“Natural Bridge Park is a huge regional draw that brings tourists and business to Powell County,” said Powell County Judge/Executive Eddie Barnes. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 100 years of Kentucky State Parks than by ensuring our state parks are fully funded.”

“The value of Jenny Wiley State Park on our region cannot be overstated,” said Floyd County Judge/Executive Robbie Williams. “As most rural communities transition their economy away from coal and natural gas, tourism has become the foundation of our efforts. I would like to thank the Governor and his team for helping where they can and their efforts to get the funding needed for all state parks.”

Floyd County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Charly Wise welcomed Gov. Beshear’s support for investing in Kentucky State Parks, highlighting the positive impact parks have on the communities they serve: “It is well known that access to outdoor recreation boosts local economies by providing jobs, increasing locations’ desirability for companies and employees, and supporting healthy populations. With each of these issues being relevant to Eastern Kentucky, we receive Gov. Beshear’s announcement today with gratitude and optimism moving forward together in 2024.”

In addition to investments in the parks system, in his Forward, Together budget proposal, which was unveiled in December of last year, after being sworn in for his second term, the Governor prioritizes public education and families by funding the largest single pay raise for public school educators and staff in 40 years, fully funding universal pre-K and providing support for child care providers.

The $136.6 billion two-year budget also aims to address Kentucky families’ biggest concerns by helping the state build a world-class education system; move major infrastructure projects forward; grow jobs; boost public safety; expand health care; and support local and state employees who are working to build a better Kentucky. The investments that are needed to move the commonwealth forward are being proposed without spending any of the state’s record-largest Rainy Day Fund or General Fund surplus.

In 1924, the Kentucky General Assembly created a parks commission led by Willard Rouse Jillson to seek out suitable park sites of unusual natural significance or with important state or national history. The result of this search was Pine Mountain, Natural Bridge, Fort Harrod and the former Blue and Gray being entered into the 1926 legislative record as the first four Kentucky State Parks.  

Kentucky State Parks are planning events throughout 2024 for the 100th anniversary celebration. Visit, where updates will be made frequently. Kentucky is home to 44 state parks, including 17 resort parks and 13 golf courses. For more information about Kentucky State Parks, visit

Editor’s note: To view video footage from Kentucky State Parks across the state, click here.