A sign with meaning now hangs above the PetSafe dog park at Tommy Schumpert Park. It reads: Emma Jane Walker Memorial Dog Park.
The park was dedicated Wednesday morning for 16-year-old Emma Walker, a Central High School student and cheerleader who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend.
Walker’s mother described the day as “bittersweet”.
“It’s been amazing there’s been so much support that her name, after a year and a half, everything is still very supportive and out there to the public. It means so much to our family that she has a dog park named after her,” said Jill Walker.
The Knox County Commission voted to rename the PetSafe Dog Park at Tommy Schumpert Park in honor of Walker’s memory in May.
The space was chosen because of Walker’s love for animals, something her mother, Jill Walker, says was meaningful to her daughter.
“We have always had animals, we’ve always had cats and dogs in our life. My sister is a Veterinarian, my mom used to work at the zoo. She was always surrounded by animals, I think it was in you to love animals and take care of them,” said Jill Walker.
Jill Walker says her daughter grew up around animals with family members working as a veterinarian at the zoo, as well as her own family pets. Before she wanted to be a NICU nurse, her mother said she wanted to work with animals.
Above all, Jill says she hopes her daughter is remembered through the park in meaingful ways.
“[I hope she’s remembered for her love for animals. It keeps her name out there, people to remember her story,” said Jill.
Walker was killed in November 2016 when she was shot through her bedroom wall. Her ex-boyfriend Riley Gaul was convicted of first-degree murder earlier this month.