This news broke just before the holidays when we were working on moving RichmondOutside.com to RiversideOutfitters.com, but I think it’s worth highlighting now. On Dec. 20th, Governor Ralph Northam announced Melissa Baker as the new Virginia State Parks Director, the first woman to hold the position in the park system’s 83-year history.
Baker most recently served as Director of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, a cabinet-level position. She will oversee 38 state parks and more than 270 full-time employees. Virginia’s state parks produce $24 million in tax revenue annually, provide 3,800 jobs, and attract 10 million visitors each year.
In North Dakota, Baker oversaw that state’s park system and administered grant programs, including Land and Water Conservation Fund grants. She previously served as chief of operations for Montana State Parks and as a recreation manager for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. She also was a professor of forest recreation at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and taught parks, recreation, and tourism at the University of Maine.
“As Virginia state parks continue to expand and modernize, including the upcoming addition of three new parks, it’s exciting to bring in a fresh perspective and new leadership,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler.
“Virginia State Parks have an amazing history, and I look forward to being a part of the next chapter,” said Baker. “I was drawn to this position by the broad diversity of recreational and outdoor opportunities throughout the Commonwealth and by the dedicated and professional state park staff and I look forward to making Virginia State Parks a welcoming and exciting place for all Virginians.”