Knoxville — County leaders have renamed a local dog park Wednesday to honor a Central High School student who was murdered in 2016.

Mayor Tim Burchett and Commissioner Michele Carringer asked the Knox County Commission to rename the PetSafe Dog Park in Tommy Schumpert Park to the PetSafe Emma Jane Walker Memorial Dog Park back in May.

Her family says Emma was a huge animal lover.
Her family says Emma was a huge animal lover.

On Wednesday morning, a ceremony was held at Tommy Schumpert Park to make it official and unveil the sign.

Mayor Burchett and other local leaders were present for the dedication.

Walker's mother Jill said this project is a great way to honor her daughter's memory and help her spirit live on in things she truly loved.

"It's amazing, the outreach, not only the emotional support of the community, but support to do so many things for Emma," she said. "We used to always bring our dog here and watch the dogs play, and we were excited about having it close to home."

Walker, a popular student and cheerleader, would have graduated this year with her high school class.

“Emma was taken too soon and her death has left a significant mark in the community, and the outpouring of support for her family has been moving,” said Mayor Burchett. “Emma was a dog lover and renaming this park is a great way to honor her life and legacy. I also want to thank Randy Boyd and PetSafe for allowing us to do this.”

Family and friends of Emma's gathered for the unveiling, including Emma's grandparents and their pup, Ollie, who Emma named and adored. Ollie has a small heart shape on his nose that makes Emma's family think of her.

Ollie, Emma's grandparents dog was named by her, and has a small heart-shape on his nose.
Ollie, Emma's grandparents dog was named by her, and has a small heart-shape on his nose.

Carringer added: “I had the Honor and privilege to meet Emma Jane Walker and her family. Emma was a beautiful person and had a heart for everyone as well as all animals that she came in contact with. When meeting Emma for the first time, I immediately recognized her sweet spirit, her energetic personality and her love for life and others. She had a dream of being a pediatric nurse. To honor that dream, her family and friends worked hard to purchase a room at Children’s Hospital in her name.”

Last month, a jury convicted Walker's ex-boyfriend, Riley Gaul, on first-degree murder charges in her death. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.