McKeever began his illustrious career in 1942 as superintendent of Lost River State Park, located in Hardy County near the town of Mathias. Aware of the tug-of-war battle between extractive industry and conservationists, McKeever knew that if the state park system was to grow and thrive, he and other managers would have to keep their fingers on the pulse of West Virginia state politics. McKeever relied on his formal education and expert planning skills as he paid attention to Charleston, calculating his moves to best secure the wild places he loved. He became superintendent of Marlinton’s Watoga State Park in 1944. Just four years later, McKeever became the figure head for the entire state park system and was able to embark on a flurry of activity that established many of West Virginia’s most famous and popular state parks.
During Governor William C. Marland’s term from 1953-57, McKeever planned Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, and Holly River State Park in Webster County. He planned Beckley’s Grandview State Park, boasting a stunning view of a massive horseshoe bend on the New River, during Governor Cecil P. Underwood’s first term in the late 1950s. McKeever closed out his park planning legacy in the 1960s during Governor William W. Barron’s term with the modern era resort parks: Hawks Nest State Park in Ansted, Pipestem Resort State Park in Pipestem, Canaan Valley State Park in Davis, Cacapon State Park in Berkeley Springs, and Twin Falls State Park in Mullens.
McKeever’s years of planning gave him the vision to see that creation of these parks brought about indirect returns through tourism and other mechanisms. McKeever stood in firm opposition to park entrance fees, stating, “Canaan… opened the door to millions of dollars in businesses, taxes, and employment. The parks have many times paid for themselves.”
McKeever’s planning skills spanned from the desk to the outdoors. According to an article by S. Johnson in the Sunday Gazette-Mail, “One late summer day in the 1950s, Kermit McKeever and others crawled on their hands and knees through thick rhododendron to reach the site of the present Blackwater Falls State Park lodge. In an article he wrote for Wonderful West Virginia magazine in 1978, McKeever recalled that wild blackberries were ripe and bears had been feeding on them.” That large lodge building still stands perched triumphantly on the rim of the Blackwater Canyon today as a testament to McKeever’s planning capabilities and contribution to the West Virginia state park system. McKeever continued to serve the outdoors until his retirement in 1978. He passed away in Charleston, West Virginia, and is honored by the McKeever Lodge at Pipestem Resort State Park.