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VA - Natural Bridge to become a Virginia State Park on September 24

NATURAL BRIDGE, Va. (WHSV) -- Of of the most iconic and historic sites in the state of Virginia (which has many such sites) is set to become the 37th Virginia State Park during a public ceremony on Saturday, September 24.

Federal, state and local officials will gather at Natural Bridge State Park in Rockbridge County when the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation assumes management of the Natural Bridge. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., with shuttle bus service to the ceremony beginning at 8:30 a.m. “At long last, this historic site will be under public management, operated by Virginia State Parks as a state park in perpetuity,” said Virginia State Parks Director Craig Seaver. “Visitors will immediately see changes with new signs, new Virginia State Park staff, new state park branded items in the gift shop and lower daily admission fees.” On opening day of the new state park, admission will be entirely free. In addition, admission to the last concert in the Natural Bridge Live concert series will be free as part of the celebration. That concert will be held at 7 p.m. The property on which the natural Bridge stands remains owned by the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, Inc. (VCLF), a nonprofit organization that seeks to conserve Virginia’s natural resources and enhance public access and enjoyment of the outdoors. The VCLF bought the bridge, plus an additional 1,343 acres, for a total of 1,531 acres, with $9.1 million from the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund.

Once the loan is retired, the property will be transferred to state ownership. Virginia State Parks will manage the 1,531 acres, including the bridge and Rockbridge Center. Natural Bridge Historic Hotel and Conference Center and the Caverns at Natural Bridge, adjacent to Natural Bridge State Park, will remain the property of VCLF. The Monacan village, staffed by historical interpreters, remains unchanged. The Gate House, formerly the Summer House, will continue to sell food and drinks. Following the opening day, admission will be charged for entrance to the park. The new admission fees will be comparable to other state parks’ fees, according to the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, and will be announced during the ceremony. “As a state park and due to the property’s proximity to Interstate 81, we anticipate that visitors will return again and again,” Seaver said. “In the future, we hope to increase programming and activities, build new hiking trails and complete a master plan process to guide the future of the park.” For more information about Virginia State Parks activities and amenities or to make a reservation for one of the more than 1,800 campsites or 300 climate-controlled cabins, call the Virginia State Parks Customer Service Center at 800-933-7275 or visit the link in the Related Links section of this article.

Posted: Mon 6:32 PM, Sep 19, 2016 | Updated: Mon 6:46 PM, Sep 19, 2016

By Caleb Stewart