One of the more iconic and historic sites in the United States will become the 37th Virginia State Park during a public ceremony on Sept. 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 begins at 10 a.m., and shuttle bus service to the ceremony begins 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.”
Admission to the new state park will be free on opening day. The property remains owned by the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, Inc., a nonprofit organization that seeks to conserve Virginia’s natural resources and enhance public access and enjoyment of the outdoors. VCLF purchased the bridge and 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.
The new admission fees will be comparable to other state parks’ fees 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.”