Natural Bridge is 80 days away from becoming VA's 37th state park

NATURAL BRIDGE (WSLS 10) –Natural Bridge Park and Hotel owners are celebrating a recent surge in visitors.

The Fourth of July was the most profitable day in the hotel's history of new ownership.

This year the amount of visitors at Natural Bridge is up 15% compared to last year.

It's a trend expected to continue as Natural Bridge transitions into a state park in September.

Natural Bridge is only 80 days away from officially becoming Virginia's 37th state park.

The newest addition to the park system comes just in time for it's 80th anniversary.

Park Ranger Jim Jones will be the first Natural Bridge Park Manager.

"It's an exciting time! Natural Bridge - we see as being the best of the best that Virginia state parks and Virginia has to offer," Jones said.

The massive transition is happening largely behind the scenes. So for visitors and staff at the bridge; it's business as usual.

"So we are working around a lot of the staffing, a lot of the financial transfer of the property and the operation responsibilities are being divided up right now," said General Manager Paul Cooper.

Along with the property, the gift shop will also be taken over by the park service.

Jones says currently they are in the process of re-branding and ordering the first set of state park merchandise as well as new signage leading up to the hotel.

"We'll be able to package attraction tickets, food and beverage, any type of special events, weddings will still go on. In working with the state park there will still be a relationship to allow that to happen," Cooper said.

Cooper expects more tourism in the area after becoming Natural Bridge State Park, which comes with free marketing and advertising from the state park service.

"We are on the state park website and they will do a phenomenal job with adding on new events and activities," Cooper said.

Jones says this is especially true because visitors from across the state and country will want to visit the newest state park. In addition, Jones says the state park service will be hiring several additional positions for merchandising, office work and park rangers.

Governor McAullife will be present for the ceremony which will take place on September 24th at Natural Bridge.

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