State parks leaders take public input on Natural Bridge State Park master plan

Community stakeholders said protecting the bridge is most important; Route 11 crossing could be bypassed

ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY,Va. – Virginia state parks leaders said there’s a bright future for Natural Bridge State Park in Rockbridge County.

On Wednesday night, they took public comment on the park’s ten-year master plan. At the session, they talked about upgrades to the park and noted how far the park had come since it became a state park in 2016.

It’s celebrating its four-year state park anniversary this fall. And in the time since going from private to public, they’ve made some headway.

“When we took over that bridge and I believe we reduced prices for entrance fees to that bridge, we actually increased the amount of people that could come to that particular park," State DCR Director of Planning and Recreation Resources Kelly McClary said.

McClary and others guided the public through the master plan process which is done for every park in the system. It relies heavily on public input, and one thing has been clear.

“We heard that from them is that to protect that bridge is important and vital to everyone around them, so we take that information and move forward with it," McClary said.

Route 11 currently traverses the bridge, but VDOT and DCR are investigating what it would take to move the road off the bridge and close it to pedestrian access only, similar to what happened on the Hoover Dam.

In addition to that, the plan calls for extended trail access, more parking, space for camping and more. The park is also being upgraded to better suit stargazers, as it is seen as an excellent place to view the sky due to the lack of light pollution.

State Parks Director Melissa Baker said it’s needed as state park attendance has soared this year due to COVID19.

“Even with an April that was down over 15% so one of the ways we’ve described it is that every weekday is a weekend and every weekend is a holiday," Baker said.

There’s no timeline for the projects and funding still needs to be identified. But Baker said Natural Bridge is a truly special place, and they want to get it right.

“This is s a really important property, to be in public ownership and to have the public be able to access and it’s something that makes Natural Bridge very very special," Baker said.

You can submit your feedback until Nov. 21.

Email comments to lynn.crump@dcr.virginia.gov or fax them to 804-371-7899.

Comments may also be mailed to:

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

Attn: Lynn Crump

600 E. Main St.

24th Floor

Richmond, VA 23219

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