VA – Natural Bridge moves closer to becoming a state park

NATURAL BRIDGE — After a rocky start under new ownership, Natural Bridge Park faces yet another transformation.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is moving forward with plans to manage the privately owned limestone arch and surrounding property as one of its 37 state parks – a transition first set for July 1 that has been pushed back to Sept. 24.

The agency recently appointed James Jones, currently the assistant manager of James River State Park, as the manager of what will become Natural Bridge State Park.

Jones will start his new job July 11 as the state continues to work out the details of an operating agreement with the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, a nonprofit organization that currently owns the 1,500-acre property.

“There are a lot of moving parts to a state park’s operation, so by Sept. 24 we will be ready to go,” said Craig Seaver, the department’s director of state parks. Seaver announced Jones’ appointment last week at a meeting of an advisory committee that is overseeing the transition.

After purchasing the Rockbridge County attraction in 2014 with the goal of eventually donating it to Virginia for a state park, VCLF ran into financial problems. The organization, created by health care executive Tom Clarke of Botetourt County, defaulted on a state-financed loan in October as other unpaid bills piled up.

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