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Campsites, hiking trails and even a chairlift: Officials lay out the future of Natural Bridge

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:39 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -Virginia’s Natural Bridge State Park is a window to another world.

Just ask Lynne Crump.

“What it is, is this unique gem,” she said.

The environmental programs planner for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, Crump is helping figure out what the future of this gem will look like. Natural Bridge State Park is in the process of developing a new Master Plan. The plan will guide development, conservation and recreation at the park for the next 20 to 30 years.

Wednesday night, Crump presented the draft version of that plan during a virtual meeting with other park leaders.

One of the biggest changes: the bridge won’t be a bridge anymore, at least not for cars. Route 11, which currently passes on top of the landmark will be redirected, “to help protect the bridge, upgrade the drainage and develop an alternative bypass,” said Crump.

A walking path will take its place.

Crump says DCR is hoping to open the park up to exploration - beyond the bridge itself, “because a lot of people come to the bridge and they go ‘yup, been there, done that, can move on,’ but our site has so many more things that it can share.”

Many of the current facilities, including the Natural Bridge Center, are in for an update. And new amenities may be added, including mountain biking trails, overnight camping spots, and even a chairlift.

“There was a chairlift at Natural Bridge at one time,” said Crump. The lift isn’t a guarantee, though. “It’s more getting the idea of getting, what are some alternative ways of making sure the bridge and its environs are as successful as they can be?”

There’s currently no timeline for when these changes will take place.

“It’s all going to depend on how much money we can get from the General Assembly or other sources to help with the development of the park,” said Crump.

There’s also the unique status of the Natural Bridge itself. Currently, much of the park is owned by the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, which has been struggling to pay off debt it took on to buy the bridge and surrounding area.

Until that debt is paid off, some improvements in the park will be on hold indefinitely.

“We’re doing a lot of renovation work, but we’re not doing any major construction, because the investment is too grand, and we’re not going to do that until we own the land,” said Crump.

People have until November 21 at 5 p.m. to send in their comments on the draft master plan. They can fax or email those to Lynn Crump directly at 804-371-7899 or Lynn.Crump@dcr.virginia.gov.

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