The Friends of Natural Bridge on the Sale of the Natural Bridge

For Immediate Release
February 6, 2014

The Friends of the Natural Bridge (FNB) is pleased that the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, Inc. has taken ownership of the Natural Bridge of Virginia and the surrounding 1,600 acres with the intention of donating the majority of the property to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s state park system as soon as possible. Then this amazing geological icon and special part of American natural and cultural history will be protected for future generations of Virginians and visitors from around the world. It also will continue to provide economic benefits to the businesses and citizens of Rockbridge County and the entire Valley of Virginia region.

The FNB comprises organizations and individuals who have advocated the transformation of the core lands of the Natural Bridge of Virginia into a public park. The FNB, led by the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC) and the Valley Conservation Council (VCC), worked in concert with Rockbridge County officials and drew upon the advice and support of national conservation groups, including The Trust for Public Land to bring state, regional and national focus to the effort. Other key members of the Friends include the Mountain Valley Preservation Alliance (formerly the local branch of Preservation Virginia), the Lexington and Rockbridge Tourism Development Office, the Historic Lexington Foundation, the Rockbridge Historical Society, and a host of volunteers. Its mission was endorsed by Rockbridge County and the cities of Lexington and Buena Vista, historical preservation and economic development organizations, garden clubs and other groups which passed resolutions of support and participated in this effort. The FNB is grateful to everyone who helped make this vision a reality.

It was a huge collaborative effort involving the principal owner – Angelo Puglisi who most generously gifted the Natural Bridge and 188 acres of surrounding land to the VCLF, the realtor – Jim Woltz and his team, the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, Conservation Partners, LLC, the management and staff of the Natural Bridge, the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors and Lexington and Buena Vista City Councils, Governor Bob McDonnell, state and federal legislators, multiple Virginia state agencies especially the Virginia State Parks and Director Joe Elton and the National Park Service. Others who supported the effort in various ways include Katie and Cochran Lyle, the reporters who covered the story, all those who signed our iPetition and liked the Friends on Facebook and many more individuals.

The FNB is also pleased that the Virginia Outdoors Foundation has designated a Special Projects Area (SPA) encompassing 178,800 acres in southern Rockbridge and northern Botetourt counties which includes the Natural Bridge property and the entire watershed of Cedar Creek, which carved the gorge traversed by the Natural Bridge. The designation benefits residents of the SPA who are interested in protecting their land through conservation easements and therefore also benefiting wildlife by providing a safer passage between the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge Mountain ranges.

The Commonwealth will not be able to establish a park without expected future donations. For more information or to get involved in the ongoing park development effort, please visit the FNB website at http://friendsofthenaturalbridge.org/ or contact Chris Wise, FNB chair, 540-784-9258, Barbara Walsh, Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, 540-463-2330 or Faye Cooper, Valley Conservation Council, 540-886-3541.