Since Natural Bridge was put up for sale back in May, support has been mounting for the privately owned landmark to become a state or national park. Thursday, the Lexington City Council is expected to pass a resolution backing that push.
The vote comes just weeks after the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors adopted a nearly identical resolution. Both localities say their primary interest in the sale of Natural Bridge is to ensure public access to it continues long after it's sold.
Each of their resolutions calls Natural Bridge a "source of pride and honor" and note its historical significance and economic importance to the region.
Roanoke based Woltz & Associates has been hired by the owner to market and sell the property. The company's President / Owner Jim Woltz says his client also has great interest in Natural Bridge becoming a designated park. He tells WSLS 10 he visited Washington DC in June to meet with and make a presentation to the National Park Service. He says he's also engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the Virginia State Parks system.
The 1,600-plus acre property will be sold at an auction in November. Woltz says the land is currently being surveyed and will be divided up into approximately 30 plots to attract buyers with different interests (hotel operations, conservation, business development, etc.) to the opportunities it provides.
He says as they're dividing up the plots, they're paying close attention to which areas of the property would be most important to the park systems. Woltz believes the most likely path to park status would involve a private individual or entity purchasing the land then donating it to a park system -- and says he's aggressively seeking groups or people interested in making that happen.
Rockbridge County leaders have hinted they're leaving open the possibility of offering incentives to a potential buyer. In an email, County Administrator Spencer Suter wrote "as evidenced by the content of the resolution, the Board is keen on protecting The Bridge for enjoyment of the public in perpetuity. At this time, no specific incentives have been discussed or offered."
The National Park Service recently announced it would study the feasibility of adding Natural Bridge to its system, provided no taxpayer dollars are used to purchase the Bridge and a conservation easement would be placed on some of the property around it. The study is in response to a request made by Congressman Bob Goodlatte's office.