ROANOKE, Va. —
The National Park Service has agreed to study the possibility of turning Natural Bridge into a national park.
The federal agency responded Thursday to Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s request for the study earlier this week. The Roanoke-area congressman suggested that private funds be used and that a conservation easement be placed on adjoining property to protect it from development.
The Roanoke Times reported Friday that the park service will soon begin a reconnaissance survey of the Rockbridge County landmark. No timeline was given on when that process would begin or how long it would take.
Park service spokesman Mike Litterst said the survey would collect basic information about the landmark and assess its significance, suitability and feasibility to become a national park.
“If, based on the reconnaissance survey, the area appears to have potential as a unit of the National Park System, we will ask Congress to authorize a more detailed study of management options, referred to as a Special Resource Study,” he said.
The privately owned, 215-foot-high geological landmark recently was put up for sale.
The towering limestone arch was carved naturally by the creek that runs under it. It has drawn visitors for hundreds of years.
Thomas Jefferson once owned the bridge after purchasing it from England’s King George III. George Washington is believed to have surveyed properties nearby and Monacan Indians called it “The Bridge of God.”
The bridge and other attractions, including the Natural Bridge Hotel, a wax museum, caverns and about 1,600 acres of surrounding undeveloped property, were put up for sale in May by Washington, D.C., businessman Angelo Puglisi, who heads a group that has owned the bridge and surrounding property since about 1988.
In 2007, the entire property was put up for sale for $39 million, but it was not sold.