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Natural Bridge State Park faces uncertain financial future

Natural Bridge became a State Park in 2016. (Source: WDBJ)
Natural Bridge became a State Park in 2016. (Source: WDBJ)
Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 10:54 AM EDT
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NATURAL BRIDGE, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s Natural Bridge State Park is facing an uncertain financial future as it struggles to pay off a loan that was taken out to purchase the land several years ago.

The Roanoke Times reported Saturday that the nonprofit that bought the 215-foot-high limestone arch and surrounding property is unlikely to make half a million dollar loan payment.

The Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund bought the land in 2014 before it could be carved up for sale at a public auction. And the nonprofit borrowed $9 million from the Virginia Resources Authority to close the deal.

The nonprofit soon fell behind on the loan and other debts. A possible foreclosure was avoided when the property became a state park in 2016.

The loan payment will nearly double in 2020, prompting concerns among state officials about the property’s future.

Stephanie Hamlett, executive director of the Virginia Resources Authority, raised the possibility of transferring the property to a new owner in a letter to the fund in April.

Tom Clarke, president and CEO of the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, responded that the nonprofit will cooperate fully, “always keeping in mind the overarching goal of VCLF and the commonwealth to preserve the Natural Bridge for the benefit of the public.”

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