Revenues Resurging At NB State Park

A desire by many to enjoy outdoor recreation after being cooped up indoors during the pandemic, along with beautiful fall foliage and unseasonably warm temperatures, are among the likely reasons business has been quite brisk at Natural Bridge State Park this fall.

The tourist attraction is experiencing a resurgence in visitors after COVID-19 had slowed business considerably earlier in the year, Natural Bridge officials told the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors last week.

Revenues were down by 50 percent back in the spring due to the coronavirus but have picked up quite a bit in recent months so that overall revenues for the year, through the first week of November, are down by only 5 percent, said Jim Jones, park manager.

Three of the top five sales days for the park in the four years since the state took over operations have occurred this year. The biggest sales day on record, Sept. 5, brought in nearly $30,000, Jones reported.

Overall revenues through Nov. 8 of this year totaled $1,867,644, compared to $1,961, 055 for the same period in 2019. During the first week of November, revenues were at $58,531 – up $9,613, or 19.6 percent – over the same week in 2019.

Other good news to come out of Natural Bridge recently is that the General Assembly restored funding for five new full-time positions for the park during the recent special session. The funding had been approved during the regular session earlier in the year, then was among the state budget casualties of the pandemic-caused drop in state revenues.

“We got the five positions back and I thank you for the role you played in that,” Bob Gilbert of Friends of Natural Bridge said to the supervisors. Gilbert noted that individual supervisors were present at a couple of events at Natural Bridge recently that were also attended by state legislators. “It gets their attention,” he remarked.

Melissa Baker, director of Virginia State Parks, told The News-Gazette recently that revenues at Natural Bridge were sufficient for an annual debt payment that had risen from $325,000 to $579,000 this year to be paid.

The Roanoke Times reported last week that the payment had indeed been made and that the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Virginia Resources Authority are in negotiations with a nonprofit to take over ownership of the park.

The Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, managed by Tom Clarke, has owned Natural Bridge and 1,500 surrounding acres since 2014, but hasn’t been contributing to the debt payments on a $9.1 million loan it took out from the VRA. DCR has been operating Natural Bridge as a state park since 2016.

The News-Gazette

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