Natural Bridge to be considered for national park

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - A Roanoke-area congressman wants the federal government to study the possibility of turning Natural Bridge into a national park.

The Roanoke Times reports that Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte on Wednesday asked the National Park Service to study whether it would be possible to potentially add Natural Bridge to the park system. He suggested that private funds be used and that a conservation easement be placed on adjoining property to protect it for the future.

"Many people in the community are greatly concerned about the future of the iconic Natural Bridge," Goodlatte said in a statement released by his spokeswoman, Beth Breeding.

The privately owned, 215-foot-high Rockbridge County 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 wasn't sold.