by Bob Chominski
How can a bridge clean water? Don’t bridges span over the water? Well, this is no average bridge we are talking about, but a “Natural Bridge” located in Rockbridge County, Virginia, north of Roanoke.
The Natural Bridge, a 215 foot limestone arch, and surrounding property was bought by Thomas Jefferson just before the American Revolution and the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson purchased the property from King George III of England for 20 schillings. Today, that would be about $3.00! Legend has it that a young George Washington surveyed the site for Lord Fairfax.
So how does this relate to clean water? The Natural Bridge and the surrounding property are located in the James River Watershed, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. The bridge and property were up for sale with the possibility of “developing” the property with homes. Using EPA funding, a $9.1 million loan was made through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Clean Water Revolving Loan fund. It was part of a complex purchase by a newly formed conservation non-profit, the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, Inc. The conservation effort will prevent nutrient pollution that could be associated with land development from reaching the Bay.
The Natural Bridge and surrounding land will be preserved as part of Virginia’s state park system. I recently visited the Natural Bridge and if you enjoy the outdoors and history, which I do, this place is spectacular! I can see why the bridge has been included in several listings of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. If you’re in the Roanoke area, don’t miss out on experiencing this natural wonder, the history, and of course, the clean water.
About the author: Bob Chominski is the Deputy Associate Director of the Water Protection Division’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. Away from work, he enjoys snow skiing and working around his house and yard.