Natural Bridge State Park earns 2024 Green Park of the Year award for recycling

NATURAL BRIDGE, Va. (WFXR) — The Virginia Department of Conservation and Reservation (VDOC) announced Natural Bridge State Park was named Green Park of the Year by the Virginia Green Travel Alliance for its sustainability efforts and commitment to environmental stewardship.

This award was presented during the 2024 Virginia Green Travel and Leader Awards, which are presented annually to Virginia’s greenest tourism operators and partners.

Natural Bridge’s sustainable practices are embraced throughout its daily operations, but it was the park’s approach to waste management that earned the award. The operation, led by Chief Ranger Jessie Carter, focused on reducing waste and decreasing the amount of trash the park sees annually.

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“Chief Ranger Carter created a successful sustainability program that directly reduces the impact our park has on the environment, creates tangible results, and sets the stage for other state parks to implement these waste management practices,” said Park Manager Jim Jones. “The recognition we received from the Virginia Green Travel Alliance validates her efforts and highlights the importance of preserving our natural heritage for future generations.”

The process starts with a container system, which separates glass, metal, and plastic film from other recyclables such as plastics, cardboard, paper, and food waste.

The park then uses the shredded paper and food waste combined with a microbial product brewed in the state called Kenkashi to create compost. The created compost is used throughout the park to augment soil, improve organic composition, and stimulate vegetative growth on barren soils, reducing erosion and promoting plant succession.

As for food-grade glass, the park sends it to be processed by a local company, EarthMagic Recycling, to be turned into various grades of sand. The park uses recycled crushed glass for its tee boxes along the Thistle Ridge Disc Golf Trail.

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For trash containing plastic film, the park takes it to recycling centers at Food Lion and Kroger grocery stores. These stores are in partnership with a program called NexTrex, which takes post-consumer products and transforms them into reusable products.

For the park, NexTrex takes the thrown-out plastic film and turns it into a bench made from 95% recycled materials. In the past year, the park received three benches and saved 1,500 pounds of plastic film from going into the landfill.

To help park visitors understand their role in the park’s recycling efforts, fliers, posters, and kiosks are posted throughout the park. On top of this, Chief Ranger Carter has educational programs with local organizations to explain the program, emphasizing the crucial role guests play.

For more information on Natural Bridge State Park and its sustainable initiatives, visit the Virginia State Parks website.

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