Natural bridge sold for park

RICHMOND, Va. - Natural Bridge, a 215-foot-high stone bridge once owned by Thomas Jefferson and a centuries-old tourist attraction, has been sold by its private owner at a fraction of its value to a conservation group and is destined to become part of Virginia's park system.

Under a complex deal sealed Thursday, Washington, D.C., real estate developer Angelo A. Puglisi accepted $8.6 million for the 1,500-plus-acre property in southwest Virginia and tossed in the 90-foot-long limestone bridge for free in return for tax credits. The bridge alone is valued at $21 million.

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The Shenandoah Valley property, which includes 35 parcels, caverns, a 150-room hotel and cabins, has an estimated value of more than $40 million.

Once the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund repays the loan it used to pay Puglisi, the attraction will be transferred to Virginia as a state park. That could occur as early as 2015.

Airport kiosks

ORLANDO, Fla. - Officials at Orlando International Airport are hoping some new kiosks will allow international visitors to land, touch and go.

The biometric kiosks will let international travelers speed up their arrival process by allowing them to complete customs declaration forms on touch-screens. The kiosks also record passports, fingerprints and facial images.

Orlando International Airport is the first U.S. airport to have the kiosks.

International travelers must come from a country where visas aren't required to enter the United States and also must be approved by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization program.

Extra legroom

DALLAS - Since American and US Airways announced a year ago that they planned to merge, travelers have been eager to see how the airlines will resolve differences in amenities and frequent-flier programs.

The airlines, which completed their merger in December, are finally hinting how they'll settle one difference. In a message to employees this week, American Airlines Group Inc. leaders said they plan to go with American's practice of providing extra legroom with a few seats in the economy cabin, and charging passengers more to sit there.

Passengers willing to pay American $16 to $159 more per flight, up from $8 to $108 two years ago, can get a Main Cabin Extra seat with up to six inches more legroom on most planes. The perk is free for elite members of American's frequent-flier program.

Horse culture

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The Albuquerque Museum has an exhibition running through March 30 on the craftsmanship and traditions of Mexican equestrian culture.

The show includes more than 150 pieces connected to horses and riding, from fine embroidery to ornate saddles.

The artifacts, some dating to the 1800s, were culled from collections throughout Mexico. Each item reflects different elements of the culture of the legendary charro - the Mexican horseman.

The roots of charreria culture first emerged centuries ago with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and their horses. By the 19th century, celebrations similar to rodeos were being organized around Mexico in which charros would compete, showing off their skills.

Ozark Riverways plan

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday endorsed the same plan the federal government is backing for managing the spring-fed Current and Jacks Fork rivers, as long as the National Park Service is flexible about implementing its proposal.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the Democratic governor said the park system's preferred option for managing the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the "most reasonable approach."

"(The plan) provides the best course for continued and future enjoyment of this treasure," Nixon wrote.

He also asked the department to be flexible in enforcing restrictions on the outdoor activities performed at the park, as long as they do not pose a threat to the rivers.

The National Park Service is in the process of updating its management plan at the park for the first time in three decades. It has put forward three options with varying degrees of restrictions to continue managing the area as well as a "no action" option that would leave the current plan in place.

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