Bridging the gap |

Bridging the gap

Tom Boyd

Surrounded by teepees and located at the crossroads of Highway 131, the trough road, and the Union Pacific railroad line, State Bridge Lodge has long been one of those rare meeting points where people of all types converge: cattlemen, cowgirls, hippies, river rats, tourists, Ute Indians, railroaders, musicians and ranchers.And for the past few years it’s also been the favorite hang-out for Greg Conway, an energetic contractor/carpenter/ musician/archeologist who has a special love for the pristine landscape of the historic State Bridge Lodge and the legendary good times to be had there.When owners Michael and Bobby Parks decided to sell the Lodge, Conway jumped at the chance, eager to take charge of one of his favorite places on earth.After a massive overhaul and several notable changes, Conway says the Lodge has better parking, lodging, and facilities, but still has all the spirit that made him love it in the first place.”We’re not changing the quantities, we’re just changing the quality,” says Conway. “We’re making it more efficient and cleaner.”Perhaps the biggest change to the Lodge is an underpass beneath the railroad tracks nearby, which now gives Lodgers access to the river. With the cooperation of Union Pacific Railroad, Conway greatly reduced the danger of a train accident by building the underpass and putting up fencing to keep revelers from wandering out in front of a locomotive.”Everybody who lives around here knows that people have been killed on those tracks, and our greatest friend right now is the Union Pacific Railroad, Eagle County and the Bureau of Land Management, all of whom really stepped up to the plate,” Conway says.The driving factorState Bridge is located about 20 minutes north of Wolcott on a mellow stretch of the Colorado River. Driving through Colorado ranching country is half the fun, but eliminating drunk driving on the way home is one of Conway’s biggest concerns.A year ago Lodgers didn’t have very many options for overnight stays. But renovated cabins, a redone and much-improved bath house, a series of yurts, better parking, and plenty of camping on a nearby swath of BLM land gives people plenty of options if a designated driver isn’t available.”The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office has been phenomenal in this,” Conway says. “They want people to know they’re not against people having fun, but they’re working with everyone to say, ‘Let’s party, but let’s be smart about it.'”The old feelConway has assembled a team of people from State Bridge’s past to help him renovate the Lodge to make it safer, cleaner, and more accessible without losing the spirit that helped make it one of the county’s most unique music and entertainment venues. Veteran employees Mark Maurer, Scott Stroughton and Tammy Van Wyk, along with former owners Michael and Bobby Parks, and “Miss Vicki” are all playing key roles in the new look of the Lodge.”We’re trying to maintain that (old feel) in the Lodge, but I think a lot of the draw to this place is just the location and how it makes people feel just being out here,” says Van Wyk. “I think a lot more people are going to come now that we’ve done the renovation.”And Conway is quick to point out that, even though there’s more room for more people, there isn’t any expansion of the Lodge happening.Charting the changes:Here’s a quick list of the changes to expect at State Bridge Lodge this summer: New stage: The stage is now on the left (downriver) upon entering and elevated from where it sat before, offering better views and a straighter line to the indoor portion of the bar. Underpass: The danger of a train accident is greatly lessened by an underpass beneath the railroad line and a large fence that will restrict access to the tracks. Kayakers and rafters can now access the river on the State Bridge, or river-right, side of the Colorado River. Cabin renovations: The deteriorated cabins of yore have given way to renovated cabins complete with new mattresses, painted walls and trim, new furniture and polished floors. The walkway outside the cabins has also been restored, and serves as a kind of community patio. Garbage be gone: Not only has Conway removed much of the debris that cluttered the Lodge, but he also has a full-time camp monitor at the BLM camp site, who will be making sure revelers put their garbage and cigarette butts in the new on-site Dumpster. There will also be a Port-a-Pottie at the camp site. Archeology: In association with Eagle-based Metcalf Archeology, Conway has found and vowed to protect archeologically sensitive areas around the Lodge, and hopes to open an educational family center on-site sometime in the future. Second floor: Repairs on the second floor of the Lodge will keep the ceiling from falling in and it gives Conway a place to serve customers that hasn’t been used since the cowboy days.”We’re not changing the quantity,” he says, “just the quality.”The Grand opening begins Friday, May 30 with Tea Leaf Green at 7 p.m., followed by Acoustic Semi at 7 p.m., Saturday night and an afternoon performance from The North Mississippi All-Stars at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 1.Rocking the BridgeFriday night, May 30 Tea Leaf Green at 7 p.m.Saturday, May 31, Acoustic Semi begins playing 7 p.m.Sunday, June 1 North Mississippi All stars at 3 p.m.Saturday, June 7 Stanley JordanFriday, June 13 Israel VibrationSaturday, June 14 Vince Herman and Bill McCay of Leftover SalmonFor more information, log onto or call (970) 653-4444.

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