Will State Bridge become a party spot again? | PostIndependent.com

Will State Bridge become a party spot again?

Steve Lynn
Vail Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

STATE BRIDGE, Colorado ” Scott Stoughton put 10 years of hard work into State Bridge. So a year after an intentionally set fire burned the lodge there, like other people, he has had a tough time letting go.

“I’m moving forward with a heavy heart,” said Stoughton, the resort’s general manager.

But he still has more work to do. As State Bridge’s owner tries to sell the property, Stoughton hopes to find a new owner that will “continue the tradition” by making State Bridge once again a place where people attend concerts, eat, and spend the night reveling.

Built in 1890, the main building that burned early June 2 at State Bridge River Resort was during its history a brothel and a Prohibition-era speakeasy and gambling den. It even hosted President Theodore Roosevelt and a hunting party.

A couple concerts were held after the fire, but the resort has since closed.

“It’s been kind of harder than I thought,” Stoughton said about his feelings a year after the blaze. “It really affects you. It drains your spirit.”

Investigation continues

Investigators believe the fire was set to possibly to cover up evidence of a burglary, but what was stolen has not been revealed and no arrests have been made.

Detective Brandon Beaudette of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said he is still investigating the arson.

“Although the case has gone pretty cold, there are some leads,” Beaudette said.

Beaudette said he doesn’t think anyone who lives in Eagle County set the fire. He said the investigation “has taken me out of the county,” but he declined to elaborate.

Following the fire, a dog and portable electronic devices indicated “accelerants ” ” substances such as gasoline that make fires burn faster ” had been used near where the burglary took place. However, Colorado Bureau of Investigation laboratory tests did not end up showing whether accelerants were used, Beaudette said.

“They said there could be accelerants, but there wasn’t a detectable amount in the material they received,” he said.

Before the fire

Mike Devins, a former volunteer firefighter and a Realtor for Remax Vail Valley, recalls waking up and hearing an alert on his police radio early that Saturday morning. He had quit being a firefighter and that was the first day he stopped responding to emergencies. He ignored the alert and went back to bed.

Mitch Garfinkel, State Bridge’s owner and a client of Devins, later called and said the lodge had burned down. Devins, a fly-fishing guide who used to make a living in the area, jumped out of bed and said, “Oh my God.”

“It was so nice before it burned down,” Devins said. “They had put so much money into it.”

A new staircase had just been built in the lodge and the kitchen, bar and hardwood floors were recently redone. The property had been listed at $2.2 million before the fire.

Brian Wagner, who runs shuttles at Rancho Del Rio for boaters on the Colorado River, used to spend time after work at State Bridge. Now he goes fly fishing with friends instead.

“We’re all kind of bummed,” Wagner said.

State Bridge drew quite a crowd, so Wagner thinks fewer people will show up at Rancho Del Rio to buy gas, alcohol, cigarettes and ice from the convenience store and to camp during concerts.

“It will never be the same,” he said.

Mark Cervantes went to State Bridge on his first vacation in Eagle County. When he moved to Vail 14 years ago, Cervantes showed up most weekends to ride motorcycles, camp, go to concerts and take friends rafting on the Colorado River.

But he has been to State Bridge only a couple times since the fire.

“In a perfect world, somebody with deep enough pockets would buy it and replicate it,” he said.

Drawing a crowd again

State Bridge has been shown dozens of times since it burned, Devins said. Two groups are interested in buying the 23-acre property, listed at $1.1 million, Devins said. One is a magazine publisher and another is in the “hospitality industry,” said Devins, who declined to name the potential buyers.

Stoughton said he may consult for whoever buys State Bridge on how to run it, but he won’t manage it or become an owner in the future.

“What I’m really trying to do is find the right buyer for the place that will do the right thing,” Stoughton said.

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