This was the main article on Red Oak Lodge published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on 21 Feb, 1997

County to consider future of lodge

Gazette staff report
Orlan Love
Gazette outdoor editor

Reprinted with permission, Cedar Rapids Gazette, 1997

VIOLA … Dry rot and carpenter ants are eating away at Red Oak Lodge, a rustic and historic log shelter at Matsell Bridge Natural Area near Viola.

The lodge has long afforded visitors a breathtaking view of the Wapsipinicon River valley below. But the lodge's days may be numbered, according to Dennis Goemaat, deputy director of the Linn County Conservation Department.

Because the facility has been immensely popular with campers, the department will host a pair of meetings Monday evening to gather public input on what to do with the lodge.

Goemaat and Park Ranger Dana Kellogg said they don't believe it's practical to renovate the aging and deteriorating structure. The logs are not salvageable, Kellogg said, and the limestone fireplace has major cracks.

Moreover, said Goemaat, ``When you do a major renovation on a public building, you have to incorporate handicapped accessibility, if possible, and the slope of the hill is much too steep to comply with requirements of the act.''

The lodge, Linn County's only overnight rental facility, sits a half-mile from the nearest vehicle parking. Lodge renters have to hike in carrying all their supplies.

The unfurnished lodge, which is used year-round, has a huge limestone fireplace with a wood burner insert. It also has a well with a hand pump and a single pit latrine. Rent is $25 per weeknight and $30 per night on weekends. Reservations can be made by calling the Linn County Conservation Department at 398-3505.

``Some of the things that make the lodge so desirable to people … its age and remoteness, for example … also make it difficult to maintain,'' Goemaat said.

He and Kellogg believe the county has three realistic options:

The alternate site, about 300 yards from the equestrian camping area, also overlooks the river. Users would have to hike about a quarter-mile to reach that area.

Meetings will be held at 5 and 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Conservation Department office. Because seating will be limited, Goemaat asks that people call 398-3505 to register. Anyone who can't attend can send written comments to the department at 1890 County Home Rd., Marion 52302-9753.