Members team up to reopen Grand Ridge pool

It was a nostalgic and exciting day for the many people who took a dip in the sparkling waters of the newly reopened swimming pool at Grand Ridge Country Club on Memorial Day.

‘It was overwhelming,” said Kristen Gilbert, owner, manager and investor in the Luling club. “It was emotional. I actually had tears.”

Closed nearly six years, the pool remained unused while the golf club floundered and nearly went bankrupt like many golf clubs in Louisiana and nationally as interest lessened in golf.

But Gilbert said they recognized the trend, rallied support for reviving the concept of a “country” club and worked on restoring the pool as one of its central attractions.

On Memorial Day, the reopened pool proved its importance.

“We had a better turnout than we even expected,” Gilbert said. “We had people waiting at the door at noon.”

It was particularly memorable for Gilbert and her husband, Robbie, also club president, who both share childhood memories at the pool and club.

“I was a lifeguard there from the time I was 15 until the summer before we got married,” she said. “I threw Robbie an 18th birthday party at the pool. It was a big part of our lives and of everybody in the neighborhood.”

Those feelings were shared by the many people who approached Gilbert. She said they were happy their children could share the same community experiences they had growing up.

“That’s one of the reasons the pool is so important is it’s just another stepping stone to making this a community club,” Gilbert said. “Pools have nothing to do with golf, but they are a part of a community club and this is one way of doing that. It just felt like it was the next step.”

It’s a step that’s helping bring the club out of the red, too.

Robbie Gilbert said they’ve turned the club’s monthly $18,000 red ink to nearly $20,000 in the black. Memberships have risen from about 100 to more than 400.

Like his wife, Robbie Gilbert maintains country clubs lost their meaning when they went strictly to golfing and then discovered there weren’t as many golfers anymore.

Now, under new leadership the club is evolving.

The pool reopening was also highlighted with the grand opening of a new restaurant, Grand Bistro, owned by two club members – Wendy Sawyer and Cliff Collins.

“It’s been a whirlwind of activity,” Kristen Gilbert said.Six weeks ago, the country club didn’t own the pool, she said. It was filled with swamp water and damaged from nearly six years of decay.

“In about 30 days, with volunteer help and a little bit of money, we were able to really fix the damage and bring it back to life,” she said.

Overall, Gilbert emphasized the pool is part of a member-driven effort to revive the club and bring back a sense of community.

“The pool does that for so many people because it has so many fond memories of their childhood,” she said. “It’s a great place for children to meet their neighbors and have a good time in a controlled environment.

Leslie Cooper, a resident of Willowdale Subdivision, compared the event to “stepping back in time when we were all kids again and the club was alive and well.”

Cooper added, “The energy was back, and everything was so beautifully done.”

She said the country club is making a welcome return and welcome comeback from her good memories of the place.

“All my best friends were at the club,” Cooper said. “I was always at the club and neighborhood growing up through high school. Then, after, when we returned as adults, we became members, too, until it closed down.”

One of these people was Quinn Landry, who served as DJ for the Memorial Day pool celebration and shared his own memories of the place.

“It was a great feeling to see all of the families and kids having a great time,” Landry said. “This was my way of giving back to a place where I grew up and spent most of my time during the summer.”

Landry said he grew up in Willowdale, mainly at the clubhouse and pool.

“I worked as a lifeguard and pool manager at the pool,” he said. “During that time the pool staff needed a way to raise money for the pool and we came up with the idea of hosting teen dances during the summer months. I offered to DJ the dances back then and I felt it was right to do again almost 18 years later as they re-opened the pool.”

With its moss-draped ancient oaks and ducks gliding on ponds, the area was deemed worth saving by members who set out to preserve what they loved.

Landry agreed.

“It’s important for many reasons but mainly because it gives families a wide range of recreational opportunities,” he said. “The pool, for example, is a great place to meet your neighbors and creates an atmosphere that encourages socializing for both the adults and kids. It’s amazing to see what a community can do when it comes together.”

And more is in the works for the club.

Gilbert said future plans include placing a wrought iron fence around the pool, installing new pool decking, adding more new furniture, opening an air conditioned party room at the pool where people can book parties, adding a basketball hoop area, adding a sand volleyball area and a barbecue pit area for picnics and barbecues, and an expanded schedule of community events.

She said the country club concept is working.

“There are people on the course talking to their neighbors, people riding their bikes on the golf course and people fishing in the pond,” Gilbert said. “That is a huge testament to me that people are starting to realize this is a meeting place. It’s just a great way to meet your neighbors.”

Club memberships are open to residents from throughout the parish. Membership information is available at the Grand Ridge Golf Club Facebook page or by calling the club at (985) 308-1640.


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