April 5, 2017 Edition

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WR Country Club closes

John Bland

The Walnut Ridge Country Club has closed its doors. The club served its last meal on Sunday, a weekly lunch buffet that was open to members and non-members alike to cater to the after church crowd.

Greg Gill, a local farmer and club president, said, "I hate to see it happen, but we tried for six and a half years to keep it open."

Gill led an effort to keep the clubhouse open in 2010. He cited back taxes and generally high overhead as too great of a burden to overcome for some 50 members.

According to the July 21, 2010, issue of The TD, the Walnut Ridge Country Club clubhouse was reopened after closing, along with the golf course on June 20, 2010. That closure was mandated to comply with a court ruling.

The close proximity of the airport runway and golf course fairways had been a legal issue for the Walnut Ridge Airport, the City of Walnut Ridge and the Walnut Ridge Country Club for over two years.

After closing, several club members removed some 80 trees and stumps, as well as tee boxes, from the course in an attempt to bring the airport back into compliance with Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

Before the private club could reopen, the Airport Commission, with approval from FAA, OK'd a new lease for the clubhouse, renewable on a month-to-month basis, at a cost of $500.

"We want to thank everybody who came out and supported it," Gill said. "It's been a group effort, a whole community contribution." Individual members often stepped up when needed, providing a freezer, refrigerator or a TV, when needed, he added.

Gill noted back taxes were owed from 2004-09, including back sales tax payments. During the six and a half years the club continued to operate, the club continued to make payments on a pre-existing loan to First National Bank.

Those debts, coupled with high utilities, made for too great an overhead, Gill said. The clubhouse building was constructed around 1972 for the already existing golf course that operated out of a former airbase Quonset hut.

An early morning rain and windstorm on March 7 did not help matters at the club, as the building sustained heavy roof damage and compromised electrical power from the high winds and water damage due to the heavy rain.

Gill reflected that he and other members are glad for the additional years that the club remained open. "We made friends. We had a lot of fun," he said. "It's been a real blessing."

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