Just shy of a century old, Blue Ridge Country Club in Palmerton is officially closed.
In a letter emailed to the club's golf and social members Wednesday morning, the club's executive committee announced that the course and all property has been closed to everyone as of this past Sunday.
"Due to insurance liability, unauthorized people may not access the property; not to golf, hit balls or even to simply walk around," the letter states. "No Trespassing signs will be posted Thursday morning, and First Northern Bank will be monitoring and dealing with any trespassing issues."
The club closed its doors on Nov. 27. The restaurant closed Nov. 17.
Its impact has certainly been felt by its members, each of whom expressed regret over the closure.
Peter Kern of Brodheadsville has been a member for nearly 25 years
"We obviously are saddened, I think, as all the community is, I think, by the closure of the club," Kern said. "We hope that it's only a temporary interruption in the life of the club."
Kern, who serves as president of the Palmerton Area Chamber of Commerce, noted that the club dates back to 1915.
"We were all looking forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the club two years from now," he said. "We hope that will be a major event in the rebirth of the organization."
Susan Choy of Palmerton, who along with her husband Tony, said the couple has been saddened by the club's closing.
"I have an ache in my heart; it's just so sad. I've been a member for over 20 years, and my husband, Tony, longer. The two of us, we love to golf, and we love Blue Ridge."
Choy added, "It's just sad that the economic times have just changed things. Without the support of the membership to have enough members to make sure the cash is flowing, it becomes difficult."
"This is a very difficult time for a lot of us; there were a lot of members who were members for many, many years," she said. "It's just hard to deal with."
Choy said she also feels bad for the employees who worked at the club for many years.
"Now, they're without work at the holiday time," Choy said.
In October, the club's executive committee announced that the "deed in lieu" has been signed, and as of Nov. 30, a local bank would own the property.
That came after John Rehus, general manager, said in September that the member-owned club did not plan to shut its doors any time soon, despite rumors to the contrary.
Rehus said at that time that the club planned to celebrate its 100th birthday in two years, and that it planned to remain in operation for many years to come. He said at that time the club's plans for the future include building the membership base, increasing the restaurant and banquet business, increasing rounds played, making facility improvements (wedding gazebo, driving range), and most of all, hosting its 100th anniversary party.
Blue Ridge Country Club was founded by the New Jersey Zinc Company in 1915, and was a nine-hole golf course until 1990. After building nine additional holes, Blue Ridge became well known for its challenging layout and course conditions. In 2003, a new $2.5 million clubhouse was constructed overlooking the golf course and the Blue Ridge mountainside.