A place to set down roots

Diane Dobry, Citrus County Chronicle (*Reprinted, Abridged)

A deed-restricted community that started in 1987 with single- family units originally built by Rusaw Homes, the neighborhood has grown to include 153 houses with approx. 20 lots still available for sale. Just off of County Road 491 north of Beverly Hills, tall massive oaks at the entrance point the way to a small network of streets also lined with full leafy shade trees.

Homes in the community range from 1,400 to 3,000 square feet, with attached double garages. About half the homes have pools surrounded by screen structures.

Art Trebon, past president of the Oak Ridge Property Owners and Recreation Association — who moved into the community in 1997 from Waterloo, Iowa — said he focused on Citrus County to avoid crowds and traffic, and was looking for a home in a deed-restricted area with cathedral ceilings and a private pool.

“Deed restriction that is enforced means homes and yards are clean and neat,” he said. “You spend quite a bit of money for a home, and you want the area to stay nice.”

Residents are responsible for maintaining their yards, and nominal annual dues help maintain the clubhouse, pool, and common areas. Though many people have pets, fences are not permitted in the community. “People mostly have dogs or cats, and the county has a leash law and we require cleanup,” Trebon said.

The community clubhouse, one of the first buildings you see as you drive in, is a neatly maintained center for members and their guests. Pressed concrete with the look of cobblestone leads to the entrance, which opens to a vaulted great room and an open-plan kitchen area, where many celebratory pot-luck dinners and weekly card games take place. To the right of the foyer, a comfortable den-like space with a fireplace, bookshelves, sofas and a card table offers privacy for smaller gatherings. On the opposite side of the entryway is the billiard room.

Straight to the back of the building, large glass doors look out over the deck surrounding a built-in pool and a barbecue area, where a covered bar, known as “the gazebo,” invites members to bring the party outside.

“The pool is 5 feet at its deepest,” Trebon noted, as he pointed out a small sitting area in the lower end outfitted with jets for a Jacuzzi-like experience. “A technician comes three days a week to clean and treat the pool,” he said. “Volunteers check it on the other days.”

Outside the fence surrounding the pool, a wooded area adds a feeling of serenity and privacy. Beyond the pool is a recently resurfaced court for tennis and pickleball that can be lit for a night game. At Oak Ridge families with children are welcome. While the community itself does not offer playground facilities, Trebon said, “Citrus County is very good for community activities for kids and families. Beverly Hills Recreation Center is about three miles away, and the YMCA and Citrus Hills Golf Course are within a short drive, and Twisted Oaks Golf Course and excellent baseball and soccer fields are only about a mile and a half away.”

Resident Byrdie Mitchell notes that the central location to major cities is another appeal.

“Tampa and Gainesville are not too far away, if you want to do big shopping, and it’s not even bad to get to the airport,” she said.

Participation in committees and other volunteer work at Oak Ridge keep many residents busy. Louise Galle and her husband, Norbert, who moved to the area from Queens, New York, 23 years ago, are an example of that.

“My husband is on the covenant oversight committee. They inspect outside the houses and the yards and send a friendly letter to remind people about maintaining their property,” Louise explained. “I play cards on Wednesdays,” she added, noting that there is something going on every day — dominoes, pinochle, poker, tennis and events. The couple also participates in activities in the Citrus County community, such as the local YMCA and German Club.

“Oak Ridge is very well run by association members, and always has been,” Gaffney said. “A lot of the work for the entryway, the beautiful plantings, is done by volunteers from the community. It is how people get to know each other.”

Aside from the appeal of the properties and the organized activities, residents note that they feel very safe. Part of the reason, in addition to the Citrus County Citizens On Patrol coming through a few times a day, is the warmth and closeness of neighbors who watch out for each other.

Louise Galle said relying on neighbors is one of the main things she likes about the community.

Oak Ridge is a friendly and close-knit community. Everyone waves to each other. “Your neighbor isn’t too far from you if you need someone. You can just yell and they will come,” she said. “My neighbor picks up my paper for me and brings it to the door so I don’t have to bend down. Everybody takes care and they are friendly.”