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The Villages
Monday, June 17, 2024

Gloria Austin’s death comes at time when famed equestrian resort ready for new direction

Revered equestrian Gloria Austin bronzed the stately traditions which paved the path for the Grand Oaks Resort, but her recent death comes at a time when the resort’s rolling hills could be on the verge of a vastly different landscape.

Austin grew up on a family farm in New York but left an indelible mark on Weirsdale, where she founded the Austin Horse Park, the Austin Carriage Collection/Museum and the Equine Heritage Institute at what would later become known as Grand Oaks Resort. The 82-year-old died last month.

Gloria Austin helps drive a team of horses at Grand Oaks
Gloria Austin helps drive a team of horses at Grand Oaks.

In 2011, Austin sold the 400-acre equestrian resort property, of which the museum was part, to her ex-husband. It was renamed Grand Oaks and the carriage museum became known as the Grand Oaks Museum.

The majestic aura created by Austin, who insisted on pride and tradition, continued to serve as a beacon at Grand Oaks, even as her connection diminished through the years.

Last year, Grand Oaks management took a decidedly different path when they opted to move in the direction of an 800-unit manufactured home community.

This rendering was shown to commissioners to provide them with an example of the type of homes to be offered at Grand Oaks
This rendering was shown to Lady Lake commissioners in 2023 to provide them with an example of the type of homes to be offered at Grand Oaks.

The new vision took a giant leap forward last week when Grand Oaks officially filed plans with the Town of Lady Lake. A conceptual pitch of the plan and a desire to annex to the town last year roused the neighbors who are adamantly opposed to the hundreds of manufactured homes in their rural setting.

Grand Oaks’ plans are under review by town staff and could go before the town’s planning & zoning board as early as June and then before the commission in July.

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