Five Questions with Waterside Grove Ambassador JD Smith

Every piece of land has a history and Waterside is no different. That history is especially near and dear to JD Smith, who worked and lived on the property where Waterside sits for more than 30 years. Today, he has started his next chapter on the land, serving as a Grove Ambassador. He recently took some time to share his memories of the site’s past and his optimism for its future.

Q: What is your personal connection to the land that is now Waterside?

A: My personal connection to the land began in 1975 when I was hired to be the swimming pool manager for the summer at what was then General Dynamics Recreation Area (GDRA). I had recently received my degree in Recreation Management from Southwest Texas State University. After the summer, I became the Recreation Area Supervisor for three years until I was promoted to Manager of the Recreation Association, a position I held for the next 35 years. In 1980, I moved into one of the two residences on the property. It was an old farmhouse built in 1929 and we lived in it for the next 29 years. My wife and I loved the old house and the property where we got to raise our two kids. So, the land became very special to me for two big reasons: living on the property with my family and having many family functions there over the years, and being involved with providing fantastic recreational facilities to thousands each year. The 80-acre property was ideal for a recreation complex. (In the mid-1990’s GDRA became LMRA, Lockheed Martin Recreation Area.)

Q: What is your favorite memory from this land?

A: There is a personal favorite and a professional favorite:

My personal favorite memory would be thinking back to what a beautiful piece of acreage it was with its many large trees and the different terrain along the Trinity River. It was a great privilege to have my career involving the various recreation facilities and activities here as well as having my family live on the same property where I worked.

My favorite professional memories include:

  • seeing kids learning to swim in the massive pool
  • watching active people utilizing the many great facilities
  • observing lots of folks participating in over 35 activities that included sports as well as hobbies and crafts.

Q: How does Waterside pay homage to the history of the land?

A: As the evolution of the property went from open country to farm to recreation area, each had its own good and successful time, with the recreation area having over a 50-year run. If the property had to evolve from a recreation area to a commercial development, then there couldn’t have been a better steward of the property than Trademark and Waterside. They took note of the natural beauty, viewed and valued the many large trees, listened to people’s feelings about the property, and then incorporated “community space” into Waterside by showcasing The Grove. This concept is something I’ve failed to see in other developments. The entire Waterside plan incorporates the old and natural beauty into its modern upscale development, which I, and probably many others, think is just great. I can only hope other developers will follow their lead.

Q: What attracted you to the idea of becoming a Grove Ambassador?

A: I had been retired three years when I received an email from Angela Hall, GM and Marketing Director for Waterside, asking if I knew of any retirees who would like a part-time job at The Grove greeting people, providing information, and being an available representative in the area. Being an active person, I still had some free time in between my hobbies of golf, yard work, and reading, so I responded with interest. Knowing it would be in the same area where I lived and worked for 38 years appealed to me and would give me a chance to be there again. Now after several weeks of working as a Grove Ambassador, I have found it enjoyable to do something different and to see firsthand how the community is enjoying The Grove environment and its amenities.

Q: How is the next generation of users enjoying the land?

A: The Grove includes two patio areas with tables and chairs, a grassy area for yoga, a bocce ball court, a cornhole game area, a fire pit, and a covered pavilion with a large TV, seating areas, and games. Music from numerous outdoor speakers, a giant Adirondack chair, and artwork repurposed from LMRA kiddie rides and playground equipment are great added touches. All these “extras” make The Grove a great place to hang out with friends or family, play a game, watch TV, eat, or just relax in a very nice setting with a Steel City Pop.

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Liana Moran
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