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Palmerton Fishing and Hunting Association celebrates 100 years

“Look at the penmanship,” Terry Costenbader said, motioning toward the curved signatures printed precisely on the page.

Edward Brey held the document, enclosed in a golden, metal frame, between his hands. It was almost blank, aside from three names, a seal and a short paragraph that confirms Costenbader’s grandfather as a part owner of the Palmerton Fishing and Hunting Association.

The paper is proof that Costenbader, who is also president of Palmerton Borough Council, has something Brey doesn’t: a family history with the association spanning three generations.

Still, at 93, Brey is its oldest and most long-standing member.

“I can remember when I first joined the club, I was about the youngest one there,” Brey, who bought his piece of the association in 1956, recalled.

“Now they’re all young, and I’m the old guy.”

Brey learned of the association through a friend. After buying his own share, Brey said, he would leave work at Bethlehem Steel almost every Friday, driving up the mountain and onto Hatchery Road, the quiet, tree-shrouded street that runs through the association’s 1,200-acre property. He stayed in his cabin on the acreage.

Brey’s still holding on to his piece of the club, but said one day, he will eventually pass the gift on to another outdoorsman or woman.

“You don’t find places like this anymore,” he said.

The Palmerton Fishing and Hunting Association was incorporated in 1919. Membership hovered around 25 men and almost doubled by 1925, when the bylaws were rewritten to cap its growing roster.

Local watering holes, like Big Creek, Blue Mountain Stream and Wild Creek, were stocked with trout and black bass. Cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares started hopping along association grounds. Pine, spruce and walnut trees were planted on the property. In 1929, the club exchanged its gas lights for electric ones.

A century later, the association keeps its membership low. It’s currently made up of 39 men and one woman, who all own an equal share of its estate. Every member holds the same position of director and say in operations, and the majority of the property is dense forest.

“This is a treasure,” said Kurt Steigerwalt, secretary and member of the association. “It’s hard for us to put into words how valuable this is to us.”

Like many of its members, Steigerwalt first started hanging around the club when he was a kid. His father owned a share, and when Steigerwalt grew up, he wanted to get a hand on his own. Steigerwalt was finally able to make his way onto the roster in the ’80s, but soon after, his father died from cancer.

“Never really got a chance to be a member with my dad,” Steigerwalt said while standing on the edge of a pond located on the property. From here, the countless green and yellow trees make it seem like the forest goes on forever.

“But we did spend a lot of good years up here,” he added.

Almost as impressive as the views it offers is the club’s longevity, which members celebrated on Saturday with a barbecue, duck race and basket raffle. Just before the festivities began, state Rep. Doyle Heffley awarded the Palmerton Fishing and Hunting Association with a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

“I just want to congratulate you on 100 years,” he told the crowd gathered last weekend.

“Throughout its history, the Palmerton Fishing and Hunting Association has made great contributions to the welfare of society though a sense of fellowship,” Heffley read from the citation. “A succession of dedicated leaders and members has made this possible.”

Kurt Steigerwalt looks out at a pond on the Palmerton Fishing and Hunting Association property. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Edward Brey poses for a photo at Saturday’s anniversary picnic.
This document certifies Terry Costenbader’s grandfather, Allan Costenbader, as 1/40th owner of the Palmerton Fishing and Hunting Association.
A pond on association property. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS