A few months ago, it appeared that the Bessemer Rod & Gun Club might have lost its home.
Instead, the club is celebrating a new start today — one that will keep it in operation for as long as it wishes.
Lehigh Hanson Inc. announced Thursday from its home office in Irvin, Texas, that its Hanson Aggregates subsidiary in Bessemer has donated approximately 39 acres of former mining property to benefit the Bessemer Rod & Gun Club, Bessemer Croatian Club and Bessemer Borough. The donation to the Bessemer Rod & Gun Club includes the 17-acre Bessemer Lake.
“The 230 members of the Bessemer Rod & Gun Club consist of veterans, retirees and family members that utilize the 38-acre site for fishing, their annual turkey shoot and as a social meeting place,” Lehigh Hanson said in a release yesterday. “The club members have taken excellent care of the property and can now use it as they please knowing that it belongs to them.”
The Bessemer Croatian Club received a parking lot consisting of five parcels totaling 0.85 acres, according to Hanson Aggregates. This area is used for the overflow of parking from the club’s existing parking lot. Bessemer Borough was deeded a 0.20 acre parcel located behind the borough’s fire department/maintenance building. The donated property was part of the former Essroc cement plant operations, which were acquired by Lehigh Hanson in 2016.
“We are pleased to be able to donate this land and provide value to the local community,” said Ron Kurpiel, vice president and general manager for Hanson Aggregates. “Hanson Aggregates is committed to being a good neighbor and giving back to the communities where we do business.”
The donation enables the club, which has been in operation since the late 1940s when it originally leased the land from the Bessemer Limestone and Cement Company, to continue. The club most recently was under a 99-year, $1-a-year lease from Essroc that started in 1998.
“We were pretty worried,” said Dan Fiore, treasurer of the club. “We had had the lease of this land for so long and a new company took over and we didn’t know if they would say, ‘get off our land.’ Instead, they said, ‘if we gift you this land, will you accept it?’ We were surprised, but so happy. This ensures that the club will remain in existence indefinitely.”
Lehigh Hanson is an affiliate of HeidelbergCement which acquired the Italcementi Group, former owner of the Bessemer plant. Italcementi Group changed its name to Essroc.
The Bessemer Rod & Gun Club initially was offered a 10-year lease from Lehigh Hanson via land manager Larry Lauritzen.
While the club still was pondering if it should accept the offer, Lauritzen traveled to Bessemer from his home base of Allentown and said he had another proposal.
“He came to our clubhouse and had maps and said, ‘we’re not going to mine this land, so if we gifted it to you, would you accept it,’ “ Fiore said. “Of course we accepted. As we dealt with Larry and his company, we realized they are very community-minded.”
To thank the company for its “incredible donation,” the club plans to throw a party for six members of its management group, including Lauritzen, on July 2.
“We had a sign made and planned this party to thank Hanson for everything they did for us,” club president Ron Chmura said. “This donation means so much to our members.”
“We could never repay them for what they did for us,” Fiore said. “Had they taken that land as their own, which they certainly had a right to do, that may have been the end of our club. We wanted to throw this party to let them know how much we appreciate them. This is an amazing gift.”
Lehigh Hanson is a leading supplier of aggregates, cement, ready mixed concrete and asphalt in North America. Hanson Aggregates is a subsidiary of Lehigh Hanson, Inc. Lehigh Hanson and its affiliated companies are part of the HeidelbergCement Group.
The company will mine limestone on its Bessemer property and anticipates to begin active operations sometime this summer.