The Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club and Wilderness Park Association (EIN 23-1993218) is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
The History of the Blue Mountain Eagle Hiking Club
On June 15, 1916, Dr. Harry F. Rentschler took a group of men from the Reading, PA area who liked to walk in the mountains to an eagle's nest on the Blue Mountains above Shartlesville. They enjoyed the climb so much that they planned to revisit the eagle's nest and the Blue Mountain eagle became the symbol for their climbs. They formed the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club on October 12, 1916, when the first official hike was held to the eagle's nest. William F. Shanaman was elected president of the new club and Dr. Rentschler was named secretary.
In 1926, planners of the Appalachian Trail contacted the Club. Club members were asked to locate and build 102 miles of trail through the wilderness along the mountaintop from the Lehigh River to the Susquehanna River. Monuments, cabins, and rest stops were built along the way. After five years of volunteer labor, dedication of the completed section was held on October 12, 1931.
In 1937, the Club formed a corporation under the name of the Blue Mountain Wilderness Park Association. Its purpose was to acquire and own the land in order to protect the Appalachian Trail.
During the 1950s and 1960s, some trail sections were given up to newer clubs to maintain. The Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club currently maintains a 64.4 mile section of the Appalachian Trail along Blue Mountains from Lehigh Furnace Gap Road to Rausch Gap with the exception of a section between Bake Oven Road and Tri-county Corner.
In April 1970, the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club and the Wilderness Park Association, having always had a common governing body, were legally merged. In 1975, the Club adopted a new constitution and by-laws. Click here for a more detailed BMECC history Keepers of the Appalachian Trail.
In the News
The Reading Eagle Newspaper has covered many events for the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club starting in the 1920's. There are interesting stories of the clubs beginnings and great historical photographs. See the listing of news stories.
The Historical Society of Berks County has an article on their web site which is a well written account of the BMECC history "Keepers of the Appalachian Trail". It goes into more depth than we have on this web page. The author is the late Paul R. Lehman of Laureldale, PA, who was the archivist of the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club. He had maintained the Appalachian Trail over the Pinnacle for 35 years.
The Reading Eagle featured the BMECC and Rentschler Arboretum on the front page of the Living section. "Learning Comes Naturally, Generations Have Learned to Love Nature at Rentschler Arboretum" by Lisa Scheid and Ben Hasty. Here is an exert from the article:
"All seasons have something to offer. Spring brings vivid green colors, redbud, daffodils, dogwoods, azalea and rhododendron blossoms, and birds looking for nesting spots. The rain garden plants begin to fill in. In summer, the warm season meadow and gardens are in bloom. The dragonflies and hummingbirds are busy, the kestrels are teaching their brood to fly and hunt. Bluebirds are flying to and from their nest boxes feeding their fledglings, and flocks of cedar waxwings can be seen. In fall the ginkgo leaves carpet the ground, the oaks and sourwood leaves change to deep red and the goldfinches flock to the meadow to eat coneflower seeds. In winter, the trees show you what they really look like, and it's possible to see deep into the wooded areas; it's fun to look for deer, small mammal and bird tracks in the snow," Enders said.