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Dansville Fish and Game Honors Community

Colin Ponticello of Hornell Senior High School wins the James "Rip" Holden Memorial Scholarship 2020. PHOTOS BY JASMIINE WILLIS

By Jasmine Willis

DANSVILLE — The Dansville Fish and Game Club has been a pillar of the community since its foundation 145 years ago.

Dansville Fish and Game Club was originally founded in 1875. It was known as the Dansville Sportsman’s Club and was located at Stony Brook State Park. It remained in the park until late 1946. It was at this time the club purchased the old one-story Civilian Conservation Camp building at Stony Brook State Park for one dollar. It would be moved from its original location to the place it is now at Deer Park on Gibson Street.

At the time in 1947 a large 19-acre estate was purchased from the Scoville Estate on Gibson Street to further the purpose of the club’s goals. Now the club owns 90-acres of land and 22 ponds. It serves as a place for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Fishing Derby’s, Archery Club, Pistol Permits, 175 Yard Riffle Range, Hunting Safety Classes, Hunting, Clubhouse Rentals, and so much more. The club has over 500 members. Many of them are generational.

Upkeep has been done to the second floor clubhouse meeting room. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

On July 8 the club had its pork chop dinner and monthly meeting. The meeting included the James “Rip” Holden Memorial Scholarship awarded to Colin Ponticello, a Hornell Senior High School Student.

Ponticello was chosen out of eight other applicants for this honor. He plans to major in Civil Engineering at Penn State University.

“We applied for several scholarships that we got through the school. I remember for this one I had to write an essay about how I felt about the environment. I wrote mine about water. I found out a couple months ago that I won the scholarship,” he said.

Cari Durbin , Dansville Fish and Game Club member awards the scholarships every year to one student. She has been doing it for the past 15 years. Durbin said Ponticello’s essay was very inspirational, and was the first one to come in.

“Colin finished the eighth in his class. He was on the Swim Team. His application for the scholarship was perfect. He was also the first to apply for it this year. I found his essay to be very inspiring. He had done all of the requirements of the application. Colin had very glowing recommendations with his application too,” she said.

Ponticello said he won a couple other scholarships for college this year. All of this will go to help with tuition payments and books. He wishes to minor in environmental studies at Penn State. This has always been his interest. He hopes to get a mentor at the college in this field.

The Almond Rod and Gun Club sent him to Camp Rushford when he was in sixth grade. This helped to spark his love for the environment.

“I remember going to the camp before the big tech boom. I only had my mom’s flip phone at the time. I remember none of us cared much about technology back then. We were okay going without it for a week. I had one of the best experiences going there in sixth grade. I remember being out there in a tent with my friends and having that be one of the best nights of my life. I really enjoyed being out in nature,” he said. “It really all led me to wanting to be a Civil Engineer. I also live really close to a river. Down there is a plaque from the 1930s that talks about the Army Corps of Engineers. We check out what they do down there. I am also fascinated by the railroad in Hornell. It is very close to us too. I like the history of it when it was a bustling railroad in the city with the Trolley Cars rolling down the street.”

Ponticello has combined his love for history with his passion for civil engineering. He took a summer job recently helping out the road crew. He has dug up the roads and discovered the hundred-year-old bricks.

“They needed the help this summer, so they let some of the students come on to help. I am really glad to have the experience. We are filling the potholes in the city. When we dig up the roads, we are finding the 100-year-old bricks that haven’t been seen until now,” he said. “I have always had a passion for history since fourth grade. I have had a lot of my history teachers inspire me over the years. I hope to take a lot of history classes in college too. I want to get involved in extra things like Swim Team, Engineer Clubs, Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge Club.”

A James "Rip" Holden Memoral Bench for the first house and grounds keeper of the club. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Durbin said the applicants for the James “Rip” Holden Memorial Scholarship need to be focused on what the clubs mission is about. The scholarship is being offered to those pursuing a degree in conservation, biology, environmental protection, conservation science, forestry, natural resources, wildlife management, freshwater or marine science, environmental biology, wildlife science, and natural resource conservation.

Durbin pulled a quote from Colin’s essay that spoke to her when awarding him the scholarship. “Protect our environment so that others who live after us can see the same beauty in it we all see.”

“It is always hard to pick a student when you get so many good ones. We can only pick one. We had a Dansville Central student win the scholarship last year. When I get a whole bunch of good ones, I like to give them a points system. I want them to know they did a good job,” she said. “We also pay to have 10 students go to Camp Rushford every summer. This year we couldn’t because of the Covid. We had all our money refunded back to us from the state. In the past we have always had a good group of kids go to the camp. The kids are associated with the members of the club. We pick 10 of them to go every year. Sometimes they are asked to come back as counselors.”

The Elk donated to the clubhouse recently. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Jim Bennett, Dansville Fish and Game Club president held the first meeting since Covid on July 8 at the clubhouse. There was social distancing, and everyone was asked to be outside. The meeting covered what has happened in the shutdown. There has been upkeep to the clubhouse, blacktop on the parking lot, and an Elk has been donated to the club. About $30,000 was spent in total to accomplish all the things needed to be done.

Bennett said there are several cash raffles done every year. The big one is the Easter Cash Raffle. The grand prize of $1,000 was given to Tim Wolfanger. There was a meat raffle and sweatshirt raffle as well.

“This club is the jewel of the community. We have 90-acres of land and 22 ponds. We have our own Boy scouts and Girl Scouts. We have a Widows Group. There is a lot of Foster Wheeler History here over the years. We have the Fishing Derby that brings about 160 fishing poles to kids. Anyone from anywhere in the country can come to our ponds to fish without a fishing license. We have a Pistol Permit Program and a successful Archery Club,” he said. “We raised over $50,000 to keep the American Red Cross Chapter One in Dansville. In the 1990s there was a man there who almost lost us everything. He lost a lot of money for the American Red Cross. Leo Marks came to me and asked if we could raise money to keep it in Dansville. We raised $8,800 right away to get the roof fixed, computer system, and phone systems installed.”

Bennett added the Dansville Fish and Game Club has done so much for the community over the 145 years it has been around. It is one of the oldest if not the oldest running clubs of its kind in the country.

Deer like this one are all over the clubhouse downstairs. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

The James “Rip” Holden Memorial Scholarship means a lot to Bennett. He said James “Rip” Holden was the first house and grounds man in the club. He was loved by so many people in the club. The scholarship means a lot to so many of its members.

Ed Reich, Dansville Fish and Game Club member donated the Elk on the second floor of the clubhouse. The second floor of the clubhouse has always been redone.

Anyone who fishes in the ponds is asked to catch and release. The Deer Park Pond is a favorite this summer. Many people have been seen fishing there.

Beautiful painting donated by the Dansville Ambulance to the clubhouse. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Bob Ciecierega, Dansville Fish and Game Club member shared The Constitution of the United States at the meeting. He talked about the tear-jerking ceremony for the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department in Mount Morris that honored the men and women in blue. He talked about there being more fishing rod sales and licenses in the country than ever before. He gave an in-depth talk about the state of the Covid Vs. America. There are many who have various different opinions on the subject since it came about a few months ago. Many believe it has gone on for far too long, and wish to see an end to it. Many believe it is just getting started. For some it never should’ve happened in the first place. America has become divided once more over several conflicts.

The Dansville Fish and Game Club has welcomed several new members. If you wish to be a member visit

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