ROCKPORT, Texas (Kiii News) — Rockport's Camp Aranzazu, a camp for children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses, celebrated Monday the completion of a new 600-foot bridge connecting their main camp area to 27 acres on Copano Bay.
It was an $11 million project that began nearly three years ago and was delayed by Hurricane Harvey.
Campers gathered Monday morning for a ribbon cutting ceremony as Camp Aranzazu showed off the new bridge, which allows campers to cross FM 1781 safely to access the Copano Bay waterfront.
"It's representative of not only the physical nature of our beautiful coast but kind of the whole purpose behind the camp is to provide bridges to these young people so they can get on with their lives and their special needs, not because of their disabilities but because of their character," Camp Chairman Bobby Hatcher said.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, the group paraded across the bridge to the waterfront, where a fishing pier, a nature education building, board walks and a bird blind have been built.
It was all finished despite Hurricane Harvey and the damage it caused in Rockport.
"At certain points in the fall we weren't sure that we would be open again in June, and that was always our number one goal, was to reopen for the summer," Camp Director Amelia Haslam said.
Planning for the expansion project began in 2015. Part of the expansion project included a new 52-bed cabin, a 10,000-square-foot dining hall, an administrative building and a second swimming pool, which were constructed in 2016. Their old dining hall was also converted to an art center.
The goal of the expansion project was to increase the number of beds at Camp Aranzazu to 135 to accommodate more children and adult campers -- campers like Patrick Arredondo, who is being treated at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Camp Aranzazu has provided him with a little getaway for the last five years.
"It kept growing and growing and growing, but now it's the best," Arredondo said. "It's going to be the best year ever. We're going to try to make it the best year ever."
Since 2006, Camp Aranzazu has served more than 22,000 campers from approximately 50 counties in Texas.
Stay connected with 3News for the latest news, sports, and weather. Download the KIII-TV 3News app now.