Written by: Bianca Hernandez, Development Associate
A couple weeks ago, a few friends of Camp Aranzazu’s board chair, Keith Little, spotted the foot bridge over FM 1781 and had some questions. What was the goal for building the bridge? Why was building the bridge so important to Camp Aranzazu and its mission? As someone who has also been enamored by the Camp Aranzazu property since starting at Camp, I completely understand the curiosity and have wondered how the bridge came to be. Well, if you’ve ever had any of the same questions or are just wondering what the foot bridge has done for Camp Aranzazu, just keep reading!
In June 2018, campers from Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s Renal Department, camp staff, members of the board of directors, and friends from the Rockport community gathered to celebrate the completion of construction related to Camp Aranzazu’s expansion that began in September 2015 and that is valued at more than $11 million. You can watch Kiii’s coverage of our ribbon cutting ceremony here!
The purpose of the expansion was to increase the number of beds to 135 so that Camp Aranzazu can serve more children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses, and to create access to the camp’s unique waterfront area. The Interim Director for The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, G. Joan Holt, Ph.D., described the importance for further development of Camp Aranzazu’s waterfront property and the expected impact on our community in a letter to Camp founder, Tom Forney. Dr. Holt wrote, the inclusion of our nature education building “would create a new dimension to the programming offered by the camp, provide the area with a one of a kind eco-experience and generate long term interest in and appreciation for the coastal resources.”
The 600-foot bridge over FM 1781, generously donated by Williams Brothers Construction Co., provides access to the camp’s 27 acres on Copano Bay. Camp Aranzazu’s coastal property provides great opportunity for recreation and environmental education with our four environmental zones: uplands, fresh water wetlands, salt water wetlands, and the coastline. The area includes a fishing pier, nature education building, board walks, bird blind, and floating dock to launch our sail boats.
By expanding access to our waterfront property, campers now can enjoy sailing, fishing in Copano Bay, birdwatching, and walking along the shoreline — opportunities others may take for granted but that our campers with special needs do not often have a chance to enjoy. As the only camp serving campers with special needs and chronic illnesses along the Texas Coast, we have the unique privilege of making waterfront activities accessible for all campers, no matter their ability.
Like our fearless Camp Director, Amelia, said, “kids [are] able to walk, roll, skip, and jump over there and experience Camp Aranzazu, Copano Bay and Rockport in a whole new way!”
The foot bridge has proven to be a fantastic resource and continues to allow Camp Aranzazu to provide exceptional programming which now includes an adaptive sailing program that runs from late spring to early fall with an experienced, full-time sailing instructor. As we continue to develop and nurture our waterfront property, we look forward to learning and making new memories with campers along Copano Bay — thanks to a very special foot bridge!