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$6 million revamp full speed ahead at Camp Perry

April 29, 2019

HARLINGEN — The new dining hall stands fresh and ready for visitors.

Just across the road, workers labor steady on the new activity center at Camp Perry, in great anticipation of the bricklayers who will soon arrive.

“The activity center will have an office with a little foyer for a waiting room,” said John Moreno, the new ranger at Camp Perry.

“It’s going to have the office, an outside pavilion, and our trading post which is our camp store,” he said. “On the other side it will have our health lodge. It will have classrooms.”

The construction is funded by the Adelante con Camp Perry! capital campaign launched in September 2017. Hundreds of organizations and individuals pledged more than the $6.1 million required for the camp. Founded in 1927, it’s the oldest continually-operating scout camp in Texas.

In recent years, although Camp Perry was still in use, fewer scouts were using them.

“Camp Perry is falling apart,” said Terry Fossum in 2017. Fossum is a former Air Force captain. He and his brother Michael Fossum, a former astronaut, spent a great deal of time at Camp Perry in their youth.

One of the problems was the old dining hall. In years past, visitors were happy with an open air dining hall. These days, people look for a place to escape the heat. People were traveling elsewhere for scouting activities. If they couldn’t afford it, they wouldn’t go.

“We want scouts to stay here,” Fossum said.

The old dining hall is no longer an issue, thanks to the opening of the new Ponce Duran Family Dining Hall last November.

Moreno said he wasn’t sure what would become of the old dining hall – the kitchen has been completely closed down – but $250,000 have been allocated to refurbish the facility.

“I know the lodge part will probably never be touched, it’s history,” he said.

The walls of the lodge are covered with a collage of memorabilia collected over the years.

He picked up a chair and turned it upside down, revealing a stamped date in 1927 when the camp opened.

Not far away, sunlight danced on the water of the new swimming pool nearing completion.

“It’s got a ramp for special needs, and it’s got a shallow end for the little ones,” he said.

Rudy Gonzalez, executive director of Rio Grande Council – BSA, said Camp Perry will be open to other nonprofits and school districts and will provide rentals to the public for gatherings.

Boy Scouts of America recently changed its name to Scouts BSA and is now accepting girls in its program.

twhitehead@valleystar.com