ROCKPORT — Rockport will always be a second home for Mary and Gabriel Reyes.
The couple from San Antonio make the two hour drive every other weekend to fish, spend time together and continue a family tradition at the Fulton Fishing Pier.
“Even though we’re not from here, Rockport is our home,” Mary Reyes said. “My dad used to bring me here when I was little and my grandpa brought him here. Fishing is a big thing in our family.”
Mary Reyes has been fishing at the pier since she was a child and started bringing her husband Gabriel and son Ruben after he was born.
When Hurricane Harvey destroyed the old pier in 2017, the family was on the front lines helping the town recover.
Gabriel, Mary and their father in law Enrique brought food, water and clothes.
Gabriel posted on Facebook asking for help and quickly started receiving goods from friends around town.
“It was heartbreaking,” Mary Reyes said. “I know it was very devastating for the community, but it’s great to see that it’s been rebuilt.”
Fulton received $2 million dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild the pier that stands on the Aransas Bay today.
The pier includes a new covered weather pavilion, upgraded LED fishing lights and is ADA (handicap) accessible.
Harvey washed away several sections of the pier and caused structural damage that was impossible to repair.
With the help of YETI, the outdoor sporting goods company, and the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, construction of the pier began in the fall of 2020 and welcomed its first anglers in January.
“I think it’s great for the town of Rockport,” Gabriel Reyes said. “It brings more tourism and the town needs that income to grow. As far as us, it’s a great spot to come out and relax. It’s also free, so we can come out and fish all night if we wanted to.”
Fulton Harbor Bait and Seafood employee Eric Solis said business has thrived since the pier opened to the public.
Solis, who has worked in Rockport for three years, noticed the increase when tourists from Houston, Austin and San Antonio began to become regular customers.
Solis said weekends during the summer have been the busiest.
“It helps a lot with business and it’s attracted more people,” Solis said. “It’s good for fishing and it’s good for the overall community.”
San Antonio resident Alberto Mendoza and his son Nicolas were visiting the new pier for the first time on Wednesday.
Previously, Mendoza traveled to Rockport for the past 17 years to fish on the old pier.
During construction, I fished in Corpus Christi, the causeway and in Louisiana.
“I think the new pier will attract more people,” Alberto Mendoza said. “When people come to Rockport, they come for the fishing. I’ve been sitting around waiting for this to open and I’m glad it finally did.”
The father and son were also in Rockport lending a helping hand after Harvey made landfall.
“It was horrible,” Alberto Mendoza said. “My son and I came to help here in Rockport. We brought our chainsaws and helped them cut down stuff.”
Larry Robinson, a captain and guide in Rockport, said the best part of the pier is that it’s free to the public.
During construction, anglers had to travel to Corpus Christi or Port Aransas to fish for free.
“I think it’s great for the community and for people that can’t afford guides,” Robinson said. “It’s a great place to take families and small kids. There’s a lot of private piers that people can’t get to, so it’s good to have a new pier. It’s great for the community of Fulton.”
Fulton Mayor Kelli Cole said the project of rebuilding the pier marked the final step of the town recovering from Harvey and encouraged more people to visit the coast to see the new pier for themselves.
“We appreciate Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation’s commitment to the Texas coastal communities affected by the hurricane,” Cole said. “We are immensely grateful to YETI and the Sid W. Richardson Foundation for the private funds that made this project possible.”
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Rey Castillo is a sports reporter for the Caller-Times and a graduate of Texas A&M-Kingsville. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @reycastillo361.