Located at the westernmost end of the U.S.-Mexico border where San Diego, California, meets Tijuana, Mexico, Friendship Park and Monument Mesa is an important bi-national cultural landscape. The park was established on August 18, 1971, in a ceremony that featured First Lady Pat Nixon to demarcate the physical location of the international boundary line and provide a gathering space for visitors to the border. The area includes a marble obelisk nine feet tall that was erected by the U.S. government as a boundary marker in 1851. In 1974 the marble monument was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Friendship Park and the co-joining park “Parque de la Amistad” remain an important bi-national meeting location for families and friends separated by the border wall.
The Friends of Friendship Park and allied design professionals were invited to meet with Customs and Border Protection for a stakeholder input meeting prior to the restarting of border wall construction, which was previously halted just east of the historic monument. At that meeting the announcement was made that the existing primary and secondary eighteen-foot-tall walls that separate the historic core of the park and the bi-national family interaction area would be replaced with two of the new 30-foot-tall walls with no commitment for funding to reopen the park. The 1851 original monument will remain as it has since 2011, relegated to the Mexico side of the wall and no longer visible from the United States.
In addition to the scale of the wall when situated in a human use area, this wall design also impedes coastal viewsheds and sightlines into the historic core of the park. The construction included destruction of the U.S. side of the bi-national native plant garden, incidents of sediment in stormwater runoff, removal of California native habitat, disruption of Kumeyaay sites, reduced access to other historic resources in the area, and concerns about the structural integrity of the wall design itself after sections fell over in El Centro, CA. The wall design was not prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers and was instead designed by the design-build contractor who holds the contract and who is not a structural engineer, leaving questions about the long-term stability of this imposing wall structure that many work and live in the shadow of.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection missed the mark with this wall design, especially in this historically significant, much loved and publicly utilized location. Border Field and Friendship Park’s location are unlike any other found along the southern border due to the bi-national opportunity to see family and the rich cultural, historic and ecological heritage found here. Border project waivers used to build these walls allow for a complete disregard of the laws designed to protect these public trust resources. The nation’s resource protection laws are not designed to stop these types of border security projects but to ensure alternatives are explored and a full disclosure to the public is made regarding losses of our national resources. Although the DHS indicated they wanted “robust and substantive engagement with relevant stakeholders” prior to restarting construction, the continuation of this previously installed wall design illustrates they do not. Nor do they understand the value of the resources they are entrusted to care for. If they need a model of how to integrate anti-terrorism/ force protection, resources protection and how to integrate public access they need only to look to our local military development as a model to understand how these can be accomplished in way that both protects important resources and public access.
San Diego Sector - Imperial Beach area
Department of Homeland Security & U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Paul Enriquez/ email@example.com
Department of Homeland Security (Wall design is by the installation contractor)