Friendship Park

Countdown to Preserving Friendship Park Begins

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The countdown to preserving Friendship Park has started.

On Wednesday night, a committee of Friendship Park stakeholders met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection representatives to discuss plans for new walls running through the historic park. Supporters want the government to halt construction for months so they can negotiate assurances for public access to the park once the walls are built.

Customs and Border Protection confirmed the new border wall replacement project will make room for Friendship Park. NBC 7's Dave Summers has the story.

The current walls are weathered and unsafe, according to CBP, which is one of the three reasons (staffing and the pandemic) why the agency has kept the park closed since 2020.

The Department of Homeland Security announced plans in May for new walls, which didn't include a gate on the northern wall to allow for public access to the border barrier, which has for decades given binational families a chance to greet face-to-face. Earlier this week, CBP told NBC 7 they would include a gate in the new design, but said it would work out public access details once the new walls are built.

In part of a statement released earlier this week, the CBP wrote: “We will identify opportunities to provide the public with access once it is operationally safe to do so. While these opportunities will continue to need to be based on other U.S. Border Patrol operational requirements, the replacement construction project will not be an impediment to potential opportunities for future access in this location.”

For decades, Friendship Park was a place where families reunited. NBC 7’s Dave Summers has the story.

John Fanestil and this contingent of Friendship Park stakeholders saw images of the new border wall construction plan Wednesday evening at CBP headquarters. He says the footprint doesn’t change, but the bollard-style barrier is nearly twice the height of the current one and that it radically diminishes the visual impact and experience of the park and will discourage visitors.

"The United States Border Patrol is treating friendship park much like any other part of the border with little recognition for the historic, cultural, social, ecological significance of this location," Fanestil said.

Friendship Park representatives are asking CBP to delay construction for 120 days to make time for a more meaningful consultation with local stakeholders.

"They can say they are putting a gate in it they can say they will quote-unquote make it accessible but the track record is they are not very good at doing that," Fanestil added.

NBC 7's Dave Summers explains why the park means so many to families in San Diego and Tijuana.

Supportes say they’ve received backing for the delay from 15 members of Congress, the California Latino Legislative Caucus and 160 religious leaders. They expect an answer from the government by Friday, August 5.

If CBP refuses the request to delay construction, work will begin as early as next month and could be completed by the spring of 2023. Halt or not, the park is going to remain closed until construction is complete.

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