SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Friends of Friendship Park met Monday night with representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as the San Diego Border Patrol office to discuss the future of Friendship Park.
The park has been in limbo since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Border Patrol cut off access to the area, which for years has become a gathering point for families and friends from both sides of the border.
Historically, for a few hours on weekends, agents granted entry to small groups of people providing them a path to the primary wall where they could touch and talk with loved ones on the other side.
Now that the COVID-19 cases have dropped significantly, supporters of the park have been pressing the Border Patrol to resume the decades-old tradition.
But CBP has said the existing barriers have become a danger due to corrosion and they pose a threat to the public, migrants and agents who work in the area.
CBP has pushed the Biden administration to replace the current fences with two new 30-foot walls, something the Department of Homeland Security agreed to do a few months back.
But the plans were shelved when the public, including Friends of Friendship Park and other stakeholders, questioned the omission of a gate that would provide access to the park, which sits between the two barriers.
They protested, saying the walls’ new design would mean an end to the park.
Since then, plans were postponed in hopes a compromise would be reached.
The latest round of talks ended Monday night without a resolution.
“I would suspect 30 to 45 days out we should have a clearer picture of whether the Biden administration intends to move forward with the plan currently on the table,” said John Fanestil, with Friends of Friendship Park. “This is not just any section of the border, this is the most historic location on the border — it’s a site of tremendous cultural, historical and social significance.”
Fanestil said officials from the San Diego Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol provided input into the design.
“They assured the Friends of Friendship Park that our design inputs will be taken into consideration as part of this process,” he said.
Fanestil stated CBP and Border Patrol will have 30-day windows for public input.
“Our point of view is that the same designs that apply at remote locations at the border should not be applied, this is a unique location at the border,” he said.
Fanestil told Border Report they not only want the gate in place to grant access to the public, but would like to see more canopies and trees to provide shade to people who visit Friendship Park.
They’re also asking for benches for the elderly and play areas for children to wait while their families meet with relatives along the border barrier within Friendship Park.
“This place is where the best of what border has to offer can be on display.”
Border Report reached out to CBP and awaiting a response on whether Friendship Park and public access fit into its plans to build the two 30-foot barriers on the site.