Friendship Park (San Diego–Tijuana)

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Friendship Park is a park along the United States-Mexico border in San Diego–Tijuana.[1] It is within Border Field State Park, a California state park, and includes the border fence dividing the two countries.[2] It was dedicated in 1971 by Pat Nixon.[3][4] In 2009, the park was closed for the construction of additional border fencing.[5] Since the secondary fence was completed, access to the park (now within the secondary fence) has been severely restricted.[6][7] The small park is situated in the southwestern corner of the United States, with Tijuana to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

The U.S. Border Patrol allows public access to the U.S. side of the park on Saturdays and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.[8]

Creation and dedication[edit]

Friendship Park was dedicated on August 18, 1971 by First Lady Pat Nixon.[3] For many years there was no border fence, and later only a monument and chain-link fence. Border security was tightened in the 1990s and again after the terrorism attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security closed down Friendship Park in order to construct a new fence. In 2012, under pressure from the public and activist groups, the federal government agreed to reopen the park with an outer perimeter fence blocking access to the public except when permitted by the U.S. Border Patrol, which controls access to the park.[9] The fence dividing the two countries is now a thick, dense steel mesh that is difficult to see through. Instead of holding hands, people can just barely touch the tips of their fingers through openings in the steel wire.[10]

Children's Day opening[edit]

Due to the work of the humanitarian organization Border Angels and its founder Enrique Morones, the U.S. government now allows a door in the fence at Friendship Park to be opened briefly on Children's Day, a holiday celebrated in April in Mexico. The first such event took place in 2013, and it was repeated in 2015 and 2016. When it is opened, Border Patrol officers lift a steel girder that locks a solitary gate in the fence from the U.S. side. Children and adults from pre-selected families divided by the border are allowed to meet and embrace briefly.[11]

Use before 2009[edit]

Until mid-2009, a single chain-link fence marked the international border within the park. People on opposite sides of the border were able to touch and pass objects through the barrier.[1] United Methodist pastor John Fanestil served communion through the fence during 2008 and 2009.[4]

2009 closure and secondary fence[edit]

In 2009, the park was closed for the construction of additional border fencing.[5] Since the secondary fence was completed, access to the park (now within the secondary fence) has been severely restricted.[6][7]

2011 fence[edit]

In late 2011 and early 2012, a new 20 foot tall steel wall was constructed on the International border. Sermons of various religions are held there every Sunday.[12] Despite the imposing physical barrier along the border and the presence of U.S. Border Patrol officers, as well as the long walk required to reach the park from public parking areas, people are drawn to the park for its historic significance, the surrounding natural beauty, and the joy of meeting with family and loved ones, if only through a steel barrier.

Friends of Friendship Park[edit]

Friends of Friendship Park is an organization of community members working for unrestricted access to this historic border site. The organization works on behalf of many families who depend on the park to see their families and friends.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Randal C. Archibold (22 October 2008). "U.S.-Mexico border fence will split friendship park". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Elliot Spagat (9 January 2009). "Border Patrol shutting down Friendship Park". SFGate. Associated Press. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Debbi Baker (20 August 2011). "Friendship Park marks 40th anniversary". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Jason Beaubien (9 February 2009). "Fence Supplants 'Friendship' At U.S.-Mexico Border". NPR. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Amy Isackson (8 July 2009). "California AG Joins Movement to Open Friendship Park". KPBS. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Beth Elderkin (14 April 2011). "Park redesign could relieve tensions at U.S.-Mexico border". UPI. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Vivian Marlene Dunbar (26 August 2011). "Friendship Park Celebrates 40th Anniversary". La Prensa San Diego. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "Friendship Park binational meeting place US-Mexico border". Friendship Park binational meeting place US-Mexico border. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  9. ^ "Friendship Park -- A Link Between Two Countries -- Opens Again". KPBS Public Media. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  10. ^ "Friendship Park -- A Link Between Two Countries -- Opens Again". KPBS Public Media. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  11. ^ Lewis, Paul (2016-03-29). "A wall apart: divided families meet at a single, tiny spot on the US-Mexico border". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  12. ^ "Friendship Park calendar". Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "Friendship Park binational meeting place US-Mexico border". Friendship Park binational meeting place US-Mexico border. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°32′04″N 117°07′20″W / 32.534576°N 117.122353°W / 32.534576; -117.122353 (Friendship Park)