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Future of Friendship Park uncertain with border wall project

Families use Friendship Park to reunite along the US-Mexico border
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 21:36:33-05

SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (KGTV) — For nearly 50 years now Friendship Park has been the only physical connection that remains for loved ones separated by the border.

Daniel Watman, with the group Friends of Friendship Park, says the park has been used for years as the only lifeline for some families to connect.

"Families have used the park for generations families that are separated by immigration status, mothers that haven't seen their children in years come from long distances," said Watman.

Through the fence, people can actually touch each other. And over the years, the site has been the location of all sorts of activities aimed at creating better cross-border relations.

"Yoga classes, poetry readings, we built the bi-national friendship garden made of native plants, religious ceremonies, the border church has been there for years," Watman said.

But within weeks, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is set to begin construction to replace the existing fence with a new 30-foot tall border wall.

"It's gonna be a scar on the park and it's antithetical to what the park is all about," Watman said.

A statement from CBP reads:

"The proposed project located at Friendship Park within the U.S. Border Patrol’s (USBP) San Diego Sector is a continuation of the new primary border wall system, in place of dilapidated designs. The existing primary fencing no longer meets USBP’s operational needs. CBP anticipates awarding the project in the coming weeks. Once awarded, the design process will begin. The project is estimated to be completed in late 2021. The new secondary border wall project, located north of Friendship Park, is anticipated to begin construction in early 2021. As with all of CBP’s border wall projects, CBP executes a robust outreach effort to solicit public input as part of the environmental planning process. Based on this consultation and stakeholder feedback, CBP incorporates that feedback into the design, to the greatest extent possible, while still meeting U.S. Border Patrol operational requirements."

Watman and others are now planning a virtual protest later this month and asking people to sign a petition. The hope is that plans might be put on hold once President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

"It'll turn into a fortress with some access that would be the best-case scenario, worst case it'll be closed completely," Watman says if nothing is done.