The Vision of Friendship Park in San Ysidro

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

EDITOR NOTE: As we know it, the San Ysidro beach border has blossomed into one of the most passionate art exhibitions today. At this time, the site is heavily patrolled by police officers, marked off with police tape to discourage groups on the boardwalk.

Nestled at the westernmost edge between the U.S. and Mexico border, Friendship Park has been a historic meeting place for mixed status families who have been separated from each other.

Separated by a rusted metal mesh wall, families were once able to reunite on the weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 pm. before COVID-19 restrictions were put into place.

These reunions have come to a stop since the park is currently closed on the U.S. side.

Now San Diego and Tijuana activists have launched a new campaign for a binational park at the site. They're calling it "Build That Park" as a response to the current administration’s calls to “Build That Wall.”

The group behind the conceptual plan calls itself the Friends of Friendship Park. They say a binational park between the U.S. and Mexico would encourage unity rather than separation.

San Diego architect and campaign member James Brown describes the current condition of Friendship Park as “militarized” and “oppressive.”

“As important as this meeting space is in the world, it is one of the least attractive and oppressive parks I have ever laid eyes on. We're going to remedy that,” Brown said.

Brown said part of the concept plan includes a retractable fence with Homeland Security supervision, a pedestrian-only border crossing to limit vehicular land disruption, a pier with potential hotels and restaurants, museums, a conference center in the existing Tijuana bull ring and more.

Although a big project, the campaign's goal is to disturb as little of the land as possible by using the already graded estuary land and “what nature has provided.”

On the Tijuana side, the community of Playas containing residences, restaurants, and businesses would remain what they are.

Brown said Border Patrol and Homeland Security have many devices to passively watch and supervise the Northern boundary of the potential bi-national park and already have experience in other existing bi-national parks.

“The strategy of just fortifying the walls even more,you can see its a losing strategy. We have to do something radically different and this project demonstrates exactly what we need done,” Brown added.

Campaign members hope that their idea will capture the attention of the public and government officials to make it a reality.

Build That Park plans to present a full design on or near August 21, 2021, in observation of the 50th Anniversary of Friendship Park.

Originally posted on KPBS

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