Photo Tour: The Disappearing (?) Park on the Border

In 2008, as a fortified border wall is being built between the US and Mexico, California's Border Field State Park will be cut off from the Mexican side. I got there as the wall was about to go up. Here are photos and stories of this fascinating corner of our two countries.

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At the very southwestern corner of the mainland US are a little stone monument and a fence running into the ocean:
Monument on the US-Mexico border
Border fence extending into Pacific Ocean at Imperial Beach, California

The two sides of the fence are completely different.

On the Mexican side is urban Tijuana: buildings, streets, and lots of people. The mid-September day I visited, musicians were playing underneath a giant inflatable Coca-Cola can... families lounged under beach umbrellas, and Mexican Scouts filled the beach with tents, archery, and happy voices.

The U.S. side is parkland: the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and California's Border Field State Park. The parking lot held a trickle of visitors, and state park rangers handed out free pizza for beach cleanup volunteers -- all under the watchful eye of US Border Patrol officers:
Mexican side of the beach through the fence
Tijuana Musicians rock the beach
California State Park Rangers with pizza for beach cleanup volunteers
U.S. Border Patrol agent watches the beach and the ocean

This view into Mexico -- the mirador and the bull ring -- will probably be history soon. The red fences that start here on the beach (on the US side) protect the strip of land for the new border wall. On the hills east of here, trucks and agents on horseback are already patrolling the line. There'll also be a new road along the US side of the wall.
Current border fence, and path of border wall, from US beach
View from monument, along route of new border wall, toward truck patrols coming off the hills to the east

Here around the monument are people making the most of what'll probably the last chance for this much contact between the sides of the border. Musicians on opposite sides of the fence played together while a video crew filmed from the Mexican side.

The fence has been here since before the time that former American First Lady Pat Nixon dedicated the park in 1974 (agents cut the fence so she could walk through to Mexico). The monument has been here since the 1800s... and I'm guessing that it will soon be on the Mexican side of the new wall.
Musicians playing together across the border fence
Video crew conducting an interview on Tijuana side of border fence
Two men looking at border fence from Mexican side
Group on US side of border fence

People flying kites that soar above the fence -- and a plaque placed near the fence for the park's opening in 1974:
Plaque commemorating border park opening in 1974
Flying kites from the US side of the border fence

People through the fence: A Mexican Scout with her feet in the sand, and a man who told me (in Spanish) about his family on the US side and his trips over here (maybe not legally?):
Mexican Scout through the border fence
Mexican man through the border fence

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[Tour start: La Frontera: Along the US-Mexico Border]
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(These photographs are Copyright © 2008 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)

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