With all the hub-bub during this election cycle about our borders and the pressing need for immigration reform, I thought this trip to San Diego offered an opportunity to visit a destination not usually mentioned at the tourist info center: Border Field State Park.
I suppose an obvious choice when seeking to understand a relationship between countries would have been to simply cross over and visit our neighbor to the south, but I was specifically interested not in life across the border, but rather life at the border.
Beginning at Border Field State Park, you realize right away that the trip to the border is going to be a chore. You’re not allowed to drive to the border fence, or the “Friendship Park” (more on that later). You have to park and take a 20-minute walk. If the route that is a little shorter is flooded, you’ll need to walk all the way to the beach and hang a left.
No motorized vehicles are allowed, so you’ll either be walking, riding a bicycle or riding a horse to the border.
The walk is probably going to be long and hot, but at the very least there are portions that have pretty flowering vegetation and succulents. We also spotted some birds, lizards and we hear there are rattlesnakes here, but we didn’t see any.
Once you’ve reached the beach, hang a left to head for the border. The first thing you’ll see is the border fence that runs all the way into the ocean.
Before 1994, this fence was of the barbed wire variety, resembling a livestock fence. In 1971 First Lady Pat Nixon visited the border and shook hands through it.
Since ’94 and the panic of 2001 (and the monsoon of federal homeland security money that followed) the fence has been built up to what it is today – a $1 million per mile double fence with ’round the clock border patrol.
You cannot get within 25 yards of the fence on the beach or else border patrol tells you to back away. Trust me, I know.
That being said, the agents are just doing their jobs. They were quite cordial and interactive up at the Friendship Park.
Once into the Friendship Park, you get a sense of just how friendly we are.
Fun fact: We actually surrender three feet of international border to offset the fence line from Monument 258. Monument 258 is the surveying obelisk dedicated in 1894 to identify the border. The border is set by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which marked the end of the US-Mexican War.
Fun fact #2: Monument #258 actually replaced the first obelisk that was originally placed there (marked #1) in 1851. It was destroyed by tourists who chipped off marble to take home as souvenirs.
Friendship Park at Border Field State Park is still a place for families to see each other and converse. That is, when it’s open (weekends and holidays only for a few hours each day).
As ugly as the fence is—and as brutal as this visual representation is of our relationship with Mexico, immigrants, and people who might be a little more brown than we are—it should be noted that one can simply turn around to see lovely coastal bluffs with flowering plants and crashing waves on pristine sand.
All you have to do is turn your back.
Just turn your back.
About Border Field State Park
Check the official website for the latest information on closures and operating hours. Sometimes this area can flood, which means limited access. Check ahead of time to be sure.