IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — Friendship Park, a binational park on the U.S.-Mexico border, Sunday celebrated 50 years since former First Lady Pat Nixon inaugurated it in 1971.
“It is my honor to welcome you all as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Friendship Park,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said.
The anniversary comes as the federal government extends border restrictions with Mexico and Canada.
“Our border with Mexico has been restricted since March of 2020,” Gloria said.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Border Patrol would open the federal property between the fences on the weekend, so families separated by immigration status could come together, according to the mayor.
“Since then, the regular weekend visiting hours have been closed here at Friendship Park,” Gloria said.
The closure has not allowed families to reunite.
“Standing here today, there is no indication of when the border restrictions will be lifted and when the visiting hours will resume,” said Gloria.
Another issue Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina says is affecting Friendship park is flooding and contamination.
“The park itself and the access has been closed, because any time it rains or there is a sewage flow, it actually runs across the road and you can’t actually get access here,” Dedina said. “So it’s been hugely problematic for state parks to keep that park open,”
As the restrictions and sewage issues persist, Dedina says he will push for all public access to the park.
The 50th anniversary also kicked off a campaign called “BUILD THAT PARK”, a design challenge to transform the park.
Friendship Park is open, but due to border restrictions continuing to be extended, the visitations have been put on hold. Restrictions have been extended until Sept. 21, 2021.