TPWD: Border wall might threaten beloved state park

August 5, 2018

MISSION — Two brothers unloaded kayaks, a cooler and fishing equipment from their pickup truck last week. Josh and Jerrad Diaz wanted to arrive early in the morning to beat the South Texas heat, which has been unforgiving this summer, but woke up late after a long night.

At least now they were about to enjoy a day on the lake in the oldest state park in the Rio Grande Valley.

The brothers carried their gear up the gravel slope toward the park’s entrance. They had just learned about President Donald Trump’s border wall earlier in the week, which, according to its current map, would wipe out almost the entirety of their destination: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.

The Diaz brothers pulled their equipment over the levee just past the visitor’s center.

“It’s gonna be right here?” said Jerrad, 21.

His brother, Josh, pulled out a cigarette. He voted for Trump in the 2016 election.

“How tall is it gonna be?” said Josh, 28, having learned about the border wall from a friend last week.

When told of 18-foot bollard posts atop the proposed concrete wall, he figured any immigrants trying to cross into the United States could hop that. Josh’s confidence in his candidate has waned.

“I voted for him, but I don’t know,” Josh said. “He’s being all weird now.”

Jerrad, who didn’t vote, laughed.

Property owners along the Rio Grande received maps and a letter from the federal government in July illustrating that most of Hidalgo County will be walled off from the river. The Santa Ana Wildlife refuge will be the only stretch spared from the wall, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection letter.

The wall project also will include LED lighting, a camera surveillance system and a 150-foot zone on the south side of the wall where only property owners and law enforcement will be allowed.

By that measurement, this state park in Mission would be inoperable.

“That’s a big deal, if a state park would be closed,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife director, in an interview last week. “Especially for one that’s internationally recognized like Bentsen.”

A more complete version of this story is available on www.myBrownsvilleHerald.com

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