This one was all me. No one else was really excited about going here but I made them come anyway.
Back on our first-year of traveling we visited Cape Flattery, the NW corner of the USA. You can go more north, but not be as far west. You can go more west, but not be as far north.
Border Field State Park is a bit like that at the Southern End of the Pacific Coast. You can go more south, but not be as far west. Or you can go more West, but not be as far South.
But in researching this point, it sounded…unusual. Terms like “little-visited” came up. Or “desolate”. Or “depressing”.
All of which peaked my interest even more. How is it that a few miles of precious Pacific coastline becomes “little-visited”?
Let’s start with the ownership of land in this area. The State Park is actually completely ensconced in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. This Reserve is one of 28 around the USA, and even after reading about it I’m not quite sure who owns the land. Everyone from the US, to the State of California, to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to the International Boundary and Water Commission, to the County of San Diego, to the local cities of San Diego and Tijuana have a hand in managing this particular chunk of real estate.
Which might explain why the park is borderline unusable (pun intentional).
Case in point - last year the park put out a great press release about some new picnic facilities. Here’s the money quote from that press release:
“We’re really excited to offer this setting for the public’s enjoyment,” says Clay Phillips, District Superintendent for the San Diego Coast District of State Parks. “While flooding keeps vehicles out of here for about 6 months each year, we’re thrilled that now, during the peak summer months, the public has easy access to what is now one of the best picnic sites along the southern California coastline.
Yes, that’s right. New picnic facilities in a park that is unreachable due to a flooded road for half of the year. Oh, I don’t know, maybe FIX THE ROAD FIRST?
Since the road was flooded in order to reach the SW corner of the park we parked in a gravel parking lot and entered next to the “locked” gate (three padlocks but all hooked to a threaded link?). We walked past a newer but deserted-looking entrance station which I guess gets used when the road isn’t flooded. Some rangers drove past and said the road was flooded so take the beach path and then added “be sure not to touch the water where it’s flooded). That puzzled us until the sign by the beach came into view - it’s contaminated by sewage. Soooo…all the importance of this land and all the kings men involved on an advisory committee and…
We used the beach trail. It’s an easy flat walk about a mile long. While the park website boasts about the number of birding species here I think we maybe saw two birds total until we reached the actual beach front. But, there were the flowers. Hundreds of very bright differently colored flowers made the walk to the back enjoyable. They drew your attention away from the multiple helicopters and border patrol vehicles just about every which way you look.
Once on the beach it was another good half mile to the corner where the fence is.
There was a Border Patrol truck on the beach, so I figured we might as well check in as we walked past - so I asked just how close to the fence we could get before making him nervous. “5 yards or so” was the answer.
We continued up to about that range and stopped to take the obligatory picture and just take in the scene.
The video attached drives the points home as well, but on the Mexico side of the border the space is all about entertainment and vacationing. There’s a bull-fighting ring, hotels, people on the beachfront, mariachi bands, and photograph takers.
On our side there was us and the Border Patrol dude. We’re all about protecting….whatever it is, while the Mexican people are all about enjoying the space.
The other feature of this space is Friendship Park commemorated in 1971 by Pat Nixon as a place where families could meet, talk, and touch “through the fence” regardless of nationality.
So how’s that friendship holding out? After being cleaved down the middle with a new fence, and after being entirely closed for a period of time in 2009 and with threats of “permanent bans on visting” the park is (begrudgingly) open from 10-2 on Saturdays and Sundays, limited to 10 people at a time, limited to 30 minutes, and you can no longer touch through the fence.
If this is how we treat our friends I don’t want to see how we treat our enemies.
We didn’t walk up to the park, but (even though we were there on a weekday) saw people coming through the fence followed by people in military-ish or park officer uniforms. Then while making our long walk out we came across people walking out that hadn’t been on the beach or path with us. Strange all the way around.
It was a nice walk on a nice day, and was an interesting spot to be sure. If you want some beach time to yourself (or you and your horse), this might be a place for you. But Border Field State Park sure doesn’t leave you wanting to wave a USA flag around.