MISSION – At recent community night out at Bensten State Park, 60 residents from the Rio Grande Valley participated in a sunset hike, lit campfires and made smores. The event was an opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the park before the border wall forces the outdoor space to close.
Tiffany Kersten led some hikes and a bird watching walk the next morning for those who decided to spend the night.
“We're trying to raise awareness for the park and many of the people that came had never been to the park before,” Kersten said. “We're trying to show them what could be lost.”
The six miles of border walls planned for Mission would put several historical, public and private lands at risk of being closed including La Lomita Chapel, Bensten State Park, the National Butterfly Center and portions of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The land of Bensten State Park was donated by the family of late U.S. Senator Lloyd Bensten (D-TX) in the 1940s. The donation said it would be solely used for a state park. Should the park close, the Bensten would get the land back with a wall running through it.
Martha Garcia, who is a member of the Environmental Awareness club at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley also helped organize the event.
Garcia hopes and encourages others will join the fight to protect the parks.
“Ultimately the people building the walls do not understand and they do not know how special these places are to us since they are not from here,” Garcia said. “I think by encouraging more people to show up to these kinds of events more people will become involved in the fight.”
The damage the border walls would cause to the wildlife habitat in the Rio Grande Valley is enough for not only the community to be outraged but also two local United States Congressmen.
Congressmen Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) and Filemon Vela (TX-34) both called on House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to strongly oppose any funding of physical barriers along the southern border for the fiscal year 2019 spending bill.
Gonzalez also called out President Donald Trump after he tweeted “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.”
In a statement Gonzalez said the President of the United States is the last person who should advocate for shutting down our government, and it is clear from his televised admissions that he is unwilling to negotiate, and that indeed he is making a demand.
“There must be no funding allocated for a border wall – that’s final,” Gonzalez said. “While the President continues obstructing our government, I will work with likeminded pragmatists on both sides of the aisle to effectively secure our borders through the use of low-cost, modern technology.”
Ecotourism will also be affected by the border wall according to Scott Nicol, Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club. The border wall would cut off habitats and push animals closer to extinction. The ocelot is a prime example.
At the National Butterfly Center, where survey crews have been seen recently, 70 acres of 100 would be on south side of the wall. If La Lomita follows enforcement zone guidelines, the chapel would be demolished.
“It is important for people to realize we live in a democracy and our government should be listening to us,” Nicol said.