Remember the outrageous political threat of a border wall separating Mexico from the United States? Well, the community effort of activists, indigenous leaders, and landowners in Laredo, Texas, has succeeded in getting a binational river park developed in its place.
The actions of grassroots groups like the Texas No Border Wall coalition got the concrete wall construction contracts canceled. Thanks to the support of the environmental nonprofit Earth Justice, 71 miles of sensitive land fronting the Rio Grande have been saved.
Now, the U.S. and Mexican ambassadors, along with Laredo city officials, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, are working together to transform their shared river into an ecological restoration project.
The park, which will connect Laredo with the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo across the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo, will recreate the river’s ecosystem and boost the economy of both banks. It will also create public art and is expected to attract tourists.
A workshop hosted by the architects and UK consultant Arup produced a mission statement titled: “Two nations, one community. One river. One park.”
San Antonio-based Overland Partners has unveiled plans for the park.
Rick Archer, Overland’s chief executive, said, “We are inspired by the Binational River Park and excited by the unique challenges an aspirational project of this magnitude presents – environmentally, socially, and culturally.”
“The cities had envisioned over 40 individual projects on both sides of the river that would contribute to the restoration of the site ecology, the celebration of their joint culture, and revitalization of the economy,” Archer added.
Historically, a single city spanned both sides of the river and was only divided when hard national borders were drawn. The design is conceived as an “embrace” between the two Laredos.