Local organizations planning to ‘reclaim the river’

With Bentsen State Park possibly facing closure if President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall is built, many local organizations are planning to host an event this coming Sunday to educate the community on the Rio Grande River.

“Reclaim the River: Beach Party at the Banks of the Rio Grande” is a planned protest that will be hosted at the National Butterfly Center this coming Sunday. Located at 3333 Butterfly Park in Mission, the event will mark one year since local communities did similar protests to save the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Alamo and Mission’s La Lomita Chapel.

nbclogo“This is a great way to commemorate that event by enjoying the river and outdoors and everything that remains as long as we still have it, NBC Director Marianna Trevino Wright said. “We’re hoping people will come out and see all the amenities in the property.”

The event has gained a lot of traction on social media following news that should the border wall be built the state may forfeit the park back to the federal government.

This comes after Trump signed a spending bill last month that included $1.6 billion for fencing and other border security measures.

Since then, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has notified landowners of plans to build 33 miles of barrier in Hidalgo County and Starr County. The 25 miles it plans to build in Hidalgo will consist of 18-foot-tall fencing atop vertical concrete river levees — similar to an existing levee-wall structure the federal government built a decade ago. Plans also call for a 150-foot-wide “enforcement zone” on the river-facing side of the barrier with a road for law enforcement and private property owners, 24-7 lighting, cameras and sensors.

Part of that wall would go through the Bentsen State Park and the National Butterfly Center, effectively shutting down the former, Wright said.

“If the wall is built, as proposed by Border Patrol, it will bisect NBC and we will lose 70 percent of our property, “Wright said. “If Bentsen State Park closes, that will significantly harm tourism in the area. We’re talking about 30-40,000 people a year coming to the center and state park.”

Though this was first reported last month, Mission Mayor Armando O’Cańa said the city wasn’t officially notified of the proposed border wall going through the state park until last week when a representative from the Texas Parks and Wildlife met with the city.

“The impact of that park closing would be devastating to our community,” O’Cańa said, adding that one-eight of the city’s funding comes from tourism dollars spent at the park and butterfly center. “We’re continuing with the former administration’s resolution to be against the wall and work on fighting it.”

The mayor also urged the community to attend the reclaim the river protest.

“We have to take some kind of action to show at the national level that we’re very serious about not having the border wall in Mission,” he said. “Our citizens have to individually support this and if all 80,000 residents do the same, Washington will listen. One of the things we pride on in Mission is we build bridges, not walls.”

At the beach party, guests will get to enjoy a variety of activities including sand sculpting by the award-winning local artist Sandyfeet of South Padre Island, guided nature hikes, angler education and fishing, a petting zoo and a pet adoption drive courtesy of the Mission Pawsible Program.

All of these activities will take place on the center’s property south of the levee, where cyclists and joggers are welcome. Families are encouraged to bring their bikes, beach chairs and a picnic, Wright said.

The event will run from 9 a.m. through 2 p.m. and visitors are allowed to camp out at the center the night before, Wright said. For more information, contact the National butterfly Center at 956-583-5400 or visit their website at nationalbutterflycenter.org.

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