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Border fence to skirt Hope Park

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Posted: Sunday, November 8, 2009 12:00 am

After months of waiting to learn if the border fence would cut through Alice Wilson Hope Park, city officials managed to work out a compromise with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


Instead of cutting through the park, the fence will go around the bottom of the park. Also, it will be a "floating fence" that can be moved when development in the area begins.


Hope Park, located a short distance from the Gateway International Bridge in downtown Brownsville along Sam Perl Boulevard on its way to the B&M Bridge, is home to historical markers for the Chisholm Trail and the Brownsville-Matamoros Ferries and River Boardwalk.


City Manager Charlie Cabler said the Brownsville City Commission did all it could do to prevent the DHS from constructing a fence on city property. However, when it was determined that the DHS intended to build the border fence, city officials negotiated a deal that would allow the construction of a fence that would be moved once future development that city has planned in the area begins.


"We fought long and hard for the idea not to have a fence" built on city property, Cabler said. "We were the last ones" to finally meet with the DHS.


Lloyd Easterling, acting director of media relations for the DHS in Washington D.C, said in an e-mail that "the fence alignment continues along the most southern edge of Hope Park and does not cut through the park. Fence construction will proceed along this planned alignment."


Border fencing is visible along the levee on Mexico Boulevard near Hope Park, but stops about 100 feet away from the park’s parking lot. Stakes mark the area where the fence will be built below the park.


Once the city starts working on its river walk project around the downtown area and Hope Park, the fencing from the park to the B&M Bridge will be relocated, Cabler said.


"At some point we are going to get that fence out of here," the city manager said.


In the latest figures provided by the DHS, 22.7 miles of the 34.8 miles of planned fencing in Cameron County have been completed.


Dollar figures for all border fencing reveal that each mile cost anywhere from $400,000 to $4.8 million per mile, with the average at about $2.8 million per mile, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.


Border fence construction began earlier this year and continues in and around the most southern parts of Cameron County. Major construction continues on South Oklahoma Road and near Southmost Boulevard. Fencing here costs $5.5 million per mile, officials said.


However, some construction has been put on hold because several private landowners sued the federal government over the fence’s construction. The lawsuits remain unresolved.


U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in May suspended some border fence construction in the county after learning that landowners were concerned that access to their lands could be cut off and had concerns about the types of gates to be used.


Also in question is what land the government would pay for, including land in front and in back of the fence that some landowners believe could become worthless and hard to sell.


Much of the land is farmland.

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