The San Diego Center for Civic Engagement’s Opening the Outdoors initiative and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) U.S.-Mexico Border 2020 Program this month awarded $45,000 to the nonprofit group 4Walls International for the construction of a bi-national park space that will use trash pulled from the Tijuana River Valley and tributary canyons as building materials. The re-purposed trash might have otherwise entered the Tijuana River, negatively impacting the fragile ecosystem of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in San Diego. This unique bi-national collaboration will create a gateway to the rich shared cultural and natural resources of the U.S.-Mexico Border.
Approximately half of the funds will be used by 4Walls to create park space and a nature reserve in a canyon in Tijuana just south of the border fence known as “Los Sauces.” The park will make use of thousands of discarded plastic soda bottles stuffed with trash as fill material for the construction of park benches and other infrastructure. This innovative construction technique reduces the cost of raw materials, such as cement, while increasing the structures’ strength.
“This innovative project turns a negative into a positive -- using trash itself to create new park space for the local communities,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Taking trash out of our shared watershed improves water quality, and results in a park that residents on both sides of the border can enjoy.”
“We are proud to partner with the EPA and 4Walls International on this exciting bi-national project demonstrating the value of our shared environmental resources - air, land and water. This project will help make accessible a beautiful natural area along the border that most people don’t get to experience. It is part of a network of stunning outdoor places for the entire region to enjoy,” said BongHwan “BH” Kim, Executive Director of the San Diego Center for Civic Engagement at The San Diego Foundation.
On the U.S. side, 4Walls International will create an inviting, culturally relevant “Border Gateway to Nature” by improving signage and access points to the park, and by creating artistic elements and park benches made of trash collected from the Tijuana River estuary. The Border Field State Park improvements are scheduled to be completed in October.
Mexico’s Environment Ministry (SEMARNAT) is also contributing significant resources to the beautification of Los Sauces Park. Through the “Temporary Employment Program,” SEMARNAT is employing approximately 100 local residents for 12 weeks to clean the park and replace invasive vegetation with native plants. Phase one of the Los Sauces Park in Tijuana will be completed in September.
The Opening the Outdoors initiative at the San Diego Center for Civic Engagement will help reclaim the region’s natural beauty and create world-class urban parks and gateways to nature. The initiative seeks to bring together business, government, and the community to build public awareness and support efforts to establish natural and urban spaces for families to recreate, learn and enjoy. This is the first project of the Opening the Outdoors initiative.
This project is also part of a broader effort under the U.S.-Mexico Border 2020 Environment Program to improve bi-national watersheds and the environment. Border 2020 is the latest environmental program implemented under the 1983 La Paz Agreement. Border 2020 emphasizes regional, bottom-up approaches for decision making, priority setting and project implementation to address the environmental and public health problems in the border region.