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Friendship Park Will Stay Open, Border Patrol Sector Chief Says in Reversal

The space for people on both sides of the border to meet will remain open for the time being, the San Diego sector Border Patrol chief said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection may still face furloughs and cuts to overtime as a result of sequestration.

Friendship Circle, also known as Friendship Park, will not close after all.

San Diego Sector Border Patrol Chief Paul Beeson had notified the group Friends of Friendship Park last month that sequestration cuts would lead to closure.

For decades, the park atop Monument Mesa has acted as a meeting place for people in both the United States and Mexico.

Beeson reversed that decision Tuesday, according to agent Timothy Hamill.

"Access to Friendship Circle will be maintained, as is currently being done at this time," Hamill told IB Patch.

Formerly within Border Field State Park, Friendship Park now sits within a 130-foot wide space between border fences controlled by the federal government.

No more than 10 people are allowed in Friendship Park at one time, agents from the Imperial Beach station will supervise and Friendship Park is open between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

On Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced furlough and overtime cuts would be delayed but sequestration could still impact the way the Border Patrol operates in the future.

Following the passage of an appropriations bill, agents are breathing a collective sigh of relief after weeks of bracing for a hit to their pocketbooks, agent Thane Gallagher told The Washington Post.

“For now, people can breathe easy . . . but we don’t know for how long," he said.

The CBP "continues to assess the exact impact the legislation will have on our operations and our workforce," the federal agency said in a statement.

The park was first established in 1971 by then First Lady Pat Nixon.

A makeover for Monument Mesa on the U.S. side of the fence was finished last year. New grass and shaded picnic benches were installed. A new sea wall was also installed.

A park on the Mexican side of the fence also underwent renovations last year.

Friends of Friendship Park petitioned to have the park remain open after threats of closure were made in 2009, according to KPBS. The group and architect Jim Brown later made recommendations on how to renovate Friendship Park.

The number of people allowed in Friendship Park has been reduced from 25 to 10, according to a Border Patrol document.

For their part, Friends of Friendship Park welcomed the news that the park would remain open but said they would like assurance that the park will remain open permanently.

“We call on San Diego Border Patrol officials to seek every possible avenue to expand rather than reduce public access to Friendship Park, and to seek every opportunity to invest in good relations with our neighboring ally, Mexico,” said Dan Watman, a member of the Friends of Friendship Coalition in a statement on the group's website.

For generations people from both nations, some who traveled great distances to see family or friends, have met at Friendship Park, the only place along the entire U.S.-Mexico border that was established specifically to promote cross-border relations, the statement said.

Though the park will remain open, vehicle access to Border Field State Park is still closed due to a flooded road, according to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve website.

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