Texas-Mexico Border Towns Are Working Together To Build A Binational Park
Only two years ago, the border town of Laredo, Texas, was bracing itself for the construction of the towering steel and concrete border wall that threatened to cut off the city, its people, and the environment from its main water source — the Rio Grande River.
Diligent grassroots efforts by No Border Wall Coalition (NBWC) — a coalition composed of veterans, clergy, teachers, students, Indigenous leaders, and landowners — paved the way for the cancellation of unconstructed border wall contracts.
According to environmental nonprofit Earthjustice, this saved 71 miles of sensitive riverfront land and more than $1 billion in taxpayer funds.
This victory allowed the City of Laredo to propose and unanimously green-light plans for a binational river park — which is set to be developed where the border wall was once proposed to stand.
Ambassadors to the U.S. and Mexico, along with city officials from Laredo, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas — affectionately called the “Sister Cities” — are working together to transform their shared river into an ecological restoration project.
This historic binational project will span approximately 6.3 miles and focus on strengthening the conservation of the Rio Grande River while creating a community recreation and education space that stands to represent the unique and interconnected relationship between these two border cities.
As of February 2022, Laredo City Council and members of the Binational Working Group — a public-private consortium — formally announced that San Antonio-based architecture and urban design firm Overland Partners will be working alongside local partner Able City to create conceptual design plans for the first phase of the ecological restoration project.
“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,” Rick Archer, senior principal and CEO at Overland Partners told The Architect's Newspaper.
“Together with our partners and stakeholders, we want to create an international cultural destination and model for cooperation, conservation, and community.”
According to architecture, interiors, and design magazine Dezeen, the park will be made up of three areas: a 2.5-mile-long ecological restoration area northeast of the cities, a mile stretch in the urban cores along the river that will be framed by bridges and feature an amphitheater, and lastly, a recreation area that is proposed to stretch for three miles and lead pedestrians to the Nuevo Laredo Zoo.
Although this project is currently in its early stages, its envisioned to be comparable to San Antonio’s famed River Walk.
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