The Mexican-American border is 1,989 miles long and cuts through high desert terrain full of sagebrush and mountains. The landscape is akin to that of Joshua Tree National Park and the thousands of national forest acres preserved in New Mexico. However, if President Trump’s preliminary proposal to build a $21.6 billion wall that runs the entire length of the border is approved, then the southwestern landscapes would become just as isolated as the two nations that share it.
That’s why three designers from Brooklyn have proposed a more inclusive and cost-effective alternative: a shared national park that would welcome hikers and campers from both countries to enjoy the land.
The bi-national park was proposed by designers Wesley Thompson, Hiroshi Kaneko, and Josie Baldner for an international design competition called Building the Border Wall, which challenged architects to create “bold humanitarian solutions, creativity, and innovation to bear on alternative ideas of a border wall.” To this, Thompson, Kaneko, and Baldner created a park design that would welcome hikers and campers from both countries to enjoy 1,900 miles of the shared land between Mexico and the U.S. “The United States has historically used national parks to celebrate the landscapes that are unique to our country,” the designers say. “The border territory that the two countries share is unique as well, and creating a bi-national park suggests both countries must connect and work together to protect and celebrate that shared resource.”
The plans for the park not only honor the tradition of wild spaces in the U.S., but also connect some of our most beloved classic trails with the newly proposed recreation area. “We wanted to connect existing hiking trails like the Pacific Crest Trail to other paths in the region to create one long hiking corridor along the border called the Trans-National Scenic Trail,” the designers say. “Much like the coast-to-coast connection of the American Discovery Trail, this new trail would connect The Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, branching off into the PCT and CDT. The park would also promote day-use recreation, camping, rafting, environmental and survival education, and bird watching — as a few examples.”
Thompson, Kaneko, and Baldner’s design took second place in the competition, and as of right now, it’s just a concept. But that doesn’t mean the idea of a bi-national park can’t help to turn the tables on Trump’s 55-foot-tall wall, which is the hope of the designers. “We hope that the United States would consider alternatives to a wall,” they say. “Perhaps not the current administration, but administrations to come won’t be able to ignore what a wall will turn its back on. The point of this competition for us was to contribute to a conversation that our government is not currently having.”