As Possible Border Wall Looms, A State Park Hangs in the Balance

The fate of Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is in question as the Trump administration continues its push for border security.

By Kristen CabreraJuly 31, 2018 7:25 am

As President Donald Trump pushes for funds to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S., talk of how such a structure would actually affect the border region has crescendoed. One possible casualty of a wall would be Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.

Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, recently sent a letter to the Border Patrol telling them how a wall could disrupt the park to the point of closure. Smith discussed the possibility with Texas Standard substitute host Laura Rice.

“Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is our oldest state park in the Rio Grande Valley,” Smith says. “It was donated by the Bentsen Family…back in 1944. It’s one of the crown jewels of the Rio Grande Valley – one of the most biologically unique and sensitive areas not only in Texas but really all across the country.”

Park officials believe, based on preliminary designs, that there would be very significant impacts on the park, should a border wall be constructed, including separating crucial facilities.

“The wall would separate facilities in the park and place the balance of the park and the visitor facilities behind the wall,” Smith says. “At least if the wall was built according to the proposal that we’ve seen today.”

Another challenge involves the state’s compliance with the deed that bestowed this land in the first place. The deed contained what’s called a reverter clause, which stipulates that the property has to be maintained and operated and designated as a park.

“Obviously we want to make sure that we are completely compliant with the intentions of the of the donors,” Smith says. “That’s certainly our goal and what we continue to be focused on.”

Written by Josue Moreno.