The California State Parks opened the iron gates to Border Field State Park to the public Saturday and Sunday — the first time the park has been open for anything other than special events since last summer. State Parks hired a county park employee to man the fee booth beyond the iron gate, which will be open until 7pm every Saturday and Sunday.
"It's pretty amazing to get to see the far corner of the country," said John Steele of Houston, who drove his family in a rented car out to the beach.
The commitment to opening the gates gives the public the opportunity to drive to Monument Mesa, at the south end of a sandy and empty mile-and-a-half stretch of beach between the Tijuana River mouth and the U.S. Mexico border.
The U.S. Border Patrol has a special detail of agents who come and open the gates to Friendship Park, on the mesa above the beach, between 10am and 2pm. They allow the public to go in the locked area between what they call the primary and secondary fences, where Dan Watman has planted an international friendship garden and cross-border religious services are held on Sundays.
When mayor Bob Filner and fiancée Bronwyn Ingram came to services last month, it was the Border Patrol that unlocked the gates and led a caravan of people attending the Day of the Child celebration into the park. But until State Parks recently bowed to public pressure to open the gates, hundreds of people have either hiked the mile and a half to the mesa or have been confused and turned away by the locked gates.
On Sunday, more than a hundred cars came through the open gate at the edge of the park, and people from as close as Imperial Beach and as far away as Germany got to put their toes in the sand at the farthest southwest corner of the continental United States.