Hikers fight plan for border wall at start of scenic trail

Associated Press (May 12, 2020) by Astrid Galvan

Tess Mullaney remembers looking at endless rolling desert hills, covered in a thin layer of white snow just as the sun was rising the day she embarked on a 2½-month journey through the Arizona Trail, an 800-mile system that starts at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and ends at the Utah one.

In a picture from that February 2019, Mullaney, 28, is smiling as she poses behind a thin barbed-wire fence that divides Arizona from Mexico. She’s standing next to Border Monument 102, an engraved pillar marking the boundary of the United States. Engraved in the monument is this warning:

“The destruction or displacement of this monument is a misdemeanor punishable by the United States or Mexico”

Now, the government is proposing to do just that. It plans on building a 30-foot (9 meter) border wall there, threatening the view so many hikers marvel at— and the ecological life around it.

Mullaney and others are calling on the government to abandon plans to build two miles (3.2 kilometers) of new fencing they say will destroy the monument that marks the beginning of the Arizona Trail, which is also within the Coronado National Memorial. That southern terminus marks where some believe Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado first crossed into Arizona from Sonora in the mid 1500s in his quest to find gold.

The government also plans to build a ground detection system, a road and new lighting. It’s part of President Donald Trump’s plan to build hundreds of miles of border wall, a campaign promise he has so far maintained.

“To remove not only this symbolism, but also the beauty, seclusion, protection, and wildlife migratory abilities in this area would be saddening to all who enjoy it,” Mullaney said.

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