Public lands in Arizona become epicenter for fight over Trump’s border wall construction

Arizona Republic (May 18, 2020) by Rafael Carranza

Kimberly Lea and Kimberly Knebel hiked around Phoenix for months, carrying weights and monitoring their water use, in preparation to start hiking the first section of the Arizona Trail.

The scenic 800-mile-long route stretches from the Arizona-Utah state line south to the Coronado National Memorial, 4,750 acres of protected mountain landscapes and grassy plains on the Arizona-Mexico border.

That’s where the two women began their journey Thursday: at Border Monument 102. The historic mile-marker, a worn metal sign, and a rusted, dilapidated barbed-wire fence mark the southern end of the trail.

However, construction crews are slated to replace the barbed wire with concrete footers that will hold 30-foot-tall, six-inch-thick metal slats that will be spaced four inches apart.

“I think it’s terrible,” Knebel said. “It’s going to ruin the landscape. It’s not going to be pretty. What is up there now, it’s hardly noticeable.”

There’s no timeline for construction here. But 30-foot barriers would dramatically alter the landscape at this remote national park.

The mangled wire delineating the international boundary runs up and down the steep slopes of the Huachuca Mountains. It still allows for sweeping views of the San Pedro Valley, the site where a Spanish expedition led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado is believed to have entered into the modern-day United States in 1540.

In addition to metal bollard fencing, work crews will install lights and sensors. They’ll also clear a 60-foot-wide swath of land along the mountains to accommodate construction equipment.

Arizona’s borderlands, including pristine areas such as the Coronado National Memorial, have become the epicenter of construction of President Donald Trump’s long-promised wall along the border with Mexico.

Crews are racing to complete a slew of barriers along approximately half of the state’s international border before Election Day, despite the global coronavirus pandemic.

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