Special Report: Caught in the middle of a border wall and uncertainty

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BROWNSVILLE (KVEO) – The country’s newest administration is a certain, but the future of the border wall construction near Brownsville’s River Bend community is not.

Border wall construction to halt for 60 days, funding to be re-negotiated

THE ORIGINAL PLAN

In late September of 2018, River Bend residents were faced with a dilemma–The construction of a border wall through the heart of their community.

From San Diego to the Texas Border, River Bend was the only community set to be directly impacted by the construction of the border wall. In a 2018 interview, Owner and Project Manager Jeremy Barnard detailed the dilemma.

“We had 343 lots already developed here in River Bend,” Barnard said. “Of the 343, over 200 would be on the south side of the wall.”

Nearly half the community would be divided by a proposed 30-foot wall, including 15 golf course holes. Resident Meme Wagner feared the construction would all but destroy the community.

“It’s like building a wall right through the center of your house,” Wagner said in a 2018 interview. “We’d like to see anything but a physical barrier through our community.”

In meetings with the Department of justice, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and an army core of engineers, Barnard proposed a virtual wall.

Rep. Cuellar says contractors informed to pause border wall activity by mid-week

The plan would allow the development of access roads along the river, a virtual wall along the levee system fixed with camera and monitoring equipment and an eight-foot fence surrounding the property. Despite the proposal, Barnard was not optimistic.

“The feeling we got from the meeting is the train is loaded and they are going to do whatever they want,” Barnard said in 2018. “Putting a wall [through this community] would not only mess up the golf course, but it would destroy the way of life for these people.”

2021 PLAN

Activities Director Harold Ewald is standing on the fifth-hole tee box at River Bend Resort and Country Club, overlooking a river, a fairway, and no wall in site.

“I love my golf,” Ewald says with a smile. “I’m 82-years old and I play about three times a week.”

Lucky for Ewald, he still gets to enjoy his golf, a luxury he attributes to his community’s persistence over the last couple years.

“Things now, I feel, are a better result of our having become very aggressive in keeping our subdivision from being split in two,” Ewald said. “We would have had three-fourths of our community in a quote, ‘no man’s land.'”

Now, whether it is water aerobics in the pool, pickle ball on the court or a game of cards in the community lodge, the River Bend community remains an active group. Many residents will tell you, illegal activity around the property is active as well.

“At our age we worry about our safety,” Ewald said. “We certainly feel that our concerns will be addressed.”

All border wall construction projects must stop by Wednesday, contractors are told

The community’s concerns stem from the construction of the border wall— or rather lack-there-of.

With border-wall construction nearly completed on either side of the property, residents say illegal activity is now being funneled through the River Bend community, with some residents noting individuals running through the property, bags being delivered to unmarked vehicles near the water and, in rare cases, Spanish-speaking individuals knocking on front doors.

River Bend Resident Meme Wagner has experienced several of these instances, but a new construction plan could mend the security issue.

“The new proposal is that [the border wall] will surround the community and go along the river,” Wagner said. “Six or seven holes will have to be majorly reworked or closed for the better part of a year.”

The new proposal would place the 30-foot wall right along the river, allowing room for an access road on both sides of the construction. Though parts of the golf course will need to be rearranged, the River Bend community will remain whole.

A few closed golf holes in return for added safety is a fair trade for residents like Wagner, but now residents cannot count on this proposal being executed either.

THE NEW ADMINISTRATION

Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021: President Joe Biden sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021: President Biden releases an executive order, halting all border wall construction funded by American taxpayer dollars.

Despite a new proposal, River Bend residents are now left in a state of uncertainty, unaware of what is to come to their community. Wagner is no different.

“Where we were pretty sure we knew what was going to happen–maybe not exactly when,” Wagner explained. “Now the uncertainty is here again.”

The portion of the wall set to be constructed on River Bend property is funded by Congress, according to River Bend representatives. The funding would exempt the River Bend project from President Biden’s executive order, allowing the project to move forward.

Regardless, Wagner and other River Bend residents are uncertain and unaware, caught in the middle of yet another issue that can tear their community apart.

“Is it just going to be postponed?” Meme said. “Or is it just going to be called off?”

For now, the best River Bend residents can do is wait.

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