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Pictures and perspective from the recent tour of the Tijuana River watershed

May 25 2012 | Coastal development, Water, Chapters, Coastal armoring, Campaigns, Water Quality,

Kyle Lishok, one of our marketing mavens, went on the Tijuana River watershed tour earlier this week and I thought I'd share a few of his pics and ask him to provide a little commentary around them.

Jim: What did you expect before you headed down to this area yesterday, what was in your head before you crossed the border and went into the Los Laureles Canyon area?

Kyle: To be honest, I didn't know what to entirely expect. I had visited Cabo and Ensenada before, but never Tijuana. I imagined Tijuana being very different from the other cities — a very poor city, a very populated city, and a very dirty city.

I had heard stories of the trash/debris issues and was mentally preparing myself for images of garbage and debris flowing into waterways.

Jim: Tell me about this next picture, what are we looking at? That looks like quite the hill. Where does the raw sewage go? What flows down that hill?

Kyle: This photo was taken looking up a street in Los Laureles Canyon. I believe it's near the community of San Bernardo. That hill that almost resembles a dry creek, is their street. We saw trucks driving up and down as we took a tour on foot of the area. From my understanding, most homes in that area have no plumbing. The cost of installing a plumbing system was something like $500-$1000 (a price no one here can afford). There are no trash cans and there is definitely not any sort of regular trash pick-up (like we have here on Tuesdays).  Most of the trash and sewage from the area flows directly into the canyon, directly into the water runoff. I imagine that during any type of storm there is all sorts of debris running down that street.

Jim: So this is a pretty rad sign, should this encourage us (that an environmental message is permeating cultures on both sides of the border)?

Kyle: Reduce, reuse, recycle. I think this sign should absolutely encourage us that there is progress being made in terms of sustainability. The message is simple, to the point, and translates (graphically) into any language. Mexico seems to be making an effort to fix their trash problem, and that's a step in the right direction.

Jim: I love this image graphically and it obviously speaks well beyond those terms, what is this?

Kyle: This wall is in San Bernardo; it was constructed entirely of old plastic and glass bottles found in the area. It offers shade in an otherwise open park with no shade. The local community helped construct this structure, along with others, in an awesome little park that includes a playground and soccer field.

Jim: Another great pic, are those car hoods? What are we looking at here?

Kyle: Yes, they are definitely car hoods. — and very colorful ones at that. This structure blew me away, and I wish I had a better photo to capture it. This was 1 of 2 structures that stand about 25 feet tall and offer an enormous amount of shade in the community park (mentioned above). I don't think i've ever seen a better use of old car hoods and probably never will.

Jim: Another wild image. Are those tires?

Kyle: Those are definitely tires.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that there were a few hillsides we saw where half of the houses, if not more, were built on foundations of old tires — 20, 30 feet high of tires. When it rains here, these same tires are often dislodged and swept straight into the river beds/water shed and eventually make their way into the Tijuana Estuary across the border (miles away). That being said, here in San Bernardo, they have found a way to remove the tire treads, secure tires together (so that they can't be swept away), and use those tires as safe and reliable building blocks to securely support the hillsides and structures in the area.

Jim: This next one is interesting as well. It seems to speak to the literal border of cultures.

Kyle: For some reason, I just really loved the juxtaposition here — the 'hole in the wall' pizza place vs. the infamous Coca-Cola logo, and the old beat up Ford Ranger connecting the two. U.S. products and companies are everywhere in Tijuana; this was just one example of that.

Jim: Speaking of borders... this is literally THE wall right?

Kyle: This photo doesn't do the wall justice. When you're standing at the base, looking up, it seems like a prison wall from a Michael Bay movie. It's very eerie and a little bit scary. This portion of the wall is right near the 'Friendship Park' area of Monument Mesa. From 1971 until 2009, residents from across the border could come here and interact with one another (albeit through a fence). Now there are two enormous walls (including the one pictured) that separate the two countries.

Jim: And this looks like the literal US/Mexico border… going straight into the Pacific Ocean. The Tijuana River empties out there right? What did you feel or learn during this part of the tour?

Kyle: This area was on of the most surreal and eerie places I've ever been in my life. — This was also my favorite photo from the day. This absolutely gorgeous park is divided by 2 enormous and ugly walls, that lead right into the ocean. Just north of here is where the Tijuana Estuary River pours into the Pacific, and all of the trash we saw earlier in the day in Tijuana is sent out to sea. The water here is extremely polluted and beach access here is prohibited (for safety reasons) for most of the year.

Something rad — If you look closely just to the left of the crane, you'll see a black dot there. That's a dolphin, about 5 feet out of the water. We watched a pod of dolphins surf waves right along the U.S.-Mexico boundary for about 10 minutes — completely unaware that they were crossing borders illegally.

Jim: Great, thanks for sharing these pictures Kyle. Where should people go for more information about this campaign?

Kyle: Our Surfrider San Diego Chapter is leading the charge with their No B.S. (border sewage) campaign. I got to spend the day with a bunch of people that blew me away. But Dan and Danielle from the Surfrider San Diego Chapter are absolute rock stars, spearheading the campaign for the chapter. They gave us an amazingly informative and insightful tour of the Tijuana River Estuary. For more info about the Chapter and their No B.S. campaign, please visit their website and plug yourself in.

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