A Rio Grande/Rio Bravo restoration and conservation project between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
A community lead conservation effort between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, the Binational River Conservation Project aims to strengthen the historic relationship between two nations around a unified vision of a 6.2 mile stretch of the Rio Grande River for a project that champions river restoration, economy revitalization, while celebrating a shared heritage and culture. The first of its kind, the plan would become an international landmark.
- Remediate sewage to secure clean, safe drinking water for nearly six million people who depend on the Rio Grande as their primary water source.
- Improve habitats for native plants and animals, especially species of greatest conservation need, such as migrating butterflies, birds and other wild pollinators. Key initiatives include invasive species management, native species reforestation, and monarch butterfly waystations.
- Mitigate flooding and protect riverbank integrity through erosion control while reversing soil degradation.
- Enhance border security and integrate advanced security measures in partnership with local and state law enforcement and national border security agencies. Improve line-of-sight for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
- Attract visitors through new recreational, educational and cultural opportunities. Promote artistic, historical, and social activities that a new greenspace provides, while offering enriching and captivating experiences.
- Project would become an economic catalyst for private investment that would include entertainment, art, dining and shopping.
The people of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo shared an identify for centuries, having once been called “The Republic of the Rio Grande.” Those relationships have been strained in recent years. The two communities have been imaging a shared green space that would unite them at the banks of the river. The Binational River Park was conceived by a group of community and political advocates in 2021, and in 2022, The City of Laredo commissioned a study to consider the feasibility of an international conservation venture. Leaders from both nations have been at the forefront of this project and include U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar, Mexico Ambassador to the U.S. Esteban Moctezuma, U.S. Consul General for Nuevo Laredo Deanna Kim, Governor of the State of Tamaulipas Garcia Cabeza De Vaca, Mayor of Laredo Pete Saenz, Mayor of Nuevo Laredo Carmen Lilia Canturosas, Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center Tricia Cortez, Laredo City Council representatives, Congressman Henry Cuellar, IBC Bank and KCS Railroad. They have worked alongside the Binational Working Group, a public-private consortium consisting of community and business leaders and key stakeholders for strategic and long-term planning.
A COLLABORATIVE DESIGN PROCESS
Overland Partners, in collaboration with Able City, were unanimously chosen by Laredo City Council and members of the Binational Working Group to conceptualize the Binational River Conservation Project. With international experts from OLIN Studios and ARUP, and representatives from Crane Engineering and LAN Hydrology, architects, engineers and scientists creatively and boldly imagined the park in the context of its unique environmental and cultural location. They presented a site plan for the 6.2 mile tract, aerial renderings, and eye level perspectives to stakeholders in February, 2022.
Five themes drove the design:
While creating a Binational River Park between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo is a bold and ambitious project, and one that will require a significant financial commitment, the resulting growth in human, social, economic and natural capital will far exceed the initial investment.
In strategic meetings during late 2021, the design team guided visioning sessions over the course of three weeks with members of the community and city council, U.S. Consul General for Nuevo Laredo Deanna Kim, Tricia Cortez, Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, and political and business leaders from the South Texas Region and the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. Ideas were sought that encompassed river conservation, enhanced safety and security, economic vitality and tourism, while also celebrating the binational cooperation, affection and symbiotic relationship between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo and the river they share. The group, known collectively as the Binational Working Group, developed the idea of a binational border greenspace along the banks of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. To guide the project, a mission statement was created.
The Binational River Park at the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo connects and celebrates our common culture on the United States and Mexico border. It reclaims our shared history, spurs the economy, promotes security on both sides of the river, and restores the ecological treasure we call home. The first of its kind, this international conservation project enhances our quality of life and serves as a prototype for border cities around the world to follow. Two nations, one community. One river. One park.