Marfa, Texas - Officials of the National Park Service and the U.S. Border Patrol, joined by local and county officials and area residents, gathered in Big Bend National Park on Tuesday, March 30, to break ground for new housing in the park. The housing, which is being built by a contractor for the park service with funds provided by the U.S. Border Patrol, will be occupied by agents assigned to the park.
The National Park Service is building two new duplexes and renovating three existing houses for park employees as part of the joint project.
BBNP Superintendent Bill Wellman and Marfa Sector Chief Patrol Agent John J. Smietana Jr., both spoke of efforts necessary to get the project underway. They were joined by Chief Park Ranger Allen Etheridge and Brewster County Judge Val Beard. They all spoke of the collaborative effort and the increased security that will result in more Border Patrol agents being stationed in the park.
Also participating in the ceremony were Jane Brown who accompanied teacher Peggy Lipscomb and school children from San Vicente Elementary School in the singing of the national anthem. Jesse Portillo provided the invocation. The Marfa Sector Honor Guard presented the colors and the department flags.
The project includes the construction of single-family residences or duplexes at Panther Junction, Castolon or Rio Grande Village. A total of eight residences will be constructed.
Also attending were Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Frank Blauvelt representing U.S. Border Patrol Headquarters and Paul Baranowski and John Schoffstall from Customs and Border Protection's Housing Program in Washington D.C. and Dallas. A number of state and local law enforcement personnel were also present.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.