Facial Hair Friday: Hang ten, Pat Nixon!

First Lady Pat Nixon talking with surfers near Border Field, CA, on August 18, 1971. (Nixon Presidential Library)

Some time ago, a Facebook fan expressed thanks that we would never combine our First Ladies Friday with our Facial Hair Friday. To which we replied, never say never! Of course, the facial hair in this photograph is not on First Lady Pat Nixon, but that scraggly surfer goatee is in very close proximity to Pat, so we are going to count it as a two-for-one.

The First Lady had just finished a land-grant ceremony at Border Field, CA, to create a new park area at the U.S.-Mexico border for the Legacy of the Parks Program. Border Field State Park is 15 miles south of San Diego, CA. When the U.S.-Mexico War ended in 1848, delegations from both countries began surveying the boundary at this location in 1850. Border Monument number 258 can be seen from inside the park, but it no longer can be reached because there are border fences on both sides. When the First Lady was there, there was only barbed wire, and she was able to reach out and greet the Mexican citizens who had gathered on the other side.

The park is in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Threatened and endangered birds like the Western Snowy Plover and the Light-footed Clapper Rail now live in the salt marshes and sand dunes. (Surfers and picnickers can also enjoy the park’s facilities!)

The Legacy of Parks Program was created by Richard Nixon. In 1971 in his State of the Union address, Nixon announced that he planned to request a “$200 million appropriation to begin a new program for the acquisition and development of additional park lands in urban areas.” During the next several years, over 80,000 acres of land were converted into over 640 new parks. Many included trails for jogging and biking as well as wilderness trails.

On August 19, 1971, Nixon released a statement on his plans for the Legacy of Parks program, noting that “It is essential that our system of parks satisfy both the casual tourist and the avid outdoorsman, that we have places where families can meet other families and places where people can be alone.”

Pat Nixon went on a cross-country tour to kick off this program, including the ceremony to make a 370-acre former naval base into Border Field State Park. And in the spirit of meeting other people using that space, First Lady Pat Nixon was photographed talking with surfers from a nearby surfing competition.

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