In this edition of Brownsville Off Topic, United Brownsville and The Brownsville Herald talk with Eduardo Campirano, port director of the Port of Brownsville, about the port’s 80th anniversary celebration scheduled for Saturday, May 14, 2016.
There’s a big celebration this weekend at the Port of Brownsville. What’s that for?
Eduardo Campirano: The port is going to be celebrating its 80th anniversary.The annual anniversary date is the 16th of May, but we’re going to celebrate it with the big event on the 14th, which is Saturday. And really there are a couple of things about this event that make it more exciting. One is we’ve never done anything quite like what we’re trying to plan. And two, in the face of post-9/11, this is the first opportunity we’re going to have to open up the port to the community, to really get them behind the gate. We’ve planned the activities to really be on the water.
There have been port activities before, such as an annual 5k run at the port, so how will Saturday’s festivities be different?
EC: The 5K run is really limited to what would be old [Highway] 48, so people never really get to go beyond south of old 48 — so you get to see essentially what you can see from the road on new 48. You run and you pass some of the tenants and some of the businesses — primarily the storage tanks. You really don’t get to go from there and say “let’s see what’s going on in the water. Are there any ships in port? Can we walk on the docks.” I do understand the Coast Guard ship the Amberjack will be here, and they may be allowing some folks to see the vessel. It’s not a large vessel, but it stays here. Depending on whether the fleet is out or not, we might be able to have some of the shrimp boats come, and if they do come they would allow some of the people to get on and see how that works. But for the most part, most of the displays will be static or you will see working vessels in the water.
Will there be organized boat tours in the channel?
We are planning to do some boat tours, and we’re also planning to do bus tours. And really when you drive around and see the port you get a good feel for it, but when you get a chance to get to the channel and see the channel you get an entirely different perspective. So we’re excited about the boat tours. One of the things I think people will get a big kick out of is we have the aircraft carrier program. Three out of the four aircraft carriers that were brought here for recycling are still here, and the closest people could see those aircraft carriers were when you were seeing them coming in at the [South Padre Island and Boca Chica Beach] jetties or if you saw one when there was an event where you could go into All Star Metals. But you still really couldn’t get close to it, so these boat tours will give you a close view.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, there was easier access to the port. What was that like?
People used to come fishing here all the time. I grew up fishing at the Port of Brownsville, off the docks and inside what we call the turning basin. I remember as a kid going in the sheds and seeing the pigeons, and we used to have a blast. Well, all of that has changed (after 9/11), especially in what we call the turning basin the working, developed portion of the port.
What will I need to get through security on Saturday?
Not everything is changing. You still have some rules to obey. One of those is that when you show up at the port you still need an ID. Now with parents showing up with children, that’s a different matter. We don’t expect a 4-year-old to present their Texas ID or driver’s license, but for the most part you still have to have some ID when you’re coming into the port. Any government-issued ID will work. A high school ID [will work] if you’re a student. It should by a government ID. But for the most part, that’s about the only real requirement that we can’t totally eliminate.
Has the port given thought to this being an annual celebration
It very well could be. We’ve been doing little things more and more on a frequent basis. One example of that is that we’ve probably done more tours this year than any of the years that I’ve been here. One [reason] is we know how to operate within the rules a lot better now in order to comply with the federal requirements. Our staff has been trained in escort training, so we do a better job of that now. You know, as that begins to grow more, that opportunity is certainly there. We’ve even talked about maybe we need to change the route of our 5K run. Wouldn’t it be nice if you got a chance to run along the water?
What should people expect?
The doors open at 10 o’clock. We’re planning on being here from 10 to 4 [o’clock Saturday]. Come and enjoy. Take advantage of not only being able to walk on the docks and be right on the water but seeing some of the activity. …We will have food out here. H-E-B is going to be out here. [We will have] music. We’ll have the boat tours [and] bus tours. [There are] opportunities to mingle with some of the businesses out here. Ask questions about what they do and how they do it. …Make a day out of it. Access is free. You need to bring a government-issued ID, or a driver’s license is fine, as long as it’s valid. And I gotta say, valid means it’s not expired.
Will we be allowed to take photos?
You’ll be able to take photos for the most part, yes. It will be very hard to say you can’t take photos. Maybe record the day, especially if you get a chance to take one of the boat tours. Record the day. We get a lot of people who come and reminisce about the port.
About Brownsville Off Topic: Brownsville Off Topic, a partnership with The Brownsville Herald and United Brownsville, is a series of podcasts and discussions about various topics affecting Brownsville and the surrounding community. If you would like to suggest a topic or an interview, email Herald editor Ryan Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org or United Brownsville executive director Mike Gonzalez at email@example.com.