NPS endorses planned park to commemorate Manhattan Project

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today offered his support for the establishment of a multi-site national historic park to commemorate the Manhattan Project and the men and women who worked to build an atomic bomb during World War II.

If approved by Congress and President Obama, the new park would be made up of sites and facilities located in Los Alamos, N.M.; Hanford, Wash.; and Oak Ridge, Tenn. The park would be run through a special partnership that would allow the Department of Energy to manage and operate the facilities, while the National Park Service would provide educational and interpretive services.

"The secret development of the atomic bomb in multiple locations across the United States is an important story and one of the most transformative events in our nation's history," Salazar said in a statement this afternoon. "The Manhattan Project ushered in the atomic age, changed the role of the United States in the world community and set the stage for the Cold War."

The Park Service's decision to endorse a multi-site facility is a victory for groups that pushed for a broad interpretation of the history of the Manhattan Project.

In early 2010, when NPS released a draft version of the study it submitted to Congress this month, the agency concluded that only part of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory National Landmark District should be included in the Manhattan Project national historic park. NPS concluded in the report that due to funding and safety concerns, it would not be feasible to include Hanford's B Reactor site and historic facilities at DOE's Oak Ridge facility into the park.


But an outcry from historic preservation groups and efforts by key members of Congress and DOE officials convinced the Interior Department to revise its plan.

"DOE's confirmation of its commitment to ownership, management and preservation of its resources meant that NPS could focus expressly on the interpretation and educational functions," Rachel Jacobson, Interior's assistant secretary for parks, wrote in a letter to members of Congress last week. "Given the clarification of roles NPS found that it would be feasible to manage a multi-site national historical park."

The NPS study that was sent to Congress notes that several other sites associated with the Manhattan Project could be considered as associated sites and may be considered for formal inclusion in the park at a later date. Those sites include the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago; the Livermore Berkeley Laboratory at the University of California; research facilities in Dayton, Ohio; Tinian Island; and the Trinity Test Site at White Sands, N.M.

This afternoon, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who in 2004 helped author the legislation that called on NPS to study the creation of a Manhattan Project park, applauded Interior's final recommendation.

"Hanford's B Reactor tells an important chapter in our nation's history and deserves preservation as part of a new national historic park," Cantwell said. "Making this site a national historic park would be a tribute to both the scientific contributions and enormous sacrifices made by those who labored at the B Reactor during its remarkable run."

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