Last month the Atomic Heritage Foundation convened a two-day conference in Washington to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Manhattan Project. On the second day of this conference participants heard from several speakers about the Manhattan Project National Historic Park that will be established next year.
This unit of the National Park Service will encompass Manhattan Project sites at Los Alamos NM, Hanford WA, and Oak Ridge TN. It will join 49 other National Historic Parks such as Valley Forge PA, Appomattox Courthouse VA, and Chaco Culture NM.
Legislation establishing this park was included in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law last December. The bill culminated a fifteen year effort, initiated by former Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), to preserve significant sites associated with the development of the atomic bomb. The National Park Service and the Department of Energy are collaborating on the establishment and management of this park. Under this legislation the park will “preserve and protect . . . nationally significant historic resources associated with the Manhattan Project,” “improve public understanding of the Manhattan Project” and its legacy, “enhance public access,” and work with other interests to preserve and protect other “historically significant resources.”
This unit of the Park Service will be one of the relatively few highlighting American technological achievements. The park’s interpretative program will discuss the participation of 600,000 individuals, ranging from prominent scientists to high school girls, who worked on the Manhattan Project. Sites proposed for inclusion in the park include Hanford’s B Reactor, Oak Ridge’s X-10 Graphite Reactor and K-25 Plant Site, and Los Alamos’ V-Site and the Oppenheimer and Bethe Houses on “Bathtub Row.”
At the conference senior officials from the National Park Service and the Department of Energy reviewed the steps that will be taken to establish this multistate, multisite park. In contrast to most parks, the Manhattan Project National Historic Park will be established one year after the authorization bill was signed into law. A Memorandum of Understanding between DOE and the Park Service must be developed and signed to actually establish the Park. A public comment period, open to all, will solicit views about presenting a balanced interpretative program. The officials stressed this in an ongoing process as the development of a new park takes time. Fort Monroe National Monument VA was established in November 2011 and the planning process for this new unit of the National Park Service unit is ongoing.