The initial agreement to establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park was signed one year ago this month. This new Unites States’ National Park facility is still in the development stage. Its interim office is in Denver. Visitor centers and park facilities either have not yet been determined or information about them has not been made known. The last news release sought volunteers for the Los Alamos visitor center operation. When we were in Los Alamos in midsummer, 2016, the project was just getting started. The ranger we talked to had been there for only 2 weeks. When it’s finally well underway, this new National Historical Park will involve 3 Manhattan Project sites–Oak Ridge, Hanford, and Los Alamos.
What a visit to all 3 will involve will change as the National Park Service and the Department of Energy work through safety and security issues, adjust to a new administration, review visitor feedback, etc. This project began when the Department of the Interior sent a letter to Congress recommending it and including the facilities in Tennessee, Washington, and New Mexico. Five other sites were considered. Congress passed the bill authorizing it in December, 2014, and President Obama signed the act shortly thereafter. If it goes according to plan, the Department of Energy will manage and own the 3 sites and the National Park Service will provide rangers, etc.
Ruth & I have not been to Oak Ridge & Hanford yet, but our traveling friends from Texas visited Hanford in summer, 2016, as part of a Columbia River cruise. The 4 of us then visited Los Alamos together, mainly to see the Bradbury Museum that I blogged about on September 28. We all found this museum very worthwhile. We saw a bit of Bathtub Row and a few other Manhattan Project related sites but quit when we learned about the coming-soon National Historical Park.
Putting it simply, Oak Ridge enriched the uranium, Hanford produced plutonium, and Los Alamos designed and tested the first atomic bomb according to the Los Alamos Visitor Guide I picked up. It also said, “The park will be one of the few national parks that focuses on American science, technology and industry during World War II.” This historically important era, the Nuclear Age that we are still in is, in my opinion, ready for serious exploration.
Los Alamos will soon be on tourism’s radar. Current literature barely mentions “the town that never was”. My complimentary New Mexico True Adventure Guide devotes one paragraph to Los Alamos and notes, “Just a 33-minute scenic drive north from Santa Fe, this town is not one you will stumble upon by accident.” This is true for now but will soon change.
ps. This painting by John Sloan is called “(Looking) East at Sunset, 1921” and hangs, for now, in the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.