Our Voice: Celebrate the Reach at grand opening events

June 29, 2014 

We have a week of celebration ahead of us.

The Fourth of July marks the anniversary of our nation’s independence.

And on that day, we’ll celebrate a major addition to our community, the opening of the Reach center in Columbia Park.

Finally.

And we don’t say that in the manner of taking a jab at the long, arduous and expensive process. It has taken more than a decade of drama to get the museum built. But we’ve said that enough.

We say “finally” with all the admiration in the world for the current administration, board of directors and supporters of the project for making it a reality at last.

The Reach will be a destination for visitors and hometown folks alike. The building itself draws people who are passing by on the Highway 240 or cruising through the park. Many a visitor has already dropped by the center to see what it is and the staff has been accommodating in the midst of readying the building for its official public debut this week.

To say that the original vision for the Reach and what now stands in Richland are dramatically different would be an understatement. But that’s OK.

The original plan was far too expensive — $42 million — and expansive for this type of project. It reached outside the community for design and other services, when what we really needed was a group of talented individuals right here at home.

The project sputtered and stalled, mired in red tape and mismanagement. But then a problematic executive director departed. Tough decisions were made to let go of the overly grand original design. Common sense prevailed, and the facility designed to celebrate our region’s past and present was reimagined into the beautiful museum it is today.

The Reach will tell the story of the Ice Age Floods, agriculture and the Manhattan Project. But it will be so much more.

The staff has gotten creative and reached out to all kinds of organizations in the community to design a diverse summer of fun. Concerts, theatrical performances, educational classes, activities for children and tours are already scheduled.

One concert series is dog-friendly, a kids activity includes an actual “night at the museum” sleepover, and big news is ahead for some B Reactor tours. For a full list of the offerings, go to www.visitthereach.org.

Festivities are going on all week, with a free concert at 5 p.m. today and another all-ages concert Thursday. A performance of The Sound of Music is set for Friday, the same day as the official dedication and gala.

We can see the outdoor theater becoming a favorite place to spend a summer evening or several.

We like to acknowledge the whole team when talking about accomplishments on this scale. It truly took a village and the dedication of folks who were unwilling to give up on the mission of the project.

But we’d also be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge one person in particular, Executive Director Lisa Toomey. Few people could have stepped in and turned around a project so tainted in the public’s eyes, and so quickly.

Even fewer people would have been willing to step into the mess at all. She came onboard early on in 2012 and here we are with a museum in 2014.

Toomey’s candor and credibility had much to do with the Reach becoming a reality.

Congratulations to Toomey and all of those who brought this vision to life.

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