The opening of the long-awaited Reach center in Richland is a testament to the enduring commitment of the Tri-City community, said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.
“To me, this is about all the people who never gave up. I’m so proud to be standing with all of you in front of this absolutely incredible facility, to see all the years of hard work become a reality,” she told the dozens gathered Monday for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The Reach center is dedicated to telling the stories of the region’s land, history and people, from the Ice Age Floods to the Manhattan Project and beyond. Opening day is Friday, although events are happening throughout the week to mark the debut.
During the ribbon cutting, Murray -- who championed the creation of the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Reach center -- spoke about the long path to bring the center to fruition.
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“When we started working on this center, I did not think it was going to be such a long and winding road to completion. But we kept at it. And you all kept at it. ...I was so proud to fight by your side through so many challenges along the way,” she said.
The project is special to her personally, she said, noting her grandfather came to the Tri-City region in the early 1900s and her father grew up in Kennewick.
“He was in high school when the Manhattan Project started, and (he) remembered and knew and passed on to me what this community gave to our entire country and how important it was,” Murray said.
The new center will be a place for learning and celebration of the contributions of the region, she said. “I could not be prouder of all of your dedication and your tenacity and your teamwork to make this day possible,” she told the Reach officials and supporters at the ceremony.
The effort to build the Reach center started not long after the 196,000-acre Hanford Reach National Monument was established in 2000.
For years, the vision was for a bigger and more expensive facility in a different location -- Columbia Point south. But the project hit speed bumps, including problems with the site and slowed fundraising as the recession set in. Public confidence took a hit. But the project gained momentum in the past couple of years with a new site, a scaled-back plan and new leadership.
The $12 million center -- a hybrid museum, interpretive center and performing arts center -- has an array of exhibits, displays and features.
It was designed so it can be expanded in the future.
Before the ribbon-cutting, Murray took a tour led by some local youth. Four of her young guides, the Baugh siblings from Pasco -- Emma, 14, Isaac, 12, Haven, 9, and Autumn, 5, later told the Herald about some of their favorite features, from a virtual fossil dig to the aquarium with Columbia River fish.
They said they think other kids will have fun exploring and learning at the Reach center.
“It’s really, really cool,” Emma said.
“A lot of work was put into it,” Isaac added.
The Reach is off Columbia Park Trail at the west end of Columbia Park.
The ribbon-cutting wasn’t the only Reach event Monday. That evening, U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings was to speak at a reception celebrating the legacy of the Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science & Technology, or CREHST. The Richland museum has been integrated into the new Reach center.
For more information on the Reach, including a detailed schedule of opening events, check out the Herald’s special section at www.tinyurl.com/reachtab.
w Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald