The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be one of the nation’s newest parks as the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday next year.
Even if the national park’s signature arrowhead — the emblem used at all the nation’s parks — has not gone up at Hanford yet, the results of the celebration should last well into the future, Peggy O’Dell, the deputy director of operations for the National Park Service, said in Richland on Thursday.
National Park Service officials, along with Department of Energy officials from Washington, D.C., are in the Tri-Cities this week to visit historic areas of Hanford and to work on an agreement for the roles and responsibilities of each federal agency in the new park.
In December, national legislation created the new park, which includes historic areas at Hanford, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., that played roles in the Manhattan Project race to produce the world’s first nuclear weapon during World War II.
Hanford produced plutonium for the world’s first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert and the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping end the war.
The park service’s goal as it starts its second century is to “attract new audiences to national parks and to help people understand that National Parks are more than Yosemite and Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon,” O’Dell said.
At Hanford, the new park would focus on history rather than the nation’s natural wonders. B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, will be included and other historic areas may also be within the park’s boundaries.
The remaining buildings of the small communities and farms taken over by the federal government for the secret wartime project and T Plant, which removed plutonium from irradiated uranium fuel, are being considered for inclusion.
The centennial celebration will be inviting a new generation of Americans to not only visit national parks, but also to get involved.
It is planned to be a springboard to increase support for the park service, attracting more volunteers and building its philanthropy program with new tools being developed for local and national endowments.
“The volunteer support here in the Tri-Cities is amazing for the Manhattan Project National Park and B Reactor,” said Vic Knox, the park service associate director for park planning, facilities and lands.
“We are off to a great start and are looking forward to what’s to come,” he said.
DOE and the park service are expected to have their joint agreement worked out by the end of the year, just as the park service centennial year starts. Once the initial planning is completed, the park service can apply to Congress for funding.