Editorials

The Reach in the park: Suspense is building

The suspense is building for supporters of the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center.

The Richland City Council and the Richland Public Facilities District have both signed on -- or at least expressed tentative approval -- for the Reach center to be placed in the west end of Columbia Park.

The Kennewick and Richland city councils together hired a consultant to help with a plan for the park. They will meet in early May to decide whether to include the Reach in the plan.

There's a chance the discovery of culturally sensitive artifacts might complicate the process, but it's a good site for the center. We would like to see it come to fruition.

There are two outstanding questions:

1. What do the Native American tribes think?

2. Will the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agree to the site?

A negative answer to either could be a show-stopper.

Could.

It was tribal opposition to placing the Reach at Columbia Point, coinciding with the point being listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a traditional cultural property, that closed down consideration of the original location.

The Reach board has worked with the tribes from the beginning, including having tribal members in on the planning of the Columbia Point site and serving on the Reach board.

But the question always remained whether the tribes would go along.

Tribal leaders say they prefer the park to the point. But they might reject the new site too, if archaeological investigation turns up native artifacts there.

For its part, the Corps says it may make its decision within the next week.

Although the Corps doesn't make policy, it is charged with implementing the policies of Congress and the president. So its interpretation is critical.

The Corps ought to do whatever it can to expedite efforts to locate the center at the west end of Columbia Park. Plans to complete this important community asset have been stalled too long.

The Reach was originally envisioned as a $40.5 million interpretive center that would feature the cultural history of the area, including the tribes who were the original occupants of the land.

An Ice Age Floods exhibit would be part of the center, plus agricultural development and creation of the Hanford site for the Manhattan Project during World War II.

About $25.5 million of the $40.5 million already has been raised, but problems with the siting are a challenge for the financial campaign.

If the cities go forward with inclusion of the Reach in the plans for the park, this location has a lot to recommend it.

But another if: A successful fundraising campaign will come about only if the tribes and the Corps agree to go along.

We'll all just have to keep watch for the final pieces to fall in place.

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