RICHLAND — I recently was doing research on some hikes I want to do this spring and summer, and came upon the missile silos and Nike gun emplacements littered around the state.
As I started investigating those — and how to hike near them — I stumbled upon an alleged bomb shelter located in Richland. Located, in fact, right next to my apartment complex.
After weeks of laziness kept me confined to my apartment, I finally went to check it out today.
A short hike along the Duportail Trail, which connects the Chamna Natural Preserve to W.E. Johnson Park (a Discover Pass is needed to park in the parking lot at the end of Duportail Street), and then a jaunt to the east toward the Tanglewood Drive cul-de-sac, and you are above the shelter.
There are two distinct pipes — air vents — sticking out of the ground above the shelter.
An easy climb down the side of the hill, and there is the shelter. The door has been removed, and there is a pile of stones in front of it. Graffiti and litter is everywhere. I'm sure a multitude of teenagers spanning many generations have used the shelter for nary a good thing.
When I reached the shelter, a Richland fire truck and ambulance were on Tanglewood. Initially, my wife and I assumed someone must be hurt on the trail, but come to find out, the firefighters had heard there was a bomb shelter here. They were on the same treasure hunt we were.
I let them lead the way inside. They had flashlights, and I figured their uniforms would scare off any dead bodies, ghosts or animals lurking in the dark depths.
Turns out, though, it is just a simple room, about 8 feet by 10 feet or so. I don’t think it would survive a nuclear bomb or even the end of the world, but it is a pretty cool piece of history.
Searching the Herald archives, I found this passage from a 1994 story on bomb shelters:
The shelter has been abandoned for almost 30 years and is now occasionally used by teen-age runaways, said Capt. Dale Brunson of the Richland Police Department.
The shelter is hidden in a sand dune on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land and is almost impossible to see from the road.
Brunson said he knows it was built by a man in the 1950s, but no one can seem to remember who the man was. “I just know that when I started working here in 1966 it was already abandoned,” he said.
Whoever built it did a good job.
The concrete shelter has two different pipes for air and people entering the shelter have to turn twice to get inside. These features were supposed to protect people in the shelter from any poisonous gas, Brunson said.
So, does anyone know who built it? And in what time frame was it built? Shoot me an e-mail at ccraker@tricityherald, or leave a comment here at the blog.
Also, are there any other shelters like this to which the public has access?