Our Voice: Thumbs up to a day at the races

April 29, 2013 

Thumbs up to to everyone involved in bringing horse racing to the Sun Downs race track this spring.

The Tri-City Horse Racing Association and the Benton County Fair Board had some obstacles to clear to make it happen, but their perseverance paid off for racing fans.

The fair association began leasing the Kennewick track from Benton County earlier this year and had a narrow window of opportunity to strike a deal for this year's races.

Racing continues May 4 and 5. Fans will be able to wager on the Kentucky Derby, which is May 4. It's a great way to spend spring afternoon.

Imagine that

Thumbs up to Richland High School's Destination Imagination team for winning this year's state championship.

The team -- sophomores Nick Avila, Jackson Chin, Maddie Graves, Jenacie Jones and Ryan Walker, along with Carmichael seventh-grader Mickinley Chin and Chief Joseph eighth-grader Ben Graves -- next head to the global finals in Knoxville, Tenn., in mid-May.

Destination Imagination asks students to work together to develop a solution to a team challenge. That solution can be theatrical, structural, improvisational, scientific, technical or a blend of several concepts.

More than 1,100 teams from 45 states, 7 Canadian provinces and 13 countries will gather to showcase their solutions at the event.

Shortsighted

Thumb down to Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., for his opposition to creating the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which would include Hanford's World War II-era B Reactor.

Barrasso asked last week if adding more national parks is prudent given the maintenance backlog at existing parks.

A bill to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park had its first Senate hearing this session, coming Tuesday before the National Parks Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The National Park Service already has an $11 billion maintenance backlog, and parks, including Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and adding new parks will only increase the agency's liabilities, Barrasso complained.

Barrasso is lucky that kind of naysaying didn't derail creation of Yellowstone National Park.

Visitors to that premier location spend about $335 million annually and support almost 5,000 jobs, according to the park service.

B Reactor may never have the drawing power of Old Faithful, but it already has proved its ability to benefit the Mid-Columbia economy.

Limited tours of B Reactor bring about $1.5 million into the Tri-City economy annually, said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Visitors could increase 10- or 15-fold in the first year a national park is created, the park service has told DOE.

The upper end of that range is more than $22 million a year. Annual cost of a new national park, which would include Manhattan Project facilities at Oak Ridge., Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., in addition to Hanford, would be $2.45 million to $4 million, according to written testimony submitted by the National Parks Service.

That makes the proposed park not so much a liability as a smart investment.

The economic benefits Yellowstone brings to Barrasso's constituents is abundantly clear to the senator. Our cynical side says he doesn't so much care about increased liabilities as the possibility that more the park service's budget will leave Wyoming.

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