Building up the programs trumps building a building so far

Three snippets of wisdom come to mind when we think about the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center. One is: Hindsight is 20/20. The second: Beauty is only skin deep. And lastly: The best is yet to come.

The vision for the interpretive center has been clouded the past 10 years. While the idea was solid -- and still is -- progress has been stalled on a couple of fronts.

In our minds, the biggest setback was the time and momentum that was lost when the original site on Columbia Point didn't work out.

In short, much of the past 10 years has been spent on trying to get a building in place. Which makes sense ... sort of. After all, that is standard operating procedure for projects like this.

But, as Richland Public Facilities Board President Fred Raab told the Tri-City Herald editorial board this week, if they could take a do-over they would have developed the programs and enthusiasm first, then worried about the building.

They are, however, taking steps in that direction now.

Over spring break the Reach offered several activities for kids including a quilt project and a postcard project.

And the programs were well received.

Future plans include more educational opportunities for kids and adults.

The programs of the Reach are truly coming alive.

The seed of enthusiasm has been planted. We can already see it starting to grow.

And it's not just the editorial board that's hopeful for the new Reach plan.

The Reach has assembled an impressive -- and large -- group of players on its Community Support Project Team. These are people who are committed to making things happen in the Mid-Columbia.

They don't put their seal of approval on projects that are destined to fail, and once they weigh in, failure is not an option.

As far as the scaled-back building design goes, we think it's prudent both to live within your means and to get something going.

The new campus approach allows the project to move forward with the money they have.

True it won't be the $40+ million design they were hoping for. But in this case, it may well be what's on the inside that counts.

Lisa Toomey, the project's executive director, told us that, "(The building) will be something less extravagant, but more focused on the content."

Part of that content includes extended reach. It involves telling the stories Hanford, and CHREST, the Ice Age Flood trails and agriculture.

Again, we already can see that starting to play out --and it's exciting.

The one niggling question we can't ignore is, will the Reach be able to stay open once it gets open? That's a concern that apparently resonates with others as well.

Board Vice President Rick Jansons reassured us that the board is not going to sign off on any project -- big or small -- until their financial house is in order and they are confident of continued revenue.

Those numbers are already simmering and will be available soon.

In the meantime, the Reach administration has done an admirable job at building enthusiasm and programs in this community.

With or without their physical building, the Reach is becoming a visible presence in the Mid-Columbia.