Our Voice: Telling Hanford's story critical role for Reach

The Hanford Reach Interpretive Center is inching toward reality.

The physical signs of that are now apparent at the west end of Columbia Park.

Part of that reality includes taking on the CREHST museum's inventory and story. Years ago, when plans were made for the Reach to be built, it also was decided that CREHST would close and be integrated into that new facility.

With construction on the interpretive center under way at long last, CREHST as we know it is entering its final phase. The executive director left earlier this month, and a transition team, including officials from the Reach, have begun to make plans for its closure.

With a void in leadership for CREHST during this transition, the parties involved wisely looked to the director of the Reach to guide the evolution.

Last week, the Richland Public Facilities District -- the entity which oversees the Reach project -- approved an agreement with the foundation that operates CREHST to make Lisa Toomey the interim executive director for CREHST as well.

CREHST, the Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science and Technology, was created in 1996 with the mission to tell the story of the Hanford nuclear reservation. The Environmental Science Technology Foundation, the operating body for CREHST, agreed to merge with the Reach because the two facilities appeared to have redundant missions. The intent was to have the Reach use CREHST's collection as part of the Hanford display at the new museum.

Some changes in CREHST's relationship with the Department of Energy resulted in the DOE taking back items from the collection that are property of the government. CREHST still has many items and the museum off George Washington Way will continue with regular hours for now.

One big task for Reach staff is to go through the remaining artifacts to see what they can use at the new interpretive center.

They'll also get the opportunity to see CREHST employees in action. Those employees will eventually be invited to apply for jobs with the Reach and the docents will be welcome as well.

Toomey and the current Richland PFD board have succeeded where others failed. The Reach has come a long way in a year. Many in the community had given up on the interpretive center ever being built as the plan languished and struggled to maintain support under previous leadership.

Anyone who has been a proponent for the Reach over the years can now see that it is under construction.

It's not the grand and grandiosely priced facility that was envisioned, but it's now a reasonable and tangible facility. We'll be celebrating the grand opening in about a year.

The foundation that operates CREHST and the businesses and patrons who supported it over the years have done a great job in preserving a crucial piece of our region's history. Continuing to tell Hanford's story at the Reach is a must, and having Toomey oversee the transition makes good sense.