Our Voice: Don't miss opportunity to shape Hanford's future

A once-in-a-generation opportunity.

That's a grand but apt statement for the chance to shape the future of public access to parts of Hanford.

A vision is needed to determine what the site could become once Hanford cleanup is completed and the site is opened to visitors.

Some of us will not be around long enough to see the day when Hanford could be a hiking and biking destination. We're talking about a 20- to 50-year vision here.

But the prospect that some amazing riverfront which has been locked up tight for decades could be open to the public down the road is appealing nonetheless.

The community vision foretells of a bike trail from Richland to the Vernita Bridge, of boat launches and multiday hikes, of access to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain and a trail to Saddle Mountain Lake.

While some of the land was used for the production of nuclear weapons, much of it was never touched, leaving some pristine areas for outdoor adventures. The Department of Energy expects to have cleanup of 220 square miles completed in just two years. That leaves the remaining cleanup in the center of the reservation on about 75 square miles.

So far, plans from DOE for the land have been for industrial development, but most of the property will be left wild.

The community vision is a pre-emptive strike by local entities and led by the Tri-City Development Council and the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau. TRIDEC and other partners hired a consultant to draft a vision, which is the way so many of these grand projects start.

The feeling at TRIDEC was that if the Tri-Cities didn't offer up a picture of what it wanted Hanford to be post cleanup, people outside our community would beat us to the punch.

The consortium is hoping environmental groups and outdoor clubs will want to partner in the vision, rather than pursue their own agendas.

With the Hanford Reach National Monument already in place and the strong drive for the designation of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park, the prospects for tourism and recreational use of the site abound. By getting more of the land open for public access, visitors would have even more to see and do.

And Mid-Columbia residents would have access to additional areas for hiking, biking and boating. Camping is even part of the vision with primitive sites in the northern portions of the property, as well as a commercial-style with RV hook-ups campground just outside of Richland.

But like all things federal, the use of the land is really beyond our community's direct control. It's common sense for the DOE to listen to the community that has been most affected by Hanford. Whether that will be the case is yet to be seen.

We've said time and time again that the public deserves some kind of access to Rattlesnake Mountain, and that has yet to be realized.

The vision presented by TRIDEC and its partners was based on some meetings in 2010. The community will now have a chance to get involved again at public meetings next week.

We encourage you to have your voice heard. This is one of those rare opportunities, and we need to have a true community vision for the lands that have had such an impact on the Mid-Columbia for 70 years.

Meetings schedule:

w 2 p.m. Monday at the Bechtel Board Room, Tri-City Business and Visitor Center, 7130 W. Grandridge Boulevard, Kennewick.

w 7 p.m. Monday at the Richland Community Center, 500 Amon Park Dive.

w 7 p.m. Nov. 19, at the Franklin PUD auditorium, 1411 W. Clark St., Pasco.