Tri-City Herald: Kudos to many for new Manhattan Project park

Christmas came early for some folks here who held onto what once seemed just a dream.

The Manhattan Project National Historic Park is now a reality.

The park includes the B Reactor and other World War II facilities in three states. Our country’s accomplishment to construct the first full-scale nuclear reactor at the Hanford site in the race to build a nuclear bomb was an amazing feat of engineering and ingenuity.

But it also is something that has long been held in secret. If you’ve been privileged to make a visit to the B Reactor, you know the marvel of the facility, which looks much like it did in 1944 when workers monitored thousands of instruments from the control room.

It is something to see, and something now many more will be able to witness.

“Creating the Manhattan Project National Historic Park will open the doors for millions of Americans to learn about the scientific achievements made at Hanford,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Forming the park has been a decade-long mission for some Tri-Cities residents, and though it had failed to make it through Congress before, they kept hope alive.

Our lawmakers learned their lessons, and this time included the national park with a massive defense spending bill that was almost assured to pass.

The bipartisan passage of the bill “is a testament to the hard work of the Tri-City community to preserve the region’s history for future generations,” Cantwell said.

While many people and politicians deserve a pat on the back for the park becoming a reality, one champion deserves a special shoutout. Gary Petersen of the Tri-City Development Council finally got to open a bottle of bourbon he’d been holding onto for years in hopes of toasting the occasion. It was a well-deserved drink, shared with supporters who stopped by his office after the bill’s passage to celebrate.

The B Reactor and associated national park will add to the tourism offerings in the region, bringing an economic boon to the community along with it.

Now that President Obama has signed the bill, the celebration can turn to planning and implementation.

A couple of bonuses that come along for the ride are the creation of some limited public access on Rattlesnake Mountain and the release of 1,600 acres of Hanford land for industrial development near Richland.

All three projects have been championed on these pages for years, and it’s a gift for all of us that they have now become reality.