Tri-City Herald: We’re grateful for the new Manhattan Project park

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park gives the Mid-Columbia much to be thankful for.

For starters, we are grateful to the volunteers who have worked for decades to preserve B Reactor so there is something to include in this three-site project. Our community is home to the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, and we have quite a story to tell including helping end World War II. But without the volunteers who have been working to save the reactor all these years, it would have been a story from a history book, rather than a historical site.

For five years, the Department of Energy has opened B Reactor to tours for about 60,000 people. During that time the B Reactor Museum Association has put more than $150,000 into developing exhibits at the reactor. For a long time before that, volunteers have been lobbying to keep the reactor from being cocooned.

We also appreciate the legislation to create the national historic park that passed through Congress in December after a decade of persuasion. Much of the effort was from then-Rep. Doc Hastings, along with the support of senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. We appreciate their doggedness in getting the bill passed and their continued dedication to the project.

And ultimately, we are thankful and impressed at the speed that DOE and the National Park Service staff are moving on developing this plan.

Representatives from both groups are in town this week to gather information about the area and the project. We welcome David Klaus, acting under secretary for the DOE, and his group to the Tri-Cities. They are meeting with stake holders and touring the areas that are included in our portion of the national park, including the reactor, Bruggemann’s ranch, White Bluffs Bank and the Hanford schoolhouse.

An open house last night connected the public with visiting officials. Our guests also will meet with the tribes, Washington State University Tri-Cities officials and the Manhattan Project National Park Advocacy Committee, which includes folks from local governments and some civic and non-profit groups.

Considering the park legislation was passed in December, we are encouraged by the quick progress so far.

We’re also thankful Governor Inslee made time in his schedule to be in the Tri-Cities for a reception with the DOE and parks representatives, as well as the Port of Kennewick’s 100-year celebration.

The Tri-Cities are open for business and ready for this new park. We have dozens of hotels attractions for visitors like the Reach center, a growing wine industry and the carousel. The Tri-City community is a great partner and has a reputation for getting things done.

B Reactor already is a popular draw, attracting visitors from every state and several countries. We’re grateful more people are going to be able to see this part of our region’s and nation’s history.