A group of local governments associated with U.S. Department of Energy sites has reaffirmed its support for a Manhattan Project national park.
Proposed through legislation in the U.S. Congress, the park would commemorate the Manhattan Project, the top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II. The park would include Oak Ridge; Los Alamos, N.M.; and Hanford, Wash.
“We are thrilled to see this step toward making the new national park a reality,” said Steve Young, secretary of the nonprofit Energy Communities Alliance and mayor of Kennewick, Wash. “There’s no question that the story of the Manhattan Project and the contributions of the men and women who supported it are of high interest to the American public. This creates a real opportunity for our communities to share our collective history while realizing the benefits of the heritage tourism industry a national park is likely to create.”
The ECA supported an earlier version of the proposal, which failed to pass in the U.S. Congress last year. A majority of U.S. House members voted for the bill—the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act—in September, but the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the legislation under special rules.
Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan testified in support of the park before a Senate subcommittee in June. In his testimony, Beehan said all three communities are united in their support for the establishment of the national historical park at the three sites.
Beehan added that the park “is about giving current and future generations a better understanding of this indisputable turning point in world history. It is easy for those of us who live in the communities of Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and the Tri-Cities to say that the Manhattan Project changed the world…The Manhattan Project is an incredible story that deserves to be preserved and told.”
The proposal was reintroduced last week as Senate Bill 507 by Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat. Senators Martin Heinrich, Patty Murray, and Tom Udall are original co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill, which is known as the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act, the ECA said.
The ECA said it has five recommendations:
- Establish the park now to honor Manhattan Project veterans. “There is unanimity among the three communities that the park should be established in the near term in order to honor our Manhattan Project and Cold War veterans.”
- Protect ongoing DOE missions. “We support legislative language that protects the ongoing missions of DOE, and recognize the need for appropriate flexibility in the partnership among the stakeholders.”
- Authorize user/entrance fees. “Although the legislation should recognize DOE’s responsibility to maintain its assets, authorization for a modest entry/user fee should be included to assist in the long-term stewardship of non-DOE-owned assets.”
- Donation authority should be broad. “We want to ensure that the national park is permitted to accept both personal property and financial donations to support the park and the tours of the sites.”
- Allow nationally significant sites to be included. “We need flexibility to permit the National Park Service to work with communities to be able to add sites that are nationally significant and suitable for inclusion in the historic park.”