After a year of work and open houses in three cities, federal officials have released a document that will be used to guide planning and management at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which includes Oak Ridge.
The National Park Service and U.S. Department of Energy announced Friday that the planning and management document, known as the Final Foundation Document, has been released. It’s available online.
The Foundation Document is the result of public input and joint planning by DOE and the NPS. In February 2016, the two federal agencies held workshops in Oak Ridge, as well as in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington. Hanford and Los Alamos are also part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
The open houses in the three communities, which had Manhattan Project research and production centers during World War II, gathered input from “stakeholders and interested parties” related to the important resources, stories, and opportunities for the park. The National Park Service has posted a summary of the open house comments, grouped into 11 areas, which you can see below.
In a press release Friday, the Park Service said the purpose of a Foundation Document is to affirm a national park unit’s core mission and significance, its key resources and values, and the interpretive themes conveying its important stories. Foundation Documents are guidance tools individualized for each of the NPS’s 417 units to direct basic park planning and management.
“Although not a decision-making instrument, including neither actions nor management strategies, the Foundation Document, nevertheless, describes a shared understanding of what is most important about the park,” the NPS said.
The Foundation Document for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park is now available here.
The park was formally established in November 2015 to preserve portions of three World War II sites where the United States developed the first atomic weapons. The park marks the history of the people, science, and events that led to creation of the atomic bomb in the top-secret effort known as the Manhattan Project.
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park was authorized in December 2014 in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. On November 10, 2015, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Energy signed a memorandum of agreement to establish the park. Under that pact, the NPS operates the park and interprets its history on properties that continue to be owned and managed by DOE. Park visitor centers have been opened at the three locations, which represent stages in the research and production of the first atomic weapons.
Here is a summary of the public open house comments from last year:
- Many comments spoke to a desire to effectively link the new park with Manhattan Project-related resources outside the fence, including historic structures and districts as well as example houses (alphabet houses, etc.) that would provide visitors with a sense of what life was like in the three communities during the Manhattan Project.
- Commenters want to remain informed of park management activities, through contact lists, public meetings, etc.
- There are museums, societies, and organizations that would like to partner with the park in support of its mission, and have resources that could be brought to bear.
- Several comments identified (a) important contributions and (b) segregation and discrimination against African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans in the Manhattan Project workforce and surrounding communities as an important story that deserves attention in the park’s interpretive programming.
- Displacement was also highlighted as an important topic for the park to incorporate into its interpretive program, with focus on both tribal and settler displacement.
- Many comments from individuals and organizations want the park to incorporate the environmental legacy of the Manhattan Project into the interpretive program, from how the urgency of the World War II era relegated these issues to lower priority, and how these impacts continue to impact the environment in the present day.
- Commenters also noted that the level of understanding of environmental impacts was not what it is today, and that the Manhattan Project was hardly alone in this regard at the time.
- Comments related to the understanding of the history of the Manhattan Project were numerous and diverse. Highlighted topics to include in park interpretation include:
- What the communities were like during the Manhattan Project era
- The decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan
- The scope, scale, and accomplishment of the Manhattan Project
- Many key scientific contributors were refugees from other countries historical context, and how it shaped subsequent world history
- Work done by contractors, both in direct Manhattan Project contributions and constructing the surrounding communities.
- Many comments advocated for including a specific perspective in the park’s interpretive program, though at a high level, the consensus was a desire for the program to be balanced. Both the positive and negative aspects of the Manhattan Project should be given fair consideration.
- Commenters expressed concern that there are so many stories and perspectives that the park’s interpretive program could lack focus.
- The complexities of the Manhattan Project (scientific, organizational, etc.) should be interpreted to help make it more understandable for visitors.
- Several commenters noted that the park could leverage linkages with museums and other sites and groups in the local communities as well as in Japan to both avoid duplication of effort and broaden the interpretive program.
- The Manhattan Project should be connected to current events related to nuclear issues (e.g., Iran, North Korea).
- Develop phone apps, a park film, and interpretive waysides to help tell the stories.
- How will the park interpret the sites if (a) they are somewhat or completely inaccessible or (b) they have been demolished?
- Commenters expressed concern that DOE would constrain the ability of the NPS to tell the story of the Manhattan Project
- There are many recreational amenities in the vicinity of each site, which could be incorporated or otherwise linked to the new park.
- Develop ways to guide visitors to Manhattan Project sites located in the towns related to each site.
- Manhattan Project structures are aging and deteriorating; they are in need of stabilization or restoration.
- Concern over structures outside of NPS/DOE jurisdiction. Could the park help preserve a sample “block” of MP-era housing?
- Several commenters brought up the issue of treaty rights that were broken with the establishment of the Hanford Site.
- Access to Rattlesnake Mountain at the Hanford Site, which is a sacred tribal site.
- General concern was expressed over the ability of visitors to access the three sites in the park, due to ongoing national security-related activities and environmental remediation activities, as well as how visitors might move around when “behind the fence.”
- How will planned and “unexpected” environmental remediation impact the ability of park visitors to access park resources?
- Collaborate with other attractions and recreational opportunities located nearby, including local parks, greenways National Parks (Bandelier, Valles, Obed River, etc.)
- Develop walking tours and bike tours to provide a sense of what the surrounding communities were like.
You can see the summary of the open house comments here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See our story on the celebration in Oak Ridge of the establishment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in November 2015 here.
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