K-25 Overlook will be ‘bigger and better,’ provide Manhattan Project and recreational information
The K-25 Overlook next to State Route 58 in west Oak Ridge will soon be re-opening as a much larger and nicer visitor center that will also have a new purpose, a press release said.
Owner John McCormick, vice president of Bionomics, purchased the 160-acre property known as Happy Valley through an auction at the end of 2016. The overlook on SR 58 across from the East Tennessee Technology Park, the former K-25 site, was part of the purchase.
But the overlook needed building repairs and updates to the historical information inside, the press release said. In 2017, McCormick partnered with Pam May, vice president of the Roane Alliance, who reached out to local historians, the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Energy, and Explore Oak Ridge to discuss the future of the overlook.
“The idea to expand the overlook into a visitor center and recreational hub came from the National Park Service in one of the early meetings,” May said. “That aligned perfectly with what John had envisioned—to create trails and open spaces that people could enjoy while also learning Happy Valley’s history through its landmarks still evident on the property.”
The overlook will reopen sometime in the fall, with triple the space inside—from 225 square feet to approximately 700, the press release said. The space will also have two entrances, both compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, air conditioning and heating, and LED lighting. Designsensory in Knoxville will design the interior, creating a space where visitors can learn about the Manhattan Project National Historical Park; the story of Happy Valley, a “city” of 15,000 once located next door to the overlook; and the recreational opportunities that surround the overlook, such as trails and boat launches, the press release said.
“I wanted it to be a much nicer space, and I am committed to seeing this through—to create a space that highlights our community and its history, and possibly bring in jobs,” McCormick said. “And we are using local contractors and businesses when possible. Through this partnership, I am excited to see what the overlook can become for Roane County.”
K-25 was built as part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II. The site continued to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants through the Cold War. Now shut down, many of the wartime buildings have been torn down or are being demolished, and the site is slowly being converted into a large industrial park. But there are efforts to preserve the site’s history, including through the K-25 Overlook; the K-25 History Center, Viewing Tower, and Equipment Building; and as part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
The press release said Bionomics has been in Roane County for 28 years, and the company is involved in the disposal of very low-level radioactive waste, working with universities, hospitals, research facilities, and local companies.
“This project is a labor of love for everyone involved and we are excited to be part of this remodel,” said Sam Jones, tourism and marketing coordinator for the Roane Alliance. “We want the space to be a place where visitors can enjoy inside and out. We could use picnic tables, landscaping, and building materials in exchange for recognition so if you are interested in donating or getting involved please email touri[email protected].”
The press release said the Roane Alliance is the comprehensive resource in anything and everything concerning businesses, tourism, and economic development in Roane County, which includes the Industrial Development Board, Visitors Bureau, and Chamber, and programs such as Education Matters and Retire Roane. To learn more about the Roane Alliance, call (865) 376-2093 or visit www.roanealliance.org.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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