Interior Secretary Wants Congress To Designate A Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Call it the nation's largest national historical park.

That will be the case if Congress acts on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's request that it create a national historical park commemorating the work of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret effort during World War II to create an atomic bomb.

Under the secretary's suggestion, the park would be located in three different states -- Washington state, New Mexico, and Tennessee.

“The secret development of the atomic bomb in multiple locations across the United States is an important story and one of the most transformative events in our nation’s history,” Secretary Salazar said Wednesday in announcing his request. “The Manhattan Project ushered in the atomic age, changed the role of the United States in the world community, and set the stage for the Cold War.”

The National Park Service, at the direction of Congress, conducted a special resource study on several Manhattan Project sites for possible inclusion in the National Park System. The study, released to Congress this week, recommends that the best way to preserve and interpret the Manhattan Project is for Congress to establish a national historical park at three sites where much of the critical scientific activity associated with the project occurred: Los Alamos, New Mexico; Hanford, Washington; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The legislation that authorized the study in 2004 was sponsored by Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

“Once a tightly guarded secret, the story of the atomic bomb’s creation needs to be shared with this and future generations,” said Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “There is no better place to tell a story than where it happened, and that’s what national parks do. The National Park Service will be proud to interpret these Manhattan Project sites and unlock their stories in the years ahead.”

Sean Smith, policy director of the National Parks Conservation Association, praised the move.

"We thank Sec. Salazar, Sen. Bingaman, and Rep. Hastings for their efforts to see that a Manhattan Project National Historic Park be established, allowing for park rangers to tell the story of atomic energy and deepening our understanding and appreciation of our national history," he said. “Creating this park provides an opportunity to tell and interpret an incredibly important piece of American and world history, and to allow contemporary society to better understand the pros and cons of the complex and difficult decision to use the bomb."

Operating from December, 1942 until September, 1945 the Manhattan Project was a $2.2 billion effort that employed 130,000 workers at its peak, but was kept largely secret and out of public view.

The study suggests that relevant resources in Dayton, Ohio, and other sites where activity contributing to the project occurred could be associated with the proposed national historical park, but would not be part of the actual park.

The recommendation has been endorsed by the Department of Energy, which would partner with the National Park Service in developing and managing the proposed park. The study calls for the Department of Energy to continue managing and operating the facilities associated with the Manhattan Project and for the National Park Service to provide interpretation and education in connection with these resources.

It is now up to Congress and the president to decide whether to designate a national historic park. If designated, the National Park Service would work with the Department of Energy and consult with the public and other stakeholders to develop a management plan.

In conducting the study, the National Park Service undertook an extensive public involvement process engaging state and local governments, private property owners, interested organizations, and others. Through this process, strong public support emerged for preserving resources associated with the Manhattan Project and making the story of this remarkable effort more broadly known.

Comments

How is this a good thing? First it was a secret endeavour by a corrupt government. Second the effects of the bombs that the US dropped killed more people than the project employed. People today are still living with the effects of the nuclear radiation that was unleashed on Japan.
Thirdly, the nuclear industry, which the Manhattan Project initiated (or so I've read) is causing huge problems all over the world with radiation leaks. Japan is getting radiated, AGAIN, as I write this.
The gall of the United States of America in designating a National Park to commemorate such an insane project is ...
INSANE

With that logic (Anon) I guess a "Big Oil" National Monument is out of the question and just think how the world has changed since someone rubbed two rocks together and discovered fire (maybe it was lightning:). Just a little humor (much needed:).

So, my fellow anon poster, we should only commemorate unequivocally "good" things? Are you saying that allowing the Nazis to develop the "bomb" would have been better than developing it ourselves? And that the death toll from the bombs was more than what would have occurred had an invasion of Japan been undertaken? And that the people who perpetrated the Rape of Nanking, Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March and numerous other atrocities were the innocent victims of a corrupt Western government? Sorry, I don't buy any of that. (But I do agree that the nuclear power industry has serious deficiencies which have yet to be addressed.)

The Manhattan Project park would be a wondeful addition to the NPS for two primary reasons. First, the American science and technology theme is grossly underrepresented in the agency. Second, the Manhattan Project surely competes at the top in that theme. Furthermore, the story contributes to other themes, especially the nation's changing role in the world community. Politics and social beliefs aside, the story of the beginning of the Atomic Age deserves a place in the NPS.

Definition of "common sense:"
What we end up with after all the diversions from "common sense?" NOT GOOD:).

I'll leave the questions of morality and historical significance to others to sort out, but there are other significant issues that I hope will receive careful consideration if this idea moves ahead. We covered these in this earlier post on the Traveler back in January of 2010, but here's an excerpt from the NPS "Special Resource Study and EIS that evaluated this proposal:

"There are a number of factors that make the entire study area [i.e. all
four sites] infeasible as a unit of the national park system:

• The size, boundary configurations, distance between sites, and land
ownership patterns would create a highly complex management scenario
and would likely contribute to an unreasonably high cost of management
by the National Park Service.

• Visitor access to DOE sites and privately owned sites in many
different locations could be significantly limited; visitor enjoyment
across all of these sites could not be assured.

• The Department of Energy has indicated it would continue to bear
responsibility for safety, national security, historic preservation, and
upkeep of its facilities; however, there are still concerns regarding
the National Park Service assuming liability and unforeseen costs in
addressing visitor and employee safety, national security, haz mat
cleanup, historic preservation, and maintenance of the facilities in the
future.

• The study area encompassing widely dispersed sites is not capable
of efficient administration by the National Park Service at a reasonable
cost. Within the context of the current commitments of the President,
Secretary of the Interior, and the Director of the National Park Service
to address other national financial priorities, it is unlikely that
sufficient funds would be available for the National Park Service to
undertake new management responsibilities for such a park."
These are important considerations in today's economic and political climate. It would be interesting to know what discussions took place that led the Department to move ahead with this proposal in light of the above rather serious concerns by the NPS.

As a former Washington State resident, I don't know how comfortable I'd be in strolling through an interpretive tour of Hanford, let alone buying a sandwich from a concessionaire there.
Those considerations, and the entire feasibility study process itself, are a matter for the professionals to evaluate and decide.
As for it being 'insane' to look at these sites, I have to defer to George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."
There are lessons to be learned at Manzanar - already a National Historic Site. Imprisoning US citizens could be called 'insane'. There are lessons to be learned at Little Big Horn - already a National Monument. I'd hate to forget that genocide is wrong. There are lessons to be learned at the Arizona Memorial - part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument. War has it's prices. There are lessons to be learned at the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. Our national history of slavery is a horrible lesson to overcome.
Not every NPS site is a Yellowstone or a Statue of Liberty, but there are important lessons to be learned from all of them.

Go to CAHA's website to see what the legislators intended for Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

http://www.nps.gov/caha/parkmgmt/cape-hatteras-national-seashore-enabling-legislation.htm

"Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed, the said area shall be permanently reserved as a primitive wilderness and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area . . ."

(Aug. 17, 1937, ch. 687, Sec. 4, 50 Stat. 670; June 29, 1940, ch. 459, Sec. 1,

54 Stat. 702; Mar. 6, 1946, ch. 50, 60 Stat. 32.)

The Seashore is not and was not intended to be just a recreation area. Because some visitors think that it is and treat it as if it was nothing but a recreation area does not make it so.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore has problems. It is the modern day equivalent of the “tragedy of the commons”. The problems are more extensive than just the miss-management of nesting birds and turtles. A history of permissive management where ORV regulations have been lax to nonexistent are the primary cause for the current sorry state of affairs, in my opinion.

The best science or statistics becomes nonsense or “junk science” when that science or statistics does not promote personal recreational agendas, as is the case as it pertains to ORV management in Cape Hatteras. The science (which backs up my own 50 years anecdotal history here) shows a dramatic decline in the “unique” nesting shorebirds of the Seashore. The science was clear to the USGS science panel when they recommended much stricter protection measures than what the Park proposed.

It can be argued that the current high cost of protecting the "unique flora and fauna" is a direct result of a long-term laissez-faire management of those resources. From my perspective the very vocal fishing/ORVing community have been largely ambivalent not proactive when it comes to protecting, preserving and coexisting with birds, turtles and other wildlife, the exception being when the protection of that wildlife interferes with ORV use. When ORV use is restricted by resource protection they react negatively by actively lobbing against resource protections.

The culture of large numbers of visitors using vehicles to drive on an increasing smaller beach (due to erosion) is a recent occurrence. It is not the historical cultural tradition. The ORV/fishing groups are fighting for the privilege to access by ORV as much (all if possible) of the National Seashore as they can, compromise is not part of their strategy.

Big oil and their plutocrats care little beyond the immediate bottom line. I believe giving them subsidies is lacking in common sense.

The quicker we find alternatives to fossil fuel and the more hydrocarbon we leave in the ground the better we all will be. I would rather see the oil subsidy money be used to develop energy efficient National Parks that promote, by example, clean energy with apparatus like solar water heaters, photovoltaic panels and small wind generators. Everyone (I hope) wants his or her tax money to be used as judiciously and efficiently as possible however it is being spent. I personally find US National Parks the gold standard for Parks and deserving of my support and tax dollars.

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Obviously, Anon who posted at 11:17 on July 17 never had a chance to meet my late friend Chase Nielsen who was a navigator on one of JImmy Doolittle's B-24 raiders. Col. Nielsen was captured, imprisoned, tortured (water boarded), watched two of his crewmates being beheaded, starved for nearly four years, used in forced labor -- but survived.
He told of watching as the Japanese around his camp prepared for the final invasion of their homeland. Old men, women and small children drilled daily with sharpened sticks to resist the invasion. They were prepared to fight to the death -- every one of them. How many lives, both American and Japanese, were saved when our "corrupt government" dropped those two bombs?
Rick B is entirely correct. Perhaps Anon needs to study his history lessons much more carefully -- and remember them.

Although I understand the reasons for opposition to the creation of this National Park unit, it must be recognized that the definition of a National Park has been somewhat skewed in the minds of the public. Yes, the NPS protects some of the finest natural splendors in the world, but we also recognize historical homes, wild and scenic rivers, seashores, and battlefields. The nationally significant resources of each NPS unit contribute to the agency’s constellation that tells the story of America.
It is easy to become so captivated by a natural wonder that we forget the significance of other sites, many of which are somber. For example, there are several park units that discuss slavery and human rights atrocities that took place by the hand of predominantly Caucasian Americans. They do not exist to advertise or condone slavery, but to educate visitors on the horrors and impacts of human ownership. In the same way, then, the establishment of the Manhattan Project as a National Historical Park would not serve to glorify the atomic bomb. No person in their right mind can argue that the reverberating damage done by the nuclear bomb in Japan was a good thing. The deaths of 170,000 + humans in Nagasaki and Hiroshima cannot and SHOULD NOT be diminished. But to limit the resources that a National Park can contain and convey is comparable to editing a history text book to include only the bright points in our nation's history. It is dishonest and would most certainly be detrimental to the understanding of what it is to be American.
Please remember that the purpose of the National Park Service is to protect the scenery and the natural and historical objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same, by such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
As an appreciative visitor, former volunteer, and current employee of the National Parks, I support the establishment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, for the story of the world’s first atomic bomb must be told.