Legislation to create a national historical park that tells the story of the country's efforts to create an atomic bomb, a park that would reach from Tennessee to Washington state, has been introduced to the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on Thursday introduced a bill to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park with sites in Tennessee, Washington, and New Mexico. Cosponsoring the legislature were Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee; Maria Cantwell, D-Washington; Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and; Patty Murray, D-Washington. In the House of Representatives, Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, a Washington Republication, said Thursday that he would introduce a similar bill when the House returns to session next week.
The top-secret program to create an atomic bomb during World War II was centered in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington. That effort has been called “the single most significant event of the 20th century.”
“Providing visitors with opportunities to form their own intellectual and emotional connections with the significance of sites to be included in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park helps them understand its relevance to our shared national heritage,” said Sen. Bingaman, D-New Mexico. “There is no better place to understand history than where it happened, and that’s what national parks and the National Park Service do best.”
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 recommends that the best way to preserve and interpret the Manhattan Project is for Congress to establish a national historical park at the three sites where much of the critical scientific activity associated with the project occurred: Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford.
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.
Sen. Bingaman’s bill calls for the U.S. Department of Energy to partner with the National Park Service in developing and managing the proposed park, as most of the sites are under Department of Energy administration. They would be directed to consult with the public and other stakeholders to develop a management plan.
For additional background on this proposed park, dive into the Traveler's archives.