By KATY KORKOS Monitor Reporter
“If the National Park Service establishes a Manhattan Project National Historical Park, what would the Los Alamos part of the park look like?” and “What story do we want to tell?” were the two questions posed by Ron Wilkins at Tuesday’s public meeting in Fuller Lodge.
Wilkins serves as chair of the Fuller Lodge Historic District Advisory Board and is also on the board of the Los Alamos Historical Society. He hosted Tuesday’s meeting as a member of the ad hoc committee appointed by the county council to make recommendations as to local participation in the Park Service project.
The committee, comprised of people with experience in tourism, economic development, historic preservation and park operations, has come up with a list of recommendations to present to park planners when they return to Los Alamos this winter.
“We want to speak with a single voice,” Wilkins said.
The concept of a Manhattan Project Historic Park, encompassing sites at Hanford, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos has been discussed since 2004, when a bill to authorize a study was passed. The Atomic Heritage Foundation has led the drive to establish the park, which has been described as “non-contiguous”, incorporating sites in Oak Ridge, Hanford and Los Alamos.
Several committee members attended Tuesday’s meeting, and helped those members of the public who came to also understand the park’s concept. Bandelier Ranger Chris Judson asked the public to think of a string of Civil War or Revolutionary War sites.� Ellen McGehee, who manages cultural resources for the laboratory, said that the Underground Railway National Historic Park was an example of a park that was spread over several states.
The committee envisions the Los Alamos component of the park as having a centrally located visitor center, staffed by Park Service employees, with links out to other arms of the park such as historic buildings, museums and tours. Wilkins described the visitor center as containing exhibits, maps and guides, and modeled on the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. The visitor center could be located near or within the Chamber of Commerce visitor center.
Georgia Strickfaden, who owns and operates Buffalo Tours and serves on the committee, said that sites on the other side of the canyon were the first to be considered by the Park Service.
“At first, the Park Service did not recognize this part of town (as being part of the park). They were only looking at V-Site and Gun Site,” she said.
McGehee, who said that the lab was considering its options to allow people access to some historic sites, addressed the issue of historic sites that lie within laboratory property. One possibility is that fences or gates could be moved to put those areas outside the fence. Another option would be to open up those areas for tours once or twice per year, as is done at Trinity Site.
“Hanford and Oak Ridge have many of the same concerns that we have,” McGehee said.
“Hanford is moving forward with their initiative, working with various cultural resources, and integrating the community story with the lab story.” She added that some of the issues in both Hanford and Oak Ridge were different, in that their laboratory sites were often right in town.
Local peace activist Ed Grothus spoke in support of the establishment of the park.
“The bomb was the most significant event in the history of mankind, and what do we have to show for it? Some bronze plaques around the pond.”
“All over the country, people have an image of Los Alamos, and it’s often negative,” Judson said. “This would be an opportunity to present it in a more even-handed way.”
The website is at www.losalamoshistory.org