House & Senate Hold Hearings on MP Park Legislation

House & Senate Hold Hearings on MP Park Legislation

Sec. of Interior Salazar visiting the B Reactor in Hanford in 2011. Photo courtesy of the Tri-City Herald

The Congress will take another major step towards the creation of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park  by holding hearings on legislation to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. 

Senator Jeff Bingaman is holding hearings on S. 3300 at 3 PM on Wednesday, June 27, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 366. Congressman Doc Hastings will hold hearings on H.R. 5987 at 9 AM on Thursday, June 28 in the Longworth House Office Building, room 1324. 

The bills would establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park at sites in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford, Washington.  This is the first recognition of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret effort to make an atomic bomb in World War II, in the national park system. 

In 2004, the Atomic Heritage Foundation testified on the initial legislation to authorize a study to determine whether a Manhattan Project Historical Park would be appropriate. Seven years later, the Department of the Interior, with the support of the Department of Energy, recommended the creation of a park in July 2011. Today, the three communities of Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Hanford are unanimously behind the new park. 

The Energy Communities Alliance’s Chairman Tom Beehan, mayor of the City of Oak Ridge, will testify on Wednesday before the Senate committee, saying, “We feel that now is the time to pass a bill that will lead to the establishment of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park…We should work to open this park while some Manhattan Project veterans are still alive and see their work recognized by the nation.”  Of the 130,000 people who worked on the project, the youngest are now approaching 90 years old. 

On Thursday, the House hearings will have a panel representing the three prospective Manhattan Project sites. Heather McClenahan, executive director of the Los Alamos Historical Society, will emphasize that the Manhattan Project story must be told. “It is the story of unleashing a mysterious force of nature and of fostering fear and uncertainty about the future of humankind…It is a scientific story, a soldier’s story, a spy story, and a human story.” 

D. Ray Smith, historian from Oak Ridge, will comment that “National park status for Oak Ridge has long been a dream of historians in the East Tennessee area. We understand the value the National Park Service brings to an area’s history.”

Gary Petersen, Vice President of Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC), representing the communities in the Hanford area, will reinforce the unanimous support of the three Manhattan Project sites. “All three of our communities have passed resolutions supporting the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, and we have been united in our support of this bill.” 

At the hearings, Members of Congress and their committee staff will hear a loud and consistent refrain in favor of establishing a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The new park will open many long-secret facilities to the public and recognize the veterans whose patriotic dedication, innovative thinking and resolute spirit were essential to the success of the project. 

For too long the history has been cloaked in secrecy. It is time to unveil the past so we can understand its complex legacy for today and make more informed decisions about our future.