Update on the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Update on the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

National Park Service centennial logo. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

It has been a busy few months for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

Late this summer, the National Park Service announced that Kris Kirby will serve as the Park’s new superintendent. Kirby, who officially takes charge on October 16, brings to the position 20 years of experience with the National Park Service. Most recently, she served as Chief of Business & Revenue Management at Yosemite National Park. The Atomic Heritage Foundation recognizes Tracy Atkins and Charlie Strickfaden for doing a great job as interim superintendents and welcomes Kris to her new post. We look forward to working with the new team!

In addition, the Park Service has recently completed a draft foundation document for the Manhattan Project NHP. Every national park has a foundation document that addresses the park’s purpose, significance, resources and values, interpretive themes, and special mandates or commitments. The document establishes a baseline for park planning and interpretive activities, and provides basic guidance for planning and management decisions. The draft foundation document can be accessed here. Public comments on the draft are due by October 10, 2016.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service has a presence at each of the three sites. At Los Alamos, ranger Kirk Singer holds talks for visitors, explaining the history of the Manhattan Project and putting it in the larger context of World War II history. A former Marine, Singer is particularly knowledgeable about World War II in the Pacific.

Niki Nicholas serves as the manager of the Oak Ridge park unit in addition to her duties as the superintendent of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Along with ranger Robbie Meyer, Nicholas brings great energy and enthusiasm to the job, recruiting volunteers and orchestrating a program on “Secrecy, Security and Spies.” Oak Ridge has organized a ranger-led bike ride that explores Oak Ridge’s history and a walking tour featuring Jackson Square, the Alexander Inn Guest House, and the Chapel on the Hill. On September 24, the NPS partnered with the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra for a season-opening concert celebrating the National Park Service’s centennial.

Hanford, too, played host to a musical event. The Mid-Columbia Mastersingers organized concerts in the historic B Reactor on September 30 and October 2. Before the concerts, reporter Annette Cary noted, “The performances are believed to be the first choral concerns worldwide to take place in a decommissioned reactor. The program will explore the history of Hanford and B Reactor and reflect on themes of war, peace and scientific achievement.” Other events at Hanford have included an open house for the Hanford Collection Repository, which preserves a variety of artifacts from the U.S. Department of Energy related to Hanford’s history.

Events commemorating the National Park Service’s centennial will continue throughout the remainder of 2016. The Park Service has also extended its “Every Kid in a Park” initiative so that every fourth grader in the country has a free pass to NPS sites for a year.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation applauds these developments, some of which are covered here by the Tri-City Herald and Oak Ridge Today. As presented in its foundation document, the National Park Service promises to engage visitors in learning about the “secret cities,” appreciating the Manhattan Project’s revolutionary scientific and engineering advances, and reflecting on the dawn of the nuclear age and its legacy for today. With many initiatives underway, NPS is off to a great start.