published Monday, July 2nd, 2012

A new park for the nation?

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House and in the U.S. Senate to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Approval would establish a park with sites in Tennessee, New Mexico and Washington state to preserve, interpret and make accessible the buildings, locations and artifacts related to the building of the atomic bomb. That is a topic of national and international importance. Congress should approve the legislation, though knotty issues will be have to be resolved before the park can become a reality.

The park, if approved, would include sites in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Los Alamos, N.M. and Hanford, Wash. All played central roles in the development of the bomb. Creating a far-flung park to preserve and offer insight about those places in a pivotal time in history is worthwhile. Yet doing so poses challenges.

Money, for a change, is not an issue. Much of the property in the proposed park already is controlled by either the Department of the Interior or the Department of Energy. Management and operation will be the problems.

If the new park is to become a reality, the federal agencies will have work cooperatively to manage and operate it. There’s no reason they can’t do so, though government entities often demonstrate more interest in protecting their own turf than in sharing it. That tendency will have to be overcome.

It will be harder to resolve safety issues. Los Alamos and Hanford have problems related to radiation. How the public can visit the sites without sacrificing safety remains to be answered. Issues at Oak Ridge are even more difficult. Unlike Los Alamos and Hanford, it remains heavily engaged in vital defense and scientific work. It will be hard to establish a park in a place where security and safety concerns are high.

Still, park legislation should move forward as should on-going efforts to resolve issues related to it. The new park would provide an opportunity to open a window on history that should be known to all.

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