Source: Knoxville News Sentinel | Bob Fowler | November 13, 2015
Ruth Huddleston, who watched meters and adjusted dials in a room in what was a secret city during World War II, kept tabs on calutrons, used during the Manhattan Project to separate enriched uranium for the world’s first atomic bomb.
She joined more than 500 people in the Oak Ridge High School auditorium Thursday to celebrate the city’s entry into the unique new park.
“It’s something wonderful to happen,” said the 90-year-old Oliver Springs resident of the city’s official entrance into the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
Oak Ridge, along with Hanford, Wash., and Los Alamos, N.M., became parts of the new park in a memorandum of agreement inked Tuesday in Washington D.C., between the U.S. Departments of Interior and Energy.
“Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project changed the course of history, and opened a chapter of development for mankind which continues 70 years later,” said event emcee Warren Gooch, the mayor of Oak Ridge.
“The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will document and celebrate the life, times and accomplishments of tens of thousands of the best, brightest, hardest working, patriotic people from around the world, who have worked and sacrificed on behalf of our country over the last 70 years and continue to do so today.”
Gooch said attaining national park status has been an effort over a decade in the making.
The designation “establishes us as a tourist destination,” said Roane County Executive Ron Woody. Two of the three components of Oak Ridge’s massive effort to enrich uranium for the bomb, the X-10 plant — now Oak Ridge National Laboratory — and the former K-25 site — now called East Tennessee Technology Park — are in Roane County. The Y-12 nuclear weapons plant is in Anderson County.
Operation of the new park will be a partnership between the Department of Energy and the National Park Service, which in itself is a unique arrangement, said Kimberly Rasar, an associate deputy undersecretary with DOE.
Allowing limited access to current operations within ongoing DOE missions is another singularly different part of this park, she said.
Park Service executive Barclay Trimble said park operations will be overseen by a joint board of directors from DOE and the park service. He said an interim park superintendent will be appointed later this fall.
Now that the pomp and circumstance has faded, the challenging work begins. Officials are striving to determine how best to tell the complex Manhattan Project tale, where more than 600,00 people left their homes to embark on a secret mission.
Gooch said a planning group meets Friday to brainstorm that process.
Even in its infancy, some park components in Oak Ridge are coming together, while the national headquarters are based in Denver.
The National Park Service has set up temporary headquarters for the Oak Ridge location in the American Museum of Science and Energy, 300 S. Tulane Avenue.
Bus tours of the Y-12 National Security Complex and the national lab are being made available, Gooch said, and many Manhattan Project artifacts are already on display in the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge.
He said more than 200 oral histories of Manhattan Project pioneers are available in the Oak Ridge Public Library.