Thom Mason explains ORNL's graphite reactor to visitors from the National Park Service and DOE (photo source: DOE)

Thom Mason explains ORNL’s graphite reactor to visitors from the National Park Service and DOE (photo source: DOE)

Source: The Oak Ridger | Russell Langley | March 27, 2015

“Congratulations. You have got a National Park in Oak Ridge.”

So said Vic Knox, the head of the National Park Service team that has been visiting Oak Ridge since Tuesday, to the crowd of residents who packed into the A/B Room at the Civic Center Thursday morning for the Community Open House to welcome the visitors.

The NPS and the U.S. Department of Energy have dispatched a team of experts to visit Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, N.M., and Hanford, Wash., in preparation for the coming Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

Oak Ridge is the first stop on the three-site tour. All three sites will house parts of one park — which is a first for the NPS, Knox said.

Tracy Atkins is the NPS employee in charge of working out the agreement of roles and responsibilities between the NPS and the DOE regarding the park.

She said that since the team members arrived in Oak Ridge Tuesday they have received a full tour of the DOE sites around Oak Ridge, including the Y-12 National Security Complex, the former K-25 site, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Graphite Reactor. They’ve also visitede the former Alexander Inn/Guest House.
Atkins also said the team was treated to some local favorites.

“We went to Big Ed’s Pizza Tuesday night,” she said.

Atkins said the NPS and DOE have one year from the December 2014 approval of the National Park legislation to come to an agreement on defining the roles and responsibilities of each federal agency. She said the park will work on separate funding streams from each department and there will be two sides to the interpretive story.

“DOE will tell the science story and the NPS will tell the more social story,” she said.
Atkins envisions a park that will be a draw for all types of tourists.

“The scientists, engineers, and historians will find the DOE story interesting,” Atkins said. “Others will like the social aspect of life here before, during and after the Manhattan Project.”

She also said the social aspect will give local residents a chance to really get involved in the park, a sentiment that was later echoed by Knox.

“Nail us down and tell us your stories,” Knox said, speaking from the podium. “We want to hear them.”

Atkins said pre-Manhattan Project life will not be ignored and the park will tell that story, as well.

Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch told the crowd that the delegation from Washington, D.C., is impressed with Oak Ridge hospitality.

“We have 75 years of experience in welcoming new people,” Gooch said.

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