Office of Legacy Management

LM Director Visits Manhattan Project Sites

December 4, 2017

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DOE and NPS staff visited the Trinity site, where Manhattan Project personnel detonated the world’s first nuclear device.
DOE and NPS staff visited the Trinity site, where Manhattan Project personnel detonated the world’s first nuclear device.

In October 2017, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) Director Carmelo Melendez joined other DOE and U.S. National Park Service (NPS) staff in New Mexico to be briefed on the Manhattan Project National Historical Park (MAPR) to get a better understanding of the park and related resources in the state. MAPR is managed collaboratively by DOE and NPS to preserve, interpret, and facilitate access to key historical resources associated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Manhattan Project. It incorporates three of the most significant Manhattan Project sites: Los Alamos, New Mexico; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Hanford, Washington.

The trip began on October 23 at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the museum’s director, Jim Walther, provided insights into operating a facility dedicated to telling the story of the Atomic Age. An affiliate to the Smithsonian, the museum presents exhibits and educational programs that convey the diversity of individuals and events that shaped the historical and technical context of the nuclear era.

The following day, the group traveled to the “Trinity” test site, where the Manhattan Project set off the world’s first nuclear explosion. The site is located in what is now the White Sands Missile Range. The U.S. Army controls the missile range and it arranged for Public Affairs specialists Chuck Roberts and Jim Eckles to lead the tour. Eckles, now retired after 30 years of experience at White Sands, shared how the U.S. Department of Defense handles tourists at an active missile range. Each year White Sands allows the public to visit the Trinity site on the first Saturday in April and October.

The group next traveled to Los Alamos, where Manhattan Project personnel designed and built the world’s first atomic bombs. On October 25, the Los Alamos Field Office National Security Missions Assistant Manager Jody Pugh welcomed everyone on behalf of the National Nuclear Security Administration. After an introduction to the site by Director Linda Deck of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) Bradbury Museum, the group boarded a bus with LANL Historian Ellen McGehee to explore DOE-owned sites that are part of MAPR. A highlight of the day’s tour was watching U.S. National Park Service (NPS) staff work on preserving the park’s historic Pond Cabin. After the tour, the group returned to the Bradbury Museum to view exhibits and meet with LANL Historian Alan Carr.

On day four, the group visited NPS’s Bandelier National Monument. Superintendent Jason Lott and Preservation Specialist J.T. Stark shared how the monument’s historic Frijoles Canyon Lodge was used by the Manhattan Project as living quarters and as a respite from the pressures of the laboratory. The group also learned about the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in Frijoles Canyon for more than 400 years, from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE.

Returning to Los Alamos, the group took a guided downtown tour with Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Heather McClenahan. In addition to seeing where Manhattan Project scientists lived and worked, the group visited the historic Romero Cabin to learn about the homesteaders who were displaced by the laboratory. The day ended with NPS’s Kirby–Lynn Shedlowski and Vanessa Lacayo sharing an overview of how NPS engages with the public.

In addition, Melendez, LM Director of Site Operations David Shafer, and MAPR DOE Principal Representative Tracy Atkins met with the DOE Office of Environmental Management Los Alamos Deputy Site Manager Stephen Hoffman and Attorney-Adviser Ben Underwood to discuss ongoing collaboration on the Bayo Canyon, New Mexico, Site.

The trip helped strengthen DOE and NPS’s partnership in co-managing MAPR. In addition to Director Melendez and those mentioned above, the week’s busy itinerary brought together MAPR Los Alamos DOE Site Representative Vicki Loucks, MAPR Hanford DOE Site Representative Colleen French, MAPR Oak Ridge DOE Site Representative Jonathan Sitzlar, NPS MAPR Superintendent Kris Kirby, MAPR Los Alamos NPS Site Representative Charles Strickfaden, DOE Chief Historian Erick Boyle, LM Program Analyst Padraic Benson, and MAPR Project Manager within Los Alamos County Linda Matteson.

“It was useful to learn about the broader Manhattan Project connections in the Los Alamos area,” Director Melendez noted at the end of the trip. “In particular, seeing the park sites firsthand provided us with a better understanding of the logistics associated with future public visitation. We appreciate the ongoing work by our DOE, NPS, and community partners in moving the park forward and in preserving the resources and stories of the Manhattan Project.”

DOE staff learned about the history of Ancestral Pueblo people and the Manhattan Project in Bandelier National Monument.
DOE staff learned about the history of Ancestral Pueblo people and the Manhattan Project in Bandelier National Monument.

On day four, the group visited NPS’s Bandelier National Monument. Superintendent Jason Lott and Preservation Specialist J.T. Stark shared how the monument’s historic Frijoles Canyon Lodge was used by the Manhattan Project as living quarters and as a respite from the pressures of the laboratory. The group learned about the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in Frijoles Canyon for more than 400 years, from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE.

Returning to Los Alamos, the group took a guided downtown tour with Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Heather McClenahan. In addition to seeing where Manhattan Project scientists lived and worked, the group visited the historic Romero Cabin to learn about the homesteaders who were displaced by the laboratory. The day ended with NPS’s Kirby–Lynn Shedlowski and Vanessa Lacayo sharing an overview of NPS’s public engagement initiatives. In addition, Melendez, Director of Site Operations David Shafer, and MAPR DOE Principal Representative Tracy Atkins met with the DOE Office of Environmental Management Los Alamos Deputy Site Manager Stephen Hoffman, and Attorney-Adviser Ben Underwood to discuss ongoing collaboration on the Bayo Canyon, New Mexico, Site.

The trip strengthened the DOE-NPS partnership in co-managing MAPR. Additional visitors included Vicki Loucks, MAPR Los Alamos DOE site representative; Colleen French, MAPR Hanford DOE site representative; Jonathan Sitzlar, MAPR Oak Ridge DOE site representative; Kris Kirby, NPS MAPR superintendent; Charles Strickfaden, MAPR Los Alamos NPS site representative; Eric Boyle, DOE chief historian; Padraic Benson, LM program analyst; and Linda Matteson, project manager of MAPR within Los Alamos County.

“It was useful to learn about the broader Manhattan Project connections in the Los Alamos area,” Director Melendez noted at the end of the trip. “In particular, seeing the park sites firsthand provided us with a better understanding of the logistics associated with future public visitation. We appreciate the ongoing work by our DOE, NPS, and community partners in moving the park forward and in preserving the resources and stories of the Manhattan Project.”

Participants at an NPS preservation workshop take a break from their work on the Pond Cabin, part of MAPR in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Participants at an NPS preservation workshop take a break from their work on the Pond Cabin, part of MAPR in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Photo credit: Minesh Bacrania