LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — Tucked away in one of northern New Mexico’s pristine mountain canyons is an old log cabin that was the birthplace not of a famous person, but a top-secret mission that forever changed the world.
Pond Cabin, along with a nearby small and stark building where the second person died while developing the nuclear bomb, are among a number of structures scattered in and around the modern day Los Alamos National Laboratory that are being proposed as sites for a new national park commemorating the Manhattan Project.
It’s an odd place for a national park, many admit. Besides the fact that some of the sites are behind the gates to what is supposed to be one of the most secure research facilities in the world, nuclear critics have called the plan an expensive glorification of an ugly chapter in history.
“It is a debasement of the national parks idea,” anti-nuclear watchdog Los Alamos Study Group co-founder Greg Mello said when the Interior Department two years ago recommended creating national parks at Los Alamos; Hanford, Wash.; and Oak Ridge, Tenn.
He remains opposed to the plan, saying it will not provide a comprehensive picture of the Manhattan Project, and he notes that extensive interpretative museums concerning development of the nuclear bomb already exist.
Supporters, however, note that good or bad, the Manhattan Project transformed history. And they argue that key sites that have not already been bulldozed should be preserved and the public should be allowed to visit them.
“It isn’t glorifying anything,” says Ellen McGehee, historical facilities manager for Los Alamos labs. “It’s really more a commemoration ... History is what it is. We can’t pick and choose what’s historically significant.”
The park service, she said, would help people learn about the controversies, the people and the social, political and military legacy surrounding development of nuclear weapons.