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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Anti-nuclear activists are lining up against legislation to create national parks at Los Alamos National Laboratory and two other sites where the world's first nuclear bombs were developed, calling the plan an expensive glorification of an ugly chapter in history.
"It is a debasement of the national parks idea," said Greg Mello, a co-founder of the anti-nuclear watchdog, Los Alamos Study Group.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released a study to Congress last week that recommends establishing a national historical park to commemorate the top-secret Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said he is drafting legislation to create sites at Los Alamos; Hanford, Wash.; and Oak Ridge, Tenn.
"The secret development of the atomic bomb in multiple locations across the United States is an important story and one of the most transformative events in our nation's history," Salazar said in a release announcing the project. "The Manhattan Project ushered in the atomic age, changed the role of the United States in the world community, and set the stage for the Cold War."
Anti-nuclear activists were appalled.
"Are we really poised to make a national park out of a few shabby ruins where we built instruments of mass murder, delivered to statesmen the instruments of universal destruction, and destroyed the marriage between science and human values?," Mello wrote in an email to board members and others.
"Absolutely disgusting," responded Darwin Bond-Graham in an email. "From a fiscally conservative perspective (which everyone claims these days): surely in this 'time of belt-tightening' the Feds shouldn't waste one cent on crap like this. If the nuclear weaponeers want to do it with all private money, well good for them and their sickened and misguided souls. But not one federal or state cent!"
National Park Service spokesman David Barna defended the idea Monday, noting that there a number of national parks dedicated to significant events in the country's history that are "viewed by some people as not part of our glorious past," including sites of famous Civil War and Native American battles. There are also national parks commemorating tragedies, like the Ford Theater where President Lincoln was assassinated and Pearl Harbor.
Barna said the Park Service would be working to make the sites educational.
The Manhattan Project sites, he said, "are significant parts of our national cultural history. And before they get bulldozed over, we are in favor of preserving these places so future generations can study these events, for good or bad."