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Los Alamos National Laboratory seeking national-park designation via The Denver Post

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — 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, rather, a top-secret mission that forever changed the world.

Pond Cabin, along with a nearby small, stark building where a person died while developing the nuclear bomb, is 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,” Greg Mello, co-founder of the anti-nuclear watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, 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 LANL. “It’s really more a commemoration. … History is what it is. We can’t pick and choose what’s historically significant.”

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Potential park properties include some buildings in downtown Los Alamos, a town essentially created to support the lab, as well as 17 buildings in six “industrial sites” within the lab’s fence. They include the V-site, where the first atomic bomb to be detonated at the Trinity Site was assembled, as well as the areas where the Little Boy and Fat Man nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, were assembled.

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