The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is slated to open sometime this summer, making available miles of trails to nature lovers. But if they're also fans of history, they might appreciate knowing that they're hiking across a former nuclear weapons plant that produced plutonium triggers for bombs.
The signage that will educate visitors to the refuge is still under discussion; a visitors' center that will tell the story of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant has been postponed until at least 2019. But in the meantime, some refuge opponents schooled the Denver Board of Education at an April 26 meeting.
This weekend marks the fortieth anniversary of the Rocky Flats Truth Force, a group of demonstrators who blocked the railroad tracks leading into the top-secret Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, located sixteen miles upwind of Denver, that by 1978 had been in operation for more than two decades. The protests continued through the year, resulting in dozens of arrests.
But the protests have never really stopped, although much of the action has moved to courtrooms, meetings and public hearings as opponents explain why the property, shut down after a federal raid in 1989, should never be opened to the public, not even after a $7 billion cleanup. But that cleanup focused on the 1,000-plus acres at the heart of the site, which are still under the Department of Energy; the 6,000-plus acres of the refuge, now in the hands of the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife, were not remediated.
Which means it is not an appealing place for school field trips, as Bonnie Graham-Reed and Marian Whitney of Rocky Flats Right to Know, among others, told the Denver Public Schools board on April 26, arguing that the threat of residual radioactive and chemical contamination at and around the former plutonium manufacturing facility make it unsafe for students and educators. Six other school districts, including the Boulder Valley School District, St. Vrain Valley School District, Westminster Public Schools, Adams 14, Adams 12 and Jefferson County Public Schools, have already adopted policies banning field trips to Rocky Flats.
After the public-comment portion of the meeting, boardmember Lisa Flores — who told the group she'd been arrested protesting at Rocky Flats when she was a minor, back in 1988 — introduced a proposal banning DPS-sponsored field trips to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The motion passed without dissent.
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