More than sixty years ago, when the Atomic Energy Commission decided to place one of thirteen nuclear-weapons plants on a windy plain sixteen miles northwest of Denver, few people lived nearby. Rocky Flats was just that — a largely flat, rocky area by the foothills, with few houses nearby. Just the place to build plutonium pits for nuclear triggers — if you didn't consider that Denver was just downwind. "Good news today," pronounced a Rocky Mountain News headline in announcing the federal plum in 1951.
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From 1953 to 1989, the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant did most of its work in secrecy — until June 1989, when the FBI raided the plant, searching for evidence of alleged environmental crimes. The plant stopped production and ultimately was named a Superfund site.
Almost $7 billion and ten years ago, the property was proclaimed clean — clean enough to become a national wildlife refuge. Over 6,000 acres were transferred to U.S. Fish and Wildlife (just over 1,000 acres at the center remain the property of the Department of Energy and forever off limits), but the refuge has never been opened. Now, though, after funding was finally approved, the feds are looking at opening the refuge to the public next year. And so they want to talk with neighbors — many of whom have just moved into the area bordering the plant over the past few years, since the Candelas development was approved — about what they want to see on the vast spread of open space.
"Share your ideas and help us shape the future of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge," urges the flier for this first sharing session, set for 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Parkview Swim and Fitness Club, at 19865 West 94th Avenue in Arvada. Find more information on the meeting, and Rocky Flats in general, here.