U.S. National Park Service tour Ranger Kalina Hildebrandt explains the history of the Parkway in Richland to participants from all over the area.

The U.S. National Park Service, as a part of its mission at the B Reactor, Manhattan Project National Historical Site, began this summer offering walking tours of historical places around Howard Amon Park in Richland.

The Observer and about 14 other people met National Park Service Ranger Kalina Hildebrandt under the flagpole at the Richland Community Center. She was assisted by summer intern, Alexana Bueno, who is studying nursing at Eastern Washington University.

Hildebrandt explained the history of Richland including the treaties with the tribes and the establishment of farming in the area to a group of residents from Benton City, Kennewick, West Richland and even Minnesota.

Hildebrandt had heart-wrenching statements from Richland residents who were abruptly told to leave their homes and farms in the area in 1943 when the U.S. government seized their land for the secret project to create plutonium for a nuclear bomb.

Hildebrandt described how segregation at Hanford and Richland meant many of the black workers lived in Pasco where it could take an hour and a half to travel to the work site over an old bridge at the site of the Cable Bridge

The statements from early project workers read by some of the walkers from cards provided to them, came to life when a tour participant who had grown up in an “A” government alphabet house described what life was like when her father took a job at the secret project.

She explained that the needs of the families in the alphabet houses were provide by their government landlord. Coal was delivered for heating. If a window broke, someone came to fix it.

It was a wonderful place to live, although in the early days without trees, she recalled, dust would cover everything inside almost every day.

The free tour lasted about an hour and a half. The next one will be on Aug. 2 and no signup is required.