By Arin McKenna
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 10:08 am
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park (MPNHP) Committee has been quietly meeting behind the scenes for months, looking at how Los Alamos can prepare for having a new national park within its boundaries.
Three subcommittees on transportation, signage and amenities/attractions presented their reports last week.
“Our major issue has been, how many cars, and the need for parking,” said County Councilor David Izraelevitz, who chairs the transportation committee.
The subcommittee is using traffic counts for peak visitation periods such as ScienceFest and Balloon Fiesta to help in developing a plan.
Project Manager/Assistant to the County Manager Linda Matteson noted that the committee has also been looking at issues with Bathtub Row. The Historical Society (LAHS) will be opening Hans Bethe House as a Cold War Museum late this year.
The committee supports the LAHS plan to make a pedestrian loop that runs from the back door of the Los Alamos Historical Museum to Bathtub Row. That route avoids the street and actually leads to the front of the houses.
Public Works Director Philo Shelton is also looking into making Bathtub Row a pedestrian zone, which would reduce the speed limit to 20 miles an hour. Other options discussed include blocking off the street or making it one-way.
The subcommittee has also discussed RV parking, and has asked that an option for that be included in design planning for DP Road.
The signage subcommittee is looking at how to develop wayfinding that will not only direct visitors to retail establishments and local attractions, but how to develop an overarching design theme. They were impressed with a presentation by a signage consultant.
“As much as this town freaks out whenever we hire a consultant, there’s a reason, and I don’t want to do this for the first time out in this town,” subcommittee Chair/County Councilor Kristin Henderson said. “I’d rather have somebody who’s done it before advise us, especially considering how important it is to the economic development of this town.”
The consultant recommended signage that could be placed throughout the state, at the outskirts of town and within Los Alamos itself that would “evolve” as it became more specific, but share a graphic theme that would help visitors know at a glance they are on course.
MPNHP Committee member David Jolly asked whether there would be a budget for such things as signage or hiring a consultant.
“We’ll need money to get to the next level,” Jolly said.
Councilor James Chrobocinski, who also sits on the committee, said that would have to be addressed as the need arose but that council is interested in supporting the park.
Matteson is to present any funding requests to County Manager Harry Burgess for budget consideration. Committee members suggested that other funding sources may be available as well, such as New Mexico Department of Tourism grants.
Jolly asked if the committee should ask the consultant to present a proposal. Henderson responded that it may be premature, until decisions about such things as transportation, parking and which attractions will be included define the scope of the signage plan.
County Communications Specialist II Leslie Bucklin announced that Atomic City Transit’s new transit guide – which will publish shortly – now has additional visitor wayfinding information.
Izraelevitz also asked for a way to insure that signage could be updated quickly to reflect changing conditions.
Chrobocinski, who chairs the attractions/amenities subcommittee, stressed, “We do want to make sure that we’re promoting what all there is to do in Los Alamos, in addition to just the park. We want to make this a benefit for all the businesses in town.”
One issue the committee has focused on is how to make use of the Kiwanis Park at the entrance to Los Alamos.
“We feel it should be a place that is a quick stop, where you stop and use the bathroom and find out where to go,” Chrobocinski said. “It should be pointing you into town. We don’t want people to get stuck there. We want them in town where the businesses are.”
The subcommittee is leaning toward recommending a kiosk with maps, information and Quick Response (QR) Codes directing tourists to the visitor center. They have also discussed ways to upgrade the park’s amenities, such as making the temporary reproduction of the Manhattan Project gatehouse permanent and creating temporary (not overnight) RV parking.
The MPNHP committee’s next meeting is at noon Feb. 23 in room 330 at the municipal building. All meetings are open to the public.