Fernald Nature Preserve Experience

10 years ago a historic transformation happened at one of the many uranium sites. The former Fernald Plant was transformed into the beautiful Fernald Nature Preserve.

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to attend the Weapons to Wetlands event by the US Department of Energy & Fernald Nature Preserve Visitors Center.

When I began pulling up to the site, I felt something powerful. Looking around I could only see trees, grass, and lakes – I couldn’t even imagine this being the site of a toxic uranium site. After following winding roads, I finally made it to the visitors center. The parking lot was packed – countless cars filled with former employees, local residents, and activists who helped make the nature preserve possible.

The first landmark I saw was an old shipping container. To make the preserve possible, the Department of Energy hired uranium specialists to take the toxic chemicals out of the ground and into one of 3,776 silos. After taking a quick walk around the small .1 mile nature trail I ventured inside to join the rest of the celebration.

Once I walked inside, it became very clear that this was more than a celebration of a nature preserve, it felt more like a high school reunion. Employees from the former uranium were introducing their grandchildren to their former co-workers. Activists who travel around the country gave hugs and support to the local residents. Most powerful was the seeing the exchange of “Good Ol’ Day” stories.

Shortly after, the program began. Countless Department of Energy employees spoke about the model that the nature preserve created and how they tried to replicate it across the country. We heard from old managers of the plant, some of whom could not hold back their tears when speaking of the beauty that came of the nature preserve. The room was stunned with silence throughout the entire program. Every employee had a story of their work and the damage done to their body afterwards.

Changing the former uranium site to a nature preserve could never take away the physical, mental, and costly pains caused from improper protection at the uranium site, but seeing the shift brought a small sense of comfort to those in pain.

Check out our slideshow below to see pictures of the event.

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