Sixteen miles northwest of Denver, the site where once the trigger mechanisms for nearly every nuclear weapon in the United States were made, has become the country's newest wildlife refuge. Over the warnings of some citizens groups, public access will be allowed to large portions of the site despite some residual contamination.
From 1951 until 1989 the Rocky Flats Plant manufactured the triggers and in the process released radiological and hazardous material contamination, including plutonium, uranium, beryllium and hazardous chemical compounds, into the air, ground and water surrounding the plant.
After more than a decade of environmental cleanup work, in 2005, The U.S. Department of Energy, DOE certified the environmental cleanup work at the former Rocky Flats site complete.
The Rocky Flats site encompasses approximately 6,200 acres of high prairie that has been closed to the public for more than 50 years.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall said, “as intended by Congress, the refuge will preserve a lasting wildlife and habitat legacy for future generations."
Habitat conservation will include management of xeric tallgrass and native plant communities, as well as weed control, removal and revegetation of unused roads and stream crossings, management of deer and elk populations and black-tailed prairie dog colonies, and protection of habitat for the Preble's meadow jumping mouse, a species listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Visitor use facilities will eventually include 16 miles of trails, a seasonally-staffed visitor contact station, trailheads with parking, and developed overlooks. Most of the trails will use existing roads, and public access will be by foot, bicycle, horse or car.