Follow the Great Miami River route (SR 128) north. Between Miamitown and Ross (left on Willey Road) the Fernald Preserve covers a large, flat terrace above the river. The tiny village of Fernald gave its name to the massive, and for a while infamous, uranium refinery built in the early 1950s. Some of the Cold War’s finest uranium was produced here, by workers proud to serve their country’s efforts, willing to keep its secrets, and happy for the prosperity it brought to their community.

But after a couple of accidents, rising health concerns, and a national media scandal, a 4.3 billion dollar clean up was begun in the 1980s. Today the land is a restored prairie, more or less as it may have been encountered by the first white settlers in 1806, except that the eerie, rectangular ponds echo the contaminated footprints of the manufacturing plants and waste stockpiles.

Much of the radioactive debris was shipped across the country, but much was also sealed in the giant, surreal mound (the “On Site Disposal Facility” or “OSDF” in official Department of Energy parlance) that dominates the eastern horizon here. Earth architecture again speaks of eternity, as the Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management will be monitoring the aquifer beneath the mound forever.
(10995 Hamilton Cleves Hwy, 513-648-6000)

The beautifully re-purposed warehouse that is now the Fernald Preserve Visitor Center contains exhibits telling the many complex histories of the site.

Great Miami Valley



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