Theme park

There could soon be a new American vacation mecca. This spring Congress will decide whether yet another endangered species--nuclear missile sites--should be entrusted to its care as national parks.

Deployed in nearly 1,000 launch facilities across the U.S., the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system has operated on continuous alert for 30 years. The 1991 START Treaty called for permanent demolition of all but a few Minutemen; the disabled warheads could be opened to the public for historical and educational purposes. Currently, the U.S. Air Force and National Park Service are assessing the feasibility of preserving two sites in South Dakota, the Delta One and Delta Nine launch facilities near Rapid City. Both are attractive because of their proximity to heavily traveled parks, including Badlands and Mount Rushmore.

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Public opinion is positive--85 percent of those surveyed for the feasibility study are in favor of national missile parks, but each side has its own twist. Politicians such as South Dakota Senator Roger Porch want to expand tourism. Neighboring Lakota tribes, on the other hand, like the idea of preserving a monument to U.S. greed and destruction. Should be a popular destination.

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