Supporters, protesters visit Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge on opening day

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- Visitors and protesters showed up at Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge on Saturday for opening day.

The site has been at the center of controversy. The wildlife refuge is a former nuclear weapons facility where 10.3 miles of new trails opened Saturday. The plant manufactured plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs between 1952 and 1989.

According to the Associated Press, the area where plutonium was processed underwent a $7 billion cleanup but remains closed to the public. A buffer zone surrounding the manufacturing site was turned into a refuge.

Murph Widdowfield took his grandkids to the open space on Saturday to teach them about the area and hike. He used to work as a contractor at the site decades ago.

"Everyone talks about the whole thing being polluted and in my estimation, no. Not even close. It’s just plain -- thank heaven -- Jefferson County and I love it," said Widdowfield.

Protestors are outraged the site has been opened to the public. Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish worries people will take in more than just the scenery.

"It's called Alpha Radiation," said Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish. "A lot of us are neighbors and when you come out here and kick up dust and it blows into our communities, it is impacting us."

Rocky Flats is part of the larger Rocky Mountain Gateway, which includes public lands manages by a number of Denver metro-area cities as well as the National Park Service.

Last month, a judge decided the public would not be barred from using the refuge. A lawsuit had been filed claiming the government had not conducted enough research to determine whether the area was safe for public use.

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