Uncas Road bridge honors Wally Bowman

Brennan LaBrie
blabrie@ptleader.com
Posted 6/19/19

As Superintendent of County Roads, Wally Bowman didn’t want a new bridge built over Salmon Creek on West Uncas Road in Discovery Bay. But when he was gone, the bridge went in and, when completed, was named in his honor.

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Uncas Road bridge honors Wally Bowman

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As Superintendent of County Roads, Wally Bowman didn’t want a new bridge built over Salmon Creek on West Uncas Road in Discovery Bay. But when he was gone, the bridge went in and, when completed, was named in his honor.

Bowman, a lifelong resident, was Superintendent of the Jefferson County Road Maintenance and Operations Department for many years, and in 1963, had built West Uncas Road with a culvert under it to allow spawning salmon to reach Salmon Creek and smolts to swim down into Discovery Bay.

But in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a circuit court order directing the state to repair or replace all culverts on Washington salmon streams, agreeing with the federated tribes’ claim that clogged or steep culverts block fish migration.

Bowman’s Salmon Creek culvert had to go, and the county began planning to build an 80-foot concrete bridge over the river, allowing the creek to flow freely.

Bowman was initially displeased to see the product of his hard work destroyed. “He thought this was the height of lunacy,” said John Sabella, the husband of Bowman’s daughter, Libby Sabella-Bowman. However, he grew to accept the project as he learned of its importance to the Salmon Creek salmon population, said Bowman’s lifelong friend Ray Hunter.

Bowman passed away on February 21, 2016, at the age of 89. It was Hunter who decided to approach the city with the proposal of naming the new bridge after Bowman, with the support of Sabella-Bowman and the Discovery Bay community. Former county commissioner Kathleen Kler made the dedication of the bridge in his name one of her final pieces of legislation as commissioner.

On May 31, a ceremony was held at the bridge, to officially designate it the Wally Bowman bridge and celebrate the man Hunter called the “patriarch of the community for many years.” Over 80 people attended the ceremony on the quiet country road, including county commissioners David Sullivan, Kler, and her successor Greg Brotherton.

NOSD and Washington Conservation Corps were also represented.

“We wanted to honor Wally and what a good neighbor he was, what a good farmer, rancher and just all around good citizen,” Hunter said.

Bowman was born in Port Townsend in 1926 to a cattle-raising family that settled in the area around the turn of the 20th century. He grew up on East Uncas Road and attended the Discovery Bay Grade School, before attending Port Townsend High School and graduating with the class of 1944.

“He traveled, in the course of his life, one half-mile due west to West Uncas Road, Sabella said. It was here that he bought 110 acres of property and began raising cattle, a prize-winning herd for show, and a commercial herd for locker beef, up to about 100 head at one point.

“He spent nearly every day of his life in the valley,” Sabella said. “His cows were quite celebrated. Many Port Townsend families raised their children on Bowman Beef.”

“He was one of the best people at animal husbandry that there was,” Hunter said. “He really took care of his cattle.” Hunter added that Bowman gained knowledge of veterinary science and could be called upon by his neighbors to treat their cattle as well.

He balanced his ranch with his position with the county for 32 years, during which time he was responsible for building or repairing most of the roads in Discovery Bay, Hunter said.

“He was a Ronald Reagan Republican, but other than that he was a good man, a good neighbor,” Hunter joked.

“He was just a generally beloved fixture in the local community,” Sabella said.

Sabella and Sabella-Bowman still run the farm, and are raising hay while they repair the surrounding fence in hopes of bringing cattle back to the ranch.

Sabella-Bowman hopes to preserve the forested parcel of their property as a local amenity. In the meantime, she and her husband are continuing her father’s task of helping the salmon and the creek they live in, which flows through their property, by working with NOSC on restoring the creekside habitat.

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