The legacy of Mark Bunker, Jr. is now memorialized in a free resource at Martin’s Bar west of Woodland.
On May 15, officials, family members, and others who knew Bunker gathered to commemorate the official establishment of a “loaner board” life vest post, intended to make sure that all those going on the river have adequate safety when enjoying the Columbia River.
According to witnesses, on Aug. 30, 2020, Bunker, 35, was fishing about 300 yards from the shore at Martin’s Bar when he was seen falling out of his kayak as he dropped his line, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office reported at the time. Sheriff’s deputies responded to the area with a boat, diver and a drone to search for the subject, and received additional support from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Coast Guard, as well as other fishermen.
After two days of searching, Bunker’s body was recovered, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Hopefully this will prevent another loss of life down here,” Port of Woodland Commissioner Bob Wile said at the dedication.
Wile said the port has worked hard to get the board in place, adding it was brought forth through help from Safe Kids Lower Columbia, a group that supports safety on the waters.
Both Wile and Woodland Police Chief Jim Kelly commented on how much Bunker enjoyed the river, with the latter remarking it was a fitting tribute to have his name attached to something designed to allow for that enjoyment among others.
“Mark’s name will now be synonymous with water safety,” Kelly said.
Daniela “Donny” Conner spearheaded the efforts for the loaner board locally. She said grant funding for the board was about $250, not including supplies provided by the port. She added a similar board would go up at Austin Point to the south of Martin’s Bar, and another one in Castle Rock, though that was coordinated through that city’s police department.
Conner said she got involved with the Safe Kids program about seven years ago. She added that Woodland will now house the most loaner boards in Cowlitz County with two others located at Horseshoe Lake.