Mark Peters

Mark Peters and his mother, Elsie Peters

Look around Longview, and you’re likely to find pieces of Mark Peters’ family.

They can be found in the form of buildings Peters’ late father, contractor Amos Peters, helped erect. He built Campus Towers, the eight-story retirement home operated by Northlake Baptist Church. He’s also responsible for constructing The Daily News building, the Triangle Bowl and, most famously, the Nutty Narrows bridge, Longview’s first squirrel bridge.

Back then, Amos Peters’ lived by the slogan that he was a builder of the “smallest to the tallest.”

He dreamed up the first squirrel bridge on Olympia Way in 1963 after spotting two tree branches nearly touch from opposite sides of the street. He began wondering whether squirrels could use an overpass to cross safely. He sketched the bridge on a napkin and pitched it to Longview City Council. The idea quickly caught on, and in recent years four additional bridges have since been installed in around and near Lake Sacajawea. The original bridge has received international attention.

“Like R.A. Long, dad too was a man of vision for Longview,” Peters said of his father, who died in 1984.

Peters’ history in Longview can be traced back to 1923, when his father moved to the town with his family. He was one of 12 kids, and the family lived in a tent on the banks of the Cowlitz River. Peters said he’s unsure how long they lived there.

“They were a rather poor family,” Peters said.

His father’s family moved frequently, usually to find work, but his dad eventually returned to Longview. It was “the best and most beautiful place to live,” he remembered his father saying. Even later in life, when Peters’ father explored parts of Europe with his daughter, he always was glad to return home.

“My dad visited some of the most beautiful spots in the world, and when he came back to Longview, Longview was the best,” he said. “He would say, ‘Those places have nothing on us.’ ”

Peters said his dad was always thinking about ways to better Longview. He grew up with the town, witnessed the development of the mills and crafted his own plans to better the area. After his dad started his construction company, Peters said remembers taking a family trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, in the 1960s. His dad wanted to learn how build high-rise buildings, and he used those in Vancouver as inspiration.

“He wasn’t a highly educated person, but he was excellent at two things: one he was a great bidder … great with numbers, and he had a fantastic vision,” he said.

Peters lamented that his dad’s forward-thinking mentality is lacking in Longview today. He said too many people fight change without offering an alternative.

“You can’t just be against something. You have to be for something,” he said. “You can’t or shouldn’t be just saying ‘No, no, no, I’ve got my share of the pie. I like it the way it is. I don’t like change. Let’s just be against whatever the change is.”

“If R.A. Long were alive today, he’d probably be rolling over in his grave because we need to change the phrase, ‘We can do better’ to, ‘We did do better,’ “ he said.

Long also would be concerned “about the hurdles and obstacles that are put in front of ... quality growth and development.” He said it’s a vocal minority that often influences decisions.

Still, Peters said he has hope for Longview’s future. Longview is where he was born and raised, and it’s where he raised his own kids. He said it’s the “people, the history, the beauty and the uniqueness” that make Longview what it is.

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