by Carl Vest
On the northern edge of South Hill the City of Puyallup has developed an outstanding recreational park. The centerpiece of this leisure area is a body of water called Bradley Lake.
The park is named after the land’s former owner, Mr. Ward Bradley. He acquired it in 1955. Ward Bradley was born on October 9, 1918, in Jamestown, North Dakota. He grew up on a farm. In 1938 he enlisted in the Navy. He left the military in 1945 after having served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II.
In the 1950s Bradley won a Federal Civil Service appointment as a postal mail carrier on South Hill. On his route was a farm owned by M.J. Combs, located at the eastern end of what was then 104th Street East. After some discussion Mr. Combs agreed to swap this farm for some property Bradley owned in the Columbia Basin. At the time 104th Street was a gravel road off Meridian. There were no buildings on either side of the road between the farm house and Meridian. The nearest neighbor was Louis Barth, on a hill to the west. On the south was the property of Dr. McKay, who had a medical practice in his home.
When Bradley acquired the property a peat bog was located at the site of the current lake. Since there was a market for dried peat he gradually began a mining effort to remove it. He did this as a part time pursuit along with the help of some hired labor. Mostly it was done during the summer so the peat could be stacked to dry for sale during the winter.
For over 30 years Bradley systematically removed peat from the bog. He started initially on the north end and worked toward the south. However, he never completely finished and in 1980 hired a contractor to remove the balance. The company worked approximately two months using a track powered dragline bucket. For drying the peat was stockpiled around the farm house and in other buildings. In total Bradley estimates that three to four hundred thousand yards of peat was removed. During that period peat sold from $2.50 to $5.00 a cubic yard, delivered.
After the peat was removed Bradley built a dam on the north end of the former bog. It took about 6,000 yards of fill to create this barrier. A clay core was placed in the wall along with a concrete spillway. Rain soon filled the hole and thus Bradley Lake was formed. The maximum depth in the southern two-thirds of the pond is about 20 feet, with 8 to 12 feet being the maximum on the north end.
The city first attempted to purchase the property in 1994. A bond issue was proposed but was turned down by the voters. In 1997 the project was reconsidered and again placed on the ballot. The voters approved the acquisition in 1998. Since then the City has created the park that is now enjoyed by all.
Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.