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He worked to protect this Tri-Cities natural area. Now he’s being honored there after his untimely death

Courtesy of Mike Robinson

A Tri-Cities man who worked to protect some of the area’s last natural, undeveloped space is being honored with a special monument nine months after his sudden death.

The monument in Bofer Canyon is made largely from rock, with a plaque bearing Al Potter’s name and reading, “Ride in Peace.” It will be dedicated Saturday.

Potter, 59, died in March, apparently suffering an aneurysm while mountain biking.

The avid cyclist helped lead a charge several years ago to clean up the hills south of Kennewick — an area popular with cyclists and other outdoor recreators, but overflowing with illegally dumped garbage, from furniture to construction debris.

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Al Potter and Mike Robinson survey a pile of trash dumped along a private road in the foothills south of Kennewick in this 2012 file photo. File Tri-City Herald

He also supported friend Sue Frost’s effort to buy land in the area for preservation. She’s been able to purchase some of it, though not all.

“If he’d been given enough time, he’d have found a way (to save it all),” said Frost, who arranged for the monument on land she owns in the canyon.

“His tie to the canyon was in his heart,” Frost told the Herald. “Now we’re going to get to remember him every time we’re down there.”

Potter grew up Virginia and moved west for college.

He studied engineering at Montana State University and eventually found his way to the Tri-Cities and the Hanford site, his obituary said.

In 1997, he started Potter Engineering, working as a subcontractor for the state. Last year, he hired on at the city of Pasco as a civil engineer.

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Courtesy of Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, a longtime friend, said Potter was always up for an adventure.

The pair cycled countless miles together around the Tri-Cities and beyond.

A favorite trip was their “60 miles of bad road” excursions in the Wallowa Mountains.

“Great friendships are generally developed by people who share great adventures. I had a ton of great adventures with Al,” Robinson said. “I could go on forever.”

The pair, along with a third friend, Russ Burtner, worked to clean up land around Highway 397 after noticing a growing garbage problem from their bikes.

They found everything from water bottles, scraps of paper and other litter, to furniture, TV sets, tires and landscaping and construction debris.

They mobilized volunteers and worked with local officials.

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A mock up of the plaque that’s being dedicated Dec. 15 to Al Potter. Courtesy of Sue Frost

The Herald started chronicling their work in December 2012. Within six months, 20-plus tons of garbage was removed and several people were cited for illegal dumping.

The state Department of Ecology recognized Potter, Robinson and Burtner with an Environmental Excellence Award.

Robinson said Potter — who left behind wife Penny and two stepchildren — was “one hell of a guy.” His death hurts and “we’re still all feeling the results,” Robinson said.

But the monument is something special.

“Al worked for the benefit of not only his friends, but the community. (The monument) is an honor for someone who tried to do for others,” Robinson said.

The dedication is at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Robinson is advising people traveling by car to start at Trek Bicycle, 3801 S. Zintel Way, Kennewick, and follow signs to the parking area behind Zintel Canyon Dam.

Cyclists are invited to ride their mountain bikes to the dedication.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, sschilling@tricityherald.com
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