A bill christening that portion of the highway unanimously passed the Wyoming Senate on Thursday and likely will be signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead on Wednesday, said Mead spokesman Renny MacKay. The legislation, House Bill 139, previously passed …
Stretch to be renamed for Wyoming veterans
Much of the stretch of U.S. 14-A between Powell and Cody has been widened to five lanes in the last decade or two, and now the highway looks to be getting a new name as well.
The Wyoming Legislature has passed a bill naming the 23 miles of roadway between Powell and Cody the “Wyoming Veterans Memorial Highway.”
A bill christening that portion of the highway unanimously passed the Wyoming Senate on Thursday and likely will be signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead on Wednesday, said Mead spokesman Renny MacKay. The legislation, House Bill 139, previously passed the House on a unanimous vote.
In introducing the bill on the House floor in late January, state Rep. Dave Bonner, R-Powell, said the legislation was not a “feel-good bill — it’s a meaningful bill to veterans.”
Bonner said he sponsored the bill at the request of the local veterans who led the effort to construct the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park in Cody.
The Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park actually sits off Highway 14, near the old Yellowstone Regional Airport terminal. However, Bonner said the veterans chose the 14-A stretch because the memorial park was, in large part, developed and established by veterans from Powell and Cody.
Bonner, who also is the publisher of the Tribune, said it’s appropriate for the distinctive and “wonderful new piece of highway” to be named for veterans.
He noted the city of Powell’s veterans memorial sits at the beginning of the stretch on the west end of Powell. Then, Bonner said, 14-A runs through Heart Mountain farming district, where 215 homesteads were awarded to WWII veterans in the late 1940s.
“There is a significant and rich veteran history in that farmland out there that today is marvelously productive, and it lies on both sides of this highway, 14-A,” Bonner told his fellow legislators.
Also just off the highway, Bonner said, sits the remains of the former Heart Mountain Relocation Center, where around 14,000 Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. An interpretative learning center is under construction near the former camp site.
“Again, quite a standing presence of veteran history,” he said.
Up to $5,000 of state money was allocated in the bill to help fund the construction and installation of two signs for the highway, each 50 square feet in size. The state money must be matched dollar-for-dollar by private sources, for a total cost of up to $10,000.
News of the bill’s success in the Legislature was greeted with enthusiasm by local veterans who first proposed naming the road in honor of veterans.
Paul Rodriguez of Powell said he and other members of the Wyoming Korean War Veterans Association first considered asking legislators to name the road in honor of Korean War veterans.
“But then, with so much going on with veterans now, we thought our best chances would be naming it the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Highway” to honor veterans from all wars, he said.
Buck Wilkerson of Cody, a member of the association, helped spearhead the effort to name the highway. He said someone asked if he thought the matching money could be raised locally.
“I told them, ‘We’ll come up with the money for the signs; just go ahead and approve the bill,’” he said Monday.
Other members of the group who worked to rename the highway were Gary Troxel of Cody and Dean Roberts of Powell.
Local veterans headed up efforts to build the Wyoming Korean War Veterans Memorial west of Cody. When that was complete, they turned their attention to building the Wyoming World War II Veterans Memorial.
Bonner said U.S. 14-A is the first highway named by the Wyoming Legislature.
The only other named highway in the state is the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, named by the federal government, he said.
Bonner said naming one roadway likely was opening the door to others by setting a precedent.
“My answer to that is simply this: veterans, through their service, know all about precedent. Some set precedent with their lives around the world as they were serving in the interest and cause of freedom for this country,” he said.
The bill was co-sponsored by local Reps. Pat Childers and Sam Krone, both R-Cody, and by Sens. Hank Coe, R-Cody, and Ray Peterson, R-Cowley.