Ryane's dream parking lot coming true after 12 years of red tape

A 15-year old boy from New London, Minnesota took on what should have been a fairly straightforward community project, creating a small parking lot for people who use a busy trail near his home.

That was 12 years ago. And the lot still isn't done.

Instead, just off Highway 31, a simple patch of land serves as a makeshift parking lot for people who use the Glacial Lakes State Trail. People around here have always said it's an accident waiting to happen, with pedestrians wedged in the middle of fast-moving traffic

Sadly, it's not just a theory.

16 years ago, a 10-year old boy named Cody Berg was killed on this stretch when a car struck his bike.

"One of his classmates had written a card after he died and said Cody's smile was so big and bright, even the sun would have to wear sunglasses," his mother, Shelly Berg, said. "That really just sums him up."

A few years later, another childhood friend and neighbor, 15-year old Ryane Clark, was inspired to turn this small piece of land into an actual parking lot for his Eagle Scout project.

"He was thinking, why does someone else need to get hurt if they're unloading bikes and children on the side of the road -- something might happen again," said Ryane's mother, Tracy Clark.

But at 15, Ryane would learn a hard lesson about government red tape. The Department of Natural Resources would commit to getting the lot paved, but the work would move slowly, and sometimes not at all. In the meantime, Ryane would go on to graduate from high school.

When he started a career in law enforcement in Alexandria, he was still trying to get the project done. Even after joining the National Guard and getting deployed to Afghanistan. , the little parking lot in New London remained a priority.

"He was overseas," his father, Rick Clark, recalled. "He would call back and ask, 'How is it going?'"

Then the family conversations shifted from Ryane's dream lot to Ryane's harsh reality.

"We heard from him on Facebook the day before and from his comments, you know, he was getting into the heated stuff over there," Rick said.

Then, in October, 2010, Rick and Tracy would get the news every soldier's parent fears the most.

"He started his ‘We regret to inform you' and I told him to just hold that thought for a minute, Rick said. "And then my wife was downstairs and I said ‘You're only going to read this once' and so then Tracy came up and we knew."

It took more than three years, but eventually Rick and Tracy would find the strength to move on, and to think about what was next. Now, more than ever, it was time to make Ryane's parking lot dream a reality.

"I was past being fed up with the DNR and the state," Tracy said. "It's so ridiculous that this has lasted this long -- that it has taken this long that it's something so simple."

A simple idea was finally pushing toward to the finish line with support from a local legislator who worked with the DNR on Ryane's behalf. Now, 12 years later, the DNR says it will start paving the lot in July.

The Clarks are also raising money for a small memorial for Ryane on the lot -- a tribute to a 15-year-old boy with a simple dream.

"He just really wanted people to be safe," Tracy said.

Ryane Clark Memorial Fund
United Minnesota Bank
105 Central Ave. E.
New London, MN 56273

To purchase a paver for the memorial parking lot, go to http://www.newlondonmn.net/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B2996D4C3-3142-4E3E-B5B0-947CD1B777F6%7D

You can also contribute to the memory of 10-year-old Cody Berg. The Mill Pond Mile Family Fun Run in New London will raise money for the Cody Berg Scholarship Fund. www.millpondmile.com

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