Fallen soldier honored at parking lot dedication after 12 years of red tape

Just off Highway 31 in New London, Minn. rests a simple patch of land-turned makeshift parking lot for people who use Glacial Lakes State Trail. Many pedestrians say it’s an accident waiting to happen, many of them caught in the middle of fast-moving traffic.

About 16 years ago, a 10-year-old boy named Cody Berg was killed on the stretch when a car struck his bike. A few years later, his 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. At 15, Clark learned a hard lesson about government red tape. The DNR would commit to getting the lot paved, but they’d move slowly. In the meantime, he would go on to graduate from high school and joined the National Guard. Overseas in Afghanistan, he’d call his mom to ask how the project is going.

In October, 2010, his parents, Rick and Tracy Clark, would receive 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. And then my wife was downstairs and I said you're only going to read this once and so then Tracy came up,” Rick remembered.

A few weeks later, their son came home.

“It was a good year of living in the past wondering what if, what could have -- what could have changed,” Rick Clark said.

It took more than three years, but eventually they would find the strength 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 Clark 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 pushed to the finish line with support from a local legislator who worked with the DNR on Ryane's behalf.

Now, 12 years later, a promise of progress, the DNR said they’d start paving the lot in July. The Clarks also raised money for a small memorial for Ryane on the lot to be dedicated on Sunday. It’s a tribute to a 15-year-old boy, an American hero, with a simple dream.

“He just really wanted people to be safe,” Tracy Clark said.