August 20, 2014 - Bart and Diane Clark have been active and generous residents of the community since they moved here in 2005, but their latest commitment, to fund a new bridge in Depot Park, has left some amazed.
Bart and Diane Clark are donating up to $80,000 for a new Depot Park bridge. Photo by Andrea Beaudoin (click for larger version)
City Manager Carol Eberhardt said city council members were speechless after Bart announced at the Aug. 11 Clarkston City Council meeting he and his wife Diane were donating up to $80,000 to build the new bridge in the south end of the park.
The bridge has been a source of complaints, controversy and conflict. Earlier this year, City of the Village of Clarkston spent about $4,000 to have the bridge inspected by an engineering firm to determine structural integrity.
Although the bridge may have been a source of conflict in the past, in the future it will represent a symbol of generosity made in the honor of love.
Bart and Diane are making the contribution to honor Bart's brother, Jeff, who succumbed suddenly to leukemia on July 15, 2013. Jeff was 64 years old, and lived in California when he passed away. Jeff always planned to move to Clarkston to be closer to Bart and Diane.
"He passed away before he made it," explained Bart.
Before he passed away, Jeff requested a tree be planted in his name in Depot Park. Bart and Diane obliged the request and planted an oak tree for Jeff, but the pair were searching for a bigger project.
One day while he was out on a walk, an activity he loves, Bart came to the bridge in the back of Depot Park and noticed the wooden boards preventing visitors from crossing.
"I walk a lot and one day I noticed the bridge was closed, and that is when it occurred to me that a new bridge would be a good project," he said.
Aware of controversy over the bridge, the city council discussions regarding its repair, Bart spoke with Diane about funding a new bridge.The pair agreed it was a great idea, and exactly the kind of special project they were looking for.
Bart and Diane requested the bridge be constructed in the same style as another bridge that connects the east and west side of Depot Park. That bridge, installed in 2007, is 40 feet long, made of steal and wood, and is a simple and classic design.
Before deciding how much to donate for the bridge, Bart consulted with resident and business owner Ginny Schultz, who led a fundraising effort to raise money for the $70,000 cost of the bridge installed in 2007.
After talking with Schultz, the Clark's decided they would provide up to $80,000 for the project.
The Clark's wanted to do something nice to honor the memory of Jeff, but they also wanted to provide funding because they love Clarkston.
"Clarkston is a wonderful place to live," said Bart. "Diane are very proud to call Clarkston our home, and we are happy to be able to contribute to our community."
Bart said as children he and Jeff would come to Clarkston from Detroit to visit their grandfather, Lee Milton Clark.
Bart's family lineage is deeply rooted in Clarkston, and he is related to Jeremiah Clark, a founding father of Clarkston.
Many members of the Clark family, including Jeff, are buried in Lakeview Cemetery on White Lake Road and Dixie.
In 2005 after retiring from an impressive career, which included serving as commander of a nuclear submarine in the U.S Navy, Bart and Diane started searching for a new home.
Their search began in southern states, but Bart and Diane said nothing clicked during that search.
"It just did not feel right," Bart remembers.
Then on a whim, Diane thought of visiting Clarkston.When they searched in Clarkston, the pair knew this was home.
"It's just a great place," smiled Bart. "There are a lot of good things happening."
Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.