LHSA canceled games when giant cracks opened on soccer fields. Photo by Carol Toler.

This summer’s drought parched lawns across Dallas, and it was no different on the green(ish) grasses of Moss Park. Though the soccer fields and concession stand are managed by volunteers at the Lake Highlands Soccer Association, the park is maintained by the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department. That is, city crews care for the park as best they can given seven weeks without rain and 44 days over 100 degrees.

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So, maybe it shouldn’t have been a big surprise when LHSA officials discovered giant cracks in the dirt and canceled last Saturday’s season-opening games for safety’s sake. Players’ ages range from 4 to 19, and no one wants little ones to break an ankle or twist a knee after they run through a hole in the ground.

Of course, that’s not to say parents were happy.

Some wondered whether city crews had neglected to water fields over the summer. Others phoned city officials to demand that their tax dollars and LHSA player fees be used to appropriately maintain field conditions.

The kiddoes were just plain disappointed.

The LHSA spends one-third of its budget to rent fields from the city, one-third to pay referees and one-third on other expenses. The city pays the water bill and hires crews to irrigate and mow the field.

Due to a strange configuration of Dallas City Council maps, Harry S. Moss Park at the corner of Greenville Avenue and Royal Lane falls in District 10, led by Councilmember Kathy Stewart, but Moss Park soccer fields fall in District 13, led by Councilmember Gay Donnell Willis. White Rock Creek is the dividing line, and land west of the creek — including the soccer fields — are in D13. Nevertheless, Stewart and D10 Park Board rep Scott Goldstein connected me with Renee Johnson, assistant director of park maintenance.

Dallas instituted citywide restrictions in 2012 to conserve water, and city park crews follow rules similar to those of homeowners regulating irrigation of Dallas’ many park facilities, Johnson said. Her crews have been working with LHSA to improve field conditions. Well, that, and praying for rain.

Dick White, longtime president of LHSA, said the goal is to keep players safe.

“We canceled last weekend’s games due to dangerous cracks out there,” White told me. “Our referees went out and filled some cracks in June, and we asked the city to water over the summer, but this heat being what it is, it just wasn’t enough.”

White and Johnson both said they believe the fields will be playable this weekend.

“The best possible solution is rain,” White said. “The city ordered a load of dirt to fill the cracks, but we didn’t know how long that would take, so we ordered a load ourselves. It was dumped on the field Tuesday morning, and our referees were out with shovels filling cracks Tuesday night. Some cracks were two feet deep.”

An additional load of dirt was delivered by the city Wednesday.

“Thursday’s rain helped a lot, but it may cause the new dirt to settle into cracks a bit,” said White. “We may have to ask parents to help.”

White said there’s another way parents can help. LHSA had more players sign up for fall play than ever before — 2,700 boys and girls registered to take part. The league is now looking for someone to pitch in with a few tasks part-time at their offices at Forest and Abrams. The flexible schedule is perfect for a college student or stay-at-home mom, he said.

Oh, and shout out to LH’s Joe Clifford, who allowed me to share the photo below from LHSA’s first season of soccer at Moss Park in 1976. Clifford is the goalkeeper in orange, and his dad, the late Paul Clifford, is the coach in the top right. As you can see from the pic, even with the drought, the fields today are better than they were back then. Go Rockets!

First season of LHSA soccer, 1976, Rockets. Photo courtesy of Joe Clifford, wearing goalie orange.

LHSA referees grabbed shovels to fill in cracks with fresh dirt. Photo by Carol Toler.

D10 map