Cory Smith

Tornado Debris Shuts Down DeSoto's Largest Football Complex

Signs of Mother Nature's wrath are still scattered across the 107-acre Meadow Creek Park in DeSoto, more than six months after the December 2015 tornado.

Fences are mangled, the football scoreboard is bent and entire goal posts are missing, but it's what you cannot see that has city officials so concerned that they have closed Meadow Creek Park until further notice.

"The houses that were damaged and taken off their foundation, that stuff literally landed here on these fields," said Phil Lazano, the assistant director of the city's parks and recreation department. "With the impact and everything that goes on with football, the material that we can't see could pose a safety hazard."

The city is using a tractor trailer with an industrial magnet attached to pick up roof nails, construction nails, pieces of metal fencing among other items. Lazano said it has been quite effective, but with each meticulous pass over the grass more debris is picked up.

"Every time they go there's another layer of debris that they're getting," said Assistant City Manager Lora Stallings.

The cost of the cleanup is approximately $1.2 million, which is why the city is asking the Federal Emergency Management Association to pick up part of the tab. If FEMA declines, then taxpayers would have to foot the bill. At the same time the city would lose revenue.

"We generate anywhere between $15,000 to $25,000 a year off of hosting tournaments and renting the facility out to different vendors," said DeSoto Recreation Manager Chris Glover. "(Residents and visitors) have become accustomed to the ambiance this facility provides, so it's going to be different."

The cleanup is gradually entering its final phase. Crews will dig about a half-foot into the soil and sift for any deeply embedded debris. Stallings said the worst case scenario would be "taking up all the turf and the top soil."

"That would be a lot [of money] because there's several acres involved," she said. "But we are undergoing every process, first and foremost, to make sure the fields are safe."

The city is working with the DeSoto Independent School District to schedule games at district facilities.

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