Clay Stuckey performed a soil experiment at Tietze Park. Photo courtesy of Troy Stuckey

While the rest of us baked, cleaned and remodeled our way through quarantine, a local middle schooler tackled a project to improve the quality of our parks.

M Streets neighbor Clay Stuckey hypothesized that mixing compost with park soil would increase moisture and help prevent cracks in the ground. In March, the 14-year-old layered 3 cubic yards of compost with native soil in a 6-by-6 plot at Tietze Park.

Over the next two months, Stuckey rode his bike to the site to take measurements. He found that, overall, the plot with compost contained higher moisture levels and a lower pH balance than a control plot comprised of native soil only.

“The compost did noticeably better,” Stuckey said. “That’s good for vegetation, preventing erosion and preventing cracks.”

As the summer heat intensifies, Stuckey plans to monitor the impact of the compost by taking measurements every two weeks through the end of August.

The experiment started as a school assignment to make a difference in the community. When the assignment got canceled because of the coronavirus, the former eighth-grader at William B. Travis Academy converted it into a project for the Boy Scouts.

In a report to the City of Dallas, Stuckey recommends that the City use Tietze Park as a prototype and spread compost throughout the remainder of the park during the winter months over the next two years. The application is cheaper than sprinklers and will improve the quality of the park without straining the City budget, which is already limited because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The reason this project is so important is because it gives me a chance to improve the park, and my research shows the City how it can save money by improving the environment,” Stuckey said.

Stuckey, who plans to attend the Science and Engineering Magnet next year, isn’t done experimenting. When this concludes, he may try to find a fix for invasive species at a Boy Scouts camp or test the local air quality.