NILES, Ohio – It is a popular summer sport in the city of Niles - kids playing in competitive youth soccer leagues.
Nicholas Gutierrez, 38, father of three, says he initially was working with the city to keep the soccer field property, formerly home to a local school, clear of overgrown weeds and tall grass.
But then he says things changed.
"Until this last season, where they stopped mowing, they stopped mowing everything. All the fields. And these poor kids.”
Using his own resources and in his spare time, Nicholas began mowing the fields himself until he received a letter in the mail from the city last Friday, ordering him to stop.
"I started getting teared up because I know I couldn't help the kids no more."
Niles Parks and Recreation Director Robert Burke said, “Number one, it's a liability issue. So if a rock or stone or something shoots out of his zero mower and injures or kills them or anything else, or injures property or breaks property, who's liable to pay for that?"
Burke adds they already have union workers to do the job, one full-time, two from other departments, as well as seasonal workers.
Burke says the fields aren't being neglected.
"They were being maintained, we just had a really rainy spring. Our zero-turn mowers have a difficult time on a couple of the fields."
Resident Debbie Kovell said, "As far as mowing the grass? It's Nick. We have him to thank."
Gutierrez has received tremendous support from the community and he says if the city doesn’t do its job in keeping the grass at a safe height, "I'll go to jail for these kids. I will. I'm sorry. If this grass goes out of hand, I'm gonna be up here mowing."