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TOMPKINS: Weed Whacking Mob Hits Niagara Falls

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Photo courtesy of RobShots.


City residents take beautification into their own hands as DPW not given resources to handle problem areas.


By: Kenny Tompkins

Niagara Falls City Councilman

The power of social media is fierce, especially when it comes to pointing out sore spots in our city. This summer, thanks to a lot of spring rain; we had an abundance of properties, some city-owned and others abandoned lots, that had grass and weeds taller than me. No one likes living next to a jungle. 

After reading through complaints, I reached out to Terri Lasher Kline, a community activist who is always ready to roll up her sleeves and dig in. Literally, that’s what we do. With Terri’s help, we pulled together a team of people who aren’t afraid of getting a little dirty (or a lot dirty) and started to chop away at the worst of the worst properties when it came to nature taking over.

Team Tompkins first hit the fields of Niagara Falls on June 15 with about 10 volunteers, ranging in age from teens to 70s. It was a hot and muggy day, but we tackled eight lots around the city. Our efforts weren’t without some mechanical carnage. We went through four old weed whackers and a couple of old lawn mowers. A commercial machine I rented succumbed to an early death. By the end of the day, two weed whackers and one lawn mower survived our plight. We left a lot of brush by the side of the streets for DPW to pick up the following Monday. More importantly, everyone who helped left feeling like they accomplished something for the neighborhoods we visited.

The neighbors themselves were appreciative. Many came out and brought us water, offered us use of tools, and even jumped in to work alongside us. Now that we’ve cut down the overgrowth, a few have even said they plan to maintain these properties going forward.

As word got out about the Weed Whacking Mob, we’ve had more people step to be part of our intrepid crew. Rob Bennett, who many of you know as RobShots, a local news photographer, came by to take pictures on the first day and is now one of our regulars. We’ve had other people join in on different dates, including Charles Harris. He is the founder of Project Greenspace, a group of young people who have turned some of our local vacant lots into vegetable gardens. Shawn Levick, Kelly and Gianna Baratta, and others have helped out at each clean up. Donta’ Myles, who is also running for city council, has joined us as well – proof that political opponents can put aside campaigns when it comes to the good of the city. There are many more who have pitched in on different occasions, too.



Some companies and organizations have also generously donated to our cause. Security Solutions supplied us with a weed whacker and a full gas can. Home Depot gave us a big spool of string and gloves. The Niagara Falls Housing Authority provided rakes, garbage bags, and gloves.

Since we started, the Weed Whacking Mob has become a thing. I’ve gathered tools and equipment, along with a trailer ready to go. We’ve chopped grass that’s over eight feet high, one time even discovering a garage that was hidden by it. Another time, a neighbor saw we were struggling and came by with his commercial zero turn lawnmower. He turned what we chopped down into mulch, while also leveling the grass. What a true blessing it was to have him there. 

We’ve tackled not only empty lots and abandoned properties, but also helped out some homeowners who are elderly and disabled and have no one to give them a hand with yard work.



On one outing, we saw members of the city’s Zoom team out as well, doing work and writing up citations for properties. It’s a lot of ground for them to manage as well, especially when resources are tight with our city’s fiscal condition.

While we’re happy to help, we’ve encountered some less than pleasant parts of nature on our missions, too. Poison ivy isn’t exactly fun, and neither are bee stings, both of which I’ve experienced as we’ve hacked away. But it hasn’t stopped me, or anyone who has joined our group. We keep going because it’s our community, and we are community driven, community proud.


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