PDT Managing Editor
Carol Hieneman was tired of watching a vacant and overgrown lot in her neighborhood be used for prostitution and drug deals so she decided to do something about it.
The Portsmouth mother of two grown children — known in the neighborhood as The Lawn Lady — typically mows the grass for her elderly neighbors. With such little rain recently she had some time on her hands. That inspired her to start hacking away at tree branches, brush and vines ivy that infested the lot on Armstrong Avenue, which is two doors down from her home on Linden Avenue.
Hieneman said she has been working on the lot for two weeks and spending eight to 10 hours a day on the project. By Monday, she had revealed a clearing she said was used for illegal activity.
She said neighbors could easily see through the overgrowth what was going on.
“When it was all brush, all kinds of illegal activity, you know: prostitution, drug deals. They’d walk up in here and stuff,” Hieneman said. “The kids in the alley could see it happening all the time. People would stop in their cars, get out and do their transactions. I said, by god, I want to see who’s over there.”
She said she has removed trash, tires and couches from the property. A majority of the work has been in poison ivy, she said.
“Urgent care knows me well,” she said with a laugh.
She has been moving the debris and trash to the driveway of the vacant home that sits next to the lot. That house was burned earlier this year in a suspected arson.
Hieneman said she doesn’t know who owns the land, and she has tried to contact the city for help, but no one has responded to her emails. She said she wrote an email to the City of Portsmouth and asked for a Dumpster.
“They don’t even acknowledge my emails. So I thought, well, eventually they’re gonna have to demolish this (house), they can take all this trash with them,” Hieneman said.
So why go through all the trouble of clearing a lot she doesn’t own?
“Being out in the fresh air helps me. I’d rather be outside,” Hieneman said. “I’ve got multiple joint replacements. So the more I move the better I feel.”
Hieneman also said she hopes the new open space can be used for something productive.
“People have stopped and asked me who they call to reserve it for a family reunion. I said, ‘just come on,’” Hieneman said.
Josh Richardson may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 244, or email@example.com