City of Durham NIS Community Engagement

September 2016 Neighbor Spotlight- Brian Hames

September 2016 Neighbor Spotlight- Brian Hames


*Interview is from his own words, but in certain cases is condensed.


What is the name of your neighborhood?

The Birchwood Heights Neighborhood


How long have you lived in your neighborhood?

I have lived here since 2004, so for 12 years.


Tell us about your neighborhood.

Birchwood Heights has a playground and community center and that separates us from a lot of other Homeowners Associations.  The community center really serves a hub for the neighborhood.  We have a food pantry.  Afterschool, there are programs for kids to help working parents.  There is a great room for community events and even computers and recreation for people to use.  It is extremely important for interactions and people getting to know their neighbors.


What successes have your neighborhood and community had?

The community garden is a huge success.  It has raised beds and a fence to make it convenient and can be maintained year round.  We started it around 2009 and 30 people initially helped build it.  I help maintain much of the garden and will distribute vegetables house to house when they are fresh.  We have circulated the area six times with vegetables.  The community garden was first suggested in a community meeting.


A couple years ago, a bridge fell that went over the stream. I built a new path and a replacement bridge recently so that there is another safer way to cross.  I also helped clean up the deck area because it was overrun with weeds making it unusable. 




What are some concerns that you still have in your community?

The neighborhood is on a hill and most of the houses are on slabs.  I am worries that this is a threat to the foundation of the homes and that the will affect the quality of housing.  However, this is a trade-off because if the homes were in better shape, the community would be less affordable and I might not be able to afford to live here.

In addition, a couple years ago we used to have more stray dogs, but that is no longer an issue.


What advice would you give to other community members?

Look for the simplest approach.  Whenever something comes up, we can try to work up a solution without having so many committee meetings.  Sometimes we plan too much.


Do you have any upcoming opportunities for other people to get involved?

We are thinking about building more ownership for the kids of the garden where they can rent a bed for $1.00, manage the garden and decide whether to keep or sell the vegetables.  This can create entrepreneurial opportunities for the kids of the neighborhood.  In general, if you are interested in getting involved, come by the community center.  Also, there is always trash around, so people can be involved by grabbing a bag and helping to clean up. 

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