Durham Connect was a community group that was set up after the town board of Durham, NY, adopted the Durham 2020 Comprehensive Plan.
(The Comprehensive Plan, which was created to guide Durham’s development over the next five to ten years, was the result of two years of work by a committee of Durham residents and town board members. Click here for the 45-page Plan and here for just the 5-page recommendations section.)
Durham Connect provided a framework within which volunteers could help implement the Comprehensive Plan’s recommendations.
Durham Connect was led by a Chair and a Deputy Chair, with one of these being from the town board and one from the community.
The Plan’s summarized recommendations, and Durham Connect’s achievements, were as follows.
- Improve Communications: Recommendation: Find new ways to inform residents of community developments. These should include significantly enhancing the town’s website, publishing a town newsletter, publishing an annual report, and holding an annual town meeting to present the annual report and receive feedback from residents.
Achievements: Six issues of the town newsletter were printed and mailed in November 2020, May 2021, November 2021, May 2022, November 2022 and November 2023 to Durham’s 1,800 property owners, and emailed to the town’s email list. The town’s first two annual reports were published in May 2021 and May 2022. The first one was discussed at the town’s first annual town meeting, held on June 5, 2021, with 75-80 attendees. The second one was discussed at the town’s second annual meeting, held on June 11, 2022, with 65 attendees. A proposal and a master plan for enhancing the town website were submitted to the town board in November 2021.
- Increase community activities: Recommendation: Organize and encourage a range of community activities. These activities should include providing community meetings, classes and sporting activities; encouraging a local resort to permit Durham residents to use its swimming pool; encouraging the provision of trails in Durham that can be used for hiking, biking, etc.; organizing a farmers’ market; and more.
Community groups were established to hear talks on local history topics, to go hiking on local trails, and to meet at a coffee shop to chat about life in Durham.
- Enhance economic development: Recommendation: Work with local business leaders and organizations for the development of a critical mass of retail, restaurant and other businesses within Durham. In particular, encourage the provision of a medical facility within Durham.
Achievements: Flu-shot clinics took place in Oak Hill in October 2020 and in East Durham in September 2021.
- Advocate for improved broadband: Recommendation: Work for fast, reliable and affordable broadband internet service that can be accessed by every residence and business within Durham. Work also for improved cell phone service.
Achievements: In December 2020 a free WiFi hotspot was set up in the town barn parking lot that can be accessed 24/7 by multiple simultaneous residents. In October 2021 a report with detailed findings and recommendations regarding broadband availability within Durham was presented to the town board. It showed that 41% of Durham’s residents lacked access to wired broadband. The administration of Greene County found the report very helpful, and placed Durham at the top of the list of towns to receive County broadband funds. This led in turn to a steadily increasing percentage of Durham residents having access to broadband.
- Improve historic preservation: Recommendation: Encourage the development of a unified approach to historic preservation.
Achievements: Two training sessions were conducted on how to clean and repair Durham cemetery headstones, and data was compiled for enhanced history pages at the town’s website.
In November 2021, Durham Connect was presented at the Greene County Legislature with an Ellen Rettus Planning Achievement Award. The submission for this award was sent in by legislator Patty Handel, who wrote that Durham Connect arose out of a desire that the Comprehensive Plan not “just sit on a shelf collecting dust,” and added: “Durham Connect is an innovative example of how a town government and residents… can work collaboratively to further their shared goals.”
For Durham Connect’s reports to the town board, click here.