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Durand celebrates 40 years of neighbours in Hamilton

The Durand Neighbourhood Association is partying in Durand Park Saturday - a park they saved.
Neighbourhood-led cleanups are a fixture in Durand Park - like this one, from last Fall, just before a movie night. (Courtesy Durand Neighbourhood Association)

The Durand Neighbourhood Association (DNA) knows a thing or two about history.

The association's first meeting took place 40 years ago this September. Janice Brown knows for sure, because she's seen the original minutes from that meeting.

They're handwritten — and from an inkwell. Not a ball-point pen.

"I bet we're the only neighbourhood association that's kept our entire lifetime handy," Brown said.

So to celebrate those four decades, the DNA is partying in Durand Park Saturday — with cupcakes, a six-piece band, Gorilla Cheese, and finishing up with a movie under the stars.

The park is small — just 0.7 hectares. But it's also one of the association's big victories.

Back in 1974, the DNA convinced the city to expropriate a parcel of land just south of Charlton, where developers had knocked down a block of homes to build a highrise.

This was commonplace at the time, as blockbusting was well underway. Houses were bought, knocked down, and replaced with towers and apartments.

"When developers were coming in, it meant that all these beautiful big homes could come down, and that's not something people envisioned," Brown said.

But thanks to DNA lobbying, the neighbourhood got Durand Park — the only green space in the area.

Brown speaks about Durand with real reverence in her voice. It's a big part of her life, considering she's the association's secretary, communications director, chair of the Grand Durand Garden Tour, and it's webmaster — though she's passing that job on, soon.

 "For me, it's only gotten better — I'm seeing younger people coming back in," Brown said. "When young families come back into a neighbourhood, that's positive."

"And though some of us have some grey hair, we've managed to capture some young folks. It's so good to have young people for a fresh perspective."

Brown got involved with the DNA in 1992, and has been a part of it ever since. "I just can't escape," she said with a laugh. "I took a bit of a siesta when my mom was ill, but I just got pulled right back in."

The association has big plans for Durand Park in 2013. They've swapped out some dated playground equipment, and hope to erect a fence alongside Herkimer Street to keep kids safer come November.

Then they're hoping for an entranceway path, some lighting and something akin to a splash pad, Brown says.

Durand is Hamilton's densest neighbourhood, and is home to some 12,000 people. So it takes Brown twice as long to get anywhere when she's coming or going — because she'll always see someone she knows.

"There's just a real sense of community here,"she said. "I respect it."

Celebrations in Durand Park kick off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. For more on the Durand Neighbourhood Association, visit Durandna.com.