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‘Sherborn Walks’ a social-distancing must-read

By James Kinneen,
Hometown Weekly Reporter -

While most businesses are in significant financial trouble, a few are flourishing because of the coronavirus crisis. But while you’d have to be a psychic, an epidemiologist, or a certain couple of United States senators to have seen the shutdown coming and profited on it, due to the new social distancing rules, three software guys from Sherborn have seen their labor of love take off in a unique way.

In 1992, Art Schnure wrote the first edition of “Sherborn Walks” after moving to town and seeing its many little outdoor trails, but being unable to find a a single resource to tell him where they were. Featuring 22 walks, that trailblazing book sold 2,000 copies. 

27 years later, Schnure enlisted the help of Seth Molloy and Richard Antell to craft the second edition. It now features 25 trails; color photographs; color digital maps for virtually all walks with contour lines and LIDAR shading to show the land’s topography; sights of interest and local nature spotlights, with all walks rated by their degree of difficulty; and Elliot Taylor’s updated list of 200 birds sighted in town.

While the book had already sold around 550 copies in a town of barely over 4,000 people, the sudden interest in walking around outside during the coronavirus crisis has led to a boom of around sixty books sold during the first week of social distancing, despite places like Town Hall and local book stores, where the book was sold, being closed. How are people getting the book? Seth Molloy is sanitizing it and dropping it off at your house. 

“I posted on social media and said: ‘Hey, everybody is stuck inside, and this is a great way to deal with the lockdown. We have really amazing resources in town, and we’ve decided to waive the $10 shipping fee.’ Then, we just got a flood of orders in, so myself, the Forest and Trail president Laura Kennedy, and my wife have been doing the bulk of deliveries. We sanitize all the books and put them in envelopes - there’s a silly picture online of me with latex gloves on, sanitizing the book.”

Richard Antell noted that they could probably be selling more books if they had more inventory - but lest you think the three men are cashing in on the newfound popularity, all book sale profits go to the Sherborn Forest & Trail Association (SFTA), despite the men figuring they’d put in over 1,000 hours apiece on it. But the proof of the book’s success isn’t just on its paper trail, it’s on the trails themselves.

“We’ve been getting good feedback,” Seth Molloy noted. “People have been saying, during this shutdown, they have been going through the book and going to all the different reservations we have, and it’s been really amazing. Now, in places where I’ve never seen anybody, I’ll see three, four or five people. So it’s definitely gotten a little busier out there, and I think a lot of people have been using the book.” 

Art Schnure added that he’s heard from many people that are using their increased free time to do “the circuit” - that is, complete all 25 trails in the book.

But it’s not just Sherborn residents that are using the book and discovering the town’s trails. Schnure has met families from Wellesley using the book. Antell’s nephew has been doing the Sherborn trails nearly every weekend since the lockdown, and many of the orders during this blitz period have come from Dover. That is fine with the three authors, since part of what motivated them to write the book in the first place was to show how much of a town resource Sherborn’s trails could be.

“We all go to Framingham to shop because they have so many stores. That’s their regional resource,” Molloy explained. “In the same way, we have this resource and we should share it and promote it so that other people from other places can utilize it and experience nature like we do. If you have open space, the proximity we have to Boston and the way development has been going, there will be a lot of pressure to develop these spaces. If they’re just empty green spaces people don’t use, when the pressure comes to develop them, there won’t be anyone standing up to say we don’t want that. But if you have them actively being used by a lot of people, they will be appreciated, and you’d have people protecting them.”

“We had really three goals with this book,” added Schnure. “To promote access to the lands, to provide connections between the various green spaces and town center so people could get around by walking or riding a bike, and to promote the values of conservation lands. Studies have shown people who live near conservation lands have a property value that’s a little higher than other people.”

So far, the plan has worked. Not only was the second edition of the book a huge community effort, with town residents, Eagle Scouts and others helping to create and promote the directory of trails, but the three trails added since the first edition are largely a result of town land acquisitions.

“There’s more green space, and I’m sure the book had something to do with it,” Schure said. “Hopefully, this will have impact for the years to come, too.”

If you’d like to purchase the book and possibly be visited by a gloved Seth Molloy, it can be found at https://mkt.com/sfta.

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