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Social distance files: Walpole’s Bird Park

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Whenever I’m in Walpole and start asking questions for Hometown Weekly, people assume this is where I’m from. I’m not, though. I’m from Braintree. And, if I’m being honest, my knowledge of Walpole’s geography isn’t that great. See, I’m in Walpole all the time, but I’m usually in a select few places.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, I was doing a report on possible nature trails the town could expand and talked to one of the people in charge. I made sure to get the street names correctly for the article, but just talking to him, it was clear: I wasn’t as familiar with the parks and forests of the town as I wanted to be. I think the dead giveaway about where I spend most of my time was when he was explaining a potential trail location and I asked, “Is that near the library? The senior center? The high school? That stretch of fast food joints on Route One?”

Suffice to say, with no mass gathering events to go to, I was kind of excited to check out Bird Park on Saturday afternoon. And, while annual events like the NCAA Tournament, Frozen Four, and E3 were all cancelled this year, Bird Park’s annual Bunny Quest went on as usual, which gave my trip purpose. Essentially, there are six wooden bunnies hidden throughout the park each decorated with a different colored ribbon. Your task is to find all of them. It’s much harder than you think.  

While not hard to navigate with well-maintained concrete paths, the park is pretty big, and the wooden rabbit sculptures blend in with the trees pretty well. With Easter egg hunts in serious jeopardy this year (especially indoor ones), it’s a fun way to achieve the same thing while not having to touch anything or get close to anyone.   

At one point, I became frustrated that I’d only found one (and didn’t have my phone on me to Google the locations) until I heard a little kid yell “I found one” just up ahead on a walking path. Needing to maintain that six feet of social distance, I wandered well behind the young sleuth and his parents, holding up my camera to make it look like I was photographing birds in the woods nearby. Unfortunately, they were on a different scavenger hunt, looking for kindness rocks painted with words like “peace” and “breathe,” instead of the bunnies. 

Also unfortunate was when I read on a placard that it’s “Bird Park” because it was endowed by industrialist Charles Sumner Bird, which made my birdwatcher ploy far less clever than I initially thought. 

One of the best things about the trip to the park was getting to see kids playing for the sake of having fun. Whenever I see a kid playing catch with his dad or basketball with a friend, these days I’m convinced they’re practicing for some ultra-competitive private league. But now with everything shut down, there’s nothing for which to practice. These kids are playing for fun, not for the next big game, because there’s no sense of when that next big game could be. It was great to see, and hopefully, it allows a little perspective to creep in for both the kids playing and their parents.

Between kites, picnics, scooters, and the Bunny Quest, there were plenty of ways to keep oneself entertained at the park on Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed my first trip to Bird Park, and guarantee I’ll be back soon.

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