The latest public art installation in walkable North Amherst is The Mill District Storywalk, now up along the Julius Lester Trail, beginning at the trailhead at the back left corner of Mill River Recreation Area. Our Director of Placemaking, Hannah Rechtschaffen, walked the newly installed Storywalk on Friday with Scott Merzbach of the Gazette. The pair braved the rain to take a stroll of the Storywalk, built by a long-time employee of Cowls Building Supply, who donated the time and materials.

The first featured book is ‘Some Bugs’ by local author, Angela Diterrlizzi. The Storywalk is part of a larger campaign, initiated in The Mill District and encompassing downtown and South Amherst, to raise visibility for Amherst as a destination for children’s literature and home to a rich community of children’s book authors and illustrators.

The project was approved by the Amherst Conservation Commission and is aimed at encouraging children and adults to explore the beautiful woods around North Amherst. The Julius Lester Trail was selected due to its broad accessibility for differently abled community members, and honors the legacy of Julius Lester, who wrote more than thirty books for children over his career.

The Storywalk concept was first created by Anne Ferguson in Montpelier, VT and has been recreated in all fifty states and thirteen countries around the world. Storywalks have been shown to improve literacy, instill a love of reading and the outdoors, encourage movement, and increase patronage of local libraries and bookstores. All stories placed along The Mill District Storywalk will be written by local, living authors, with the exception of Julius Lester himself – whose work will be premiered on the Storywalk in the spring. The featured book will be changed every six weeks to encourage repeat visitation!

The Storywalk will expand (as Covid allows) to include more activities with each book, such as forest walks with the authors, story hours, and programming tied into the theme of the book. Folks can stay up to date on these additional activities by following The Mill District on Facebook and Instagram: @themilldistrictna.

The Mill District is the 9th Regeneration of the Cowls family home farm, bringing walkable eats, arts, and entertainment to the Valley. The Cowls legacy of community building continues with new businesses opening in the heart of North Amherst and local artists being engaged in public art efforts. Ideas for local books to be featured, ways to engage the myriad communities in and around Amherst, and thoughts on safe activities are encouraged and can be sent to Hannah@cowls.com.

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