The mystery of ‘shoe island’: Forsaken footwear keeps appearing on traffic median in Granby

GRANBY – Drive down Massachusetts Route 116, and you’ll come across farms, homes and, if you’re looking for it, a bit of a mystery: a collection of random shoes scattered on a small median in the middle of the road.

For the past year, shoes have littered the small traffic island at the intersection of Amherst Road and Amherst Street in Granby. Even after they’re cleaned up, more appear. On Friday, half a dozen pairs along with some lone soles were haphazardly strewn there. Gold ballet flats, a pair of hiking boots without laces, and worn-down sneakers are among the forsaken footwear. Welcome to “shoe island.”

David Desrosiers, the town’s highway superintendent, said that the shoes have been mysteriously — and consistently — appearing for over a year. His office has been doing the cleanup. “We’ve been picking up shoes — sometimes a single shoe, sometimes a pair, no rhyme or reason,” he said. He and his team collect trash and highway debris, Desrosiers explained, but shoe island is the first of its kind here.

Asked whether they’ve gotten any leads about who’s dumping the shoes and why, Granby Police Chief Alan Wishart said, “None whatsoever. If someone out there knows, I’d love to know.”

Desrosiers is also curious. “All I know is we have to pick up a number of shoes … I haven’t found out any significance of the disposal of shoes in the island, or if it’s a trendy thing.” He floated a guess: “I suspect it’s a number of people.”

Wishart said that he’s noticed a spike in the number of shoes over the past few months. He thinks it could be due to some buzz he’s noticed on Granby social media. “When you say ‘shoe island,’ people know what you’re talking about,” he said, though he didn’t coin the term and doesn’t know who did. Desrosiers doesn’t know the nickname’s origin, either, but suspects reporters coined it. “It’s sort of becoming known as that now,” he said.

Caril Schebel lives right down the road, and she said she’s definitely noticed the oddity. “I see it, and it’s kinda weird,” she said. “There’s got to be a reason for it. Why would you put shoes out there?”

Aaron Bassell, who also lives nearby, said he noticed the median a few months ago. “I think someone should look into it and clean it up,” he said.

Technically, it’s littering, Desrosiers said. “Honestly,” said Wishart, “it’s more a mysterious nuisance than anything else.”

It doesn’t bother Schebel. “I don’t look at it as a problem,” she said. “It’s just a curiosity.”

Several people lamented the waste, remarking that some of the shoes were in good enough shape to be used again.

“They don’t look new, but they don’t look like they can’t be worn,” Schebel said.

Desrosiers echoed Schebel’s sentiment: “A lot of times, it looks like they were a decent pair of shoes,” he said. “I just find it hard to believe that so many people throw out good, useful shoes. I’d rather see them give them to Salvation Army.”

Wishart’s message to the shoe culprits: “Donate your shoes to charity,” he said with a laugh. “Don’t leave them there.”

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