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Color is coming

Throughout the region, leaves are beginning to change and tourists are expected in large numbers

September 5, 2009
By JESSICA COLLIER, Enterprise Staff Writer

After a summer that took a long time to feel like summer, with too much rain and cold for most people's tastes, Adirondackers are turning their thoughts toward fall.

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, the fiery colors of fall will soon be upon us. In fact, some trees throughout the region have been showing twinges of red, orange and yellow since late July.

The leaf season not only affects the spirits of locals but also has a huge impact on the local economy.

Article Photos

Leaves throughout the region are beginning to change as fall rapidly approaches.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)



When the fall leaf colors are bright and lasting, the region draws in more money.

Fact Box

About 340,000 people, or 35 percent of the visitors to the region between May and October, come for the fall foliage season.

The Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau. estimates that visitors spend about $356 in an average day while vacationing here. That adds up to about $121 million being spent in the region if each party spends one day in the area.

For those who are curious about where to find the best fall colors, the state tourism bureau can help. On Wednesday, I Love New York launched a fall foliage color report, which maps the colors of the leaves across the state based on information from volunteers. It can be viewed online or heard by calling 518-474-4116 or 1-800-CALL-NYS (225-5697).

About 340,000 people, or 35 percent of the visitors to the region between May and October, come for the fall foliage season, said Jon Lundin, spokesman for the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau.

"People are really coming here during that time for the outdoors, for the fall foliage," Lundin said. "That's really the driver for the visitations."

The bureau estimates that visitors spend about $356 in an average day while vacationing here. That adds up to about $121 million being spent in the region if each party spends one day in the area.

Tourists in search of fall colors, often referred to as "leaf peepers," are a combination of people with vacations planned ahead of time and spontaneous travelers who drive up to the Adirondacks on nice days to take in the scenery, said Neil Seymour, head of the Franklin County tourism department.

With that in mind, Seymour has been working on two separate advertising campaigns to keep the region at the top of the minds of people living within the distance of an easy drive.

From Aug. 31 until Oct. 4, Franklin County, along with the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce and The Wild Center, is running a TV ad promoting fall travel on the Time Warner cable network, directed at people 55 and older in the Albany, Utica, Syracuse and Rochester markets. Seymour said that age group is targeted because people in it tend to have disposable income and are more likely to travel in the fall.

"As soon as school starts, the family vacation time is precluded," Seymour said. "And that's when we switch markets, looking at other appropriate age levels."

Seymour said the ad has run in past years and tends to get 2,200 to 2,400 people looking for more information and an estimated 800 to 1,000 views of the three-minute video that viewers have the option to watch.

Franklin County has also joined with Essex, Warren and Clinton counties to run a fall travel ad in Oprah magazine.

Beyond advertising, events around the region are targeted at bringing in leaf peepers. One popular event, the sixth annual Festival of Colors, hosted by the Whiteface Regional Visitors Bureau, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 on the tee-ball field on Springfield Road in Wilmington. It will feature local artists, produce growers, bakers and crafters.



Unfortunately for the tourism industry, the fall colors are as difficult to predict as the weather.

"It's a little early to know what the fall color season is going to be like, so we'll wait and see," said Michael Farrell, director of Uihlein Forest Sugar Maple Research Station in Lake Placid.

He said the weather over the next few weeks will determine how the leaves change.

The colors change in the fall as trees prepare themselves for winter, said Richard Gast, of Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension. The water in the leaves flows down into the tree's roots, storing nutrients there so the tree will survive until spring, and daylight hours wane, shining less sunlight on the leaves.

With less water and light, photosynthesis, the process that nourishes plants and produces chlorophyll, occurs less and less. Chlorophyll gives the leaves their green color, and as less chlorophyll is present, the green pigment starts to disappear.

Carotene, which gives carrots their orange color, and other orange, yellow and brown pigments are present in the leaves all summer, but they are hidden by the green. Once it fades, they become visible.

The reds and purples that can be seen in fall foliage, however, are not already present. They come when sugars are produced in sap cells, then trapped in leaves.

How much color comes out in the fall depends on several weather-related factors.

"Temperature, light and water all affect the intensity and the length of the color season," Gast said.

He said if the sun, warm weather and cold nights that have been typical this week continue throughout the fall, it will be ideal conditions for brilliant fall foliage.

In the past few years, the lack of water from droughts have made leaves start to fall early, Farrell said.

"That's not a problem this year," Farrell said.

Farrell said that while many people tend to view the leaves on drives, it's much better to walk.

He said the Uihlein Foundation, at the height of the fall foliage season, will be opening the Henry's Woods trailhead. At 11:30 a.m. Sept. 28, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony there, and Farrell said it would be a perfect time to take in the colors.


Contact Jessica Collier at (518) 891-2600 ext. 25 or



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