October 10, 2013

Editorial: The foliage advantage


---- — Foliage season is bringing bursts of color to our region — and bursts of tourists along with that.

Those beautiful displays you see on the hillsides and mountains around here equate to big money, as thousands of tourists flock to the North Country every year just to stand and gape. And when they are finished doing that, they spend money on food, lodging and shopping.

Natives sometimes overlook the natural wonder that we live and work amid — but it is a coveted sight for people whose view shed is normally concrete buildings and minimal green space.

New York state reports that fall foliage constitutes a $70 billion travel and tourism industry.

The I Love New York campaign explains it this way: “Why do people from all over the world head to the spectacular New York state foliage display? Unlike the rest of the country, the Northeast is particularly blessed with a great variety of broad-leaved trees, which help give the region’s foliage a spectacular color range. New York state has almost as many acres of such trees as the rest of the Northeast combined.

“The change in color from the bright greens of summer to the brilliant hues of fall follows a predictable pattern across the state. It begins high in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains in late August and early September and spreads out and down across the hills and valleys of the state, ending on Long Island and in New York City in early November.

“It takes about two weeks for the colors to complete their cycles in any given area, with peak brilliance lasting three to four days in any one spot.”

The chemical changes within the leaves — involving chlorophyll, carotenoids and anthocyanins — rely on clear, sunny days and cool nights with temperatures in the 40s. This year’s weather has created picture-perfect conditions — literally.

As visitors snap photos to document the glory they are seeing, area businesses and communities need to be thinking of ways to snap up some cash.

The Olympic Regional Development Authority knows how lucrative the season can be. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, it will host the annual Flaming Leaves Festival at the Olympic Jumping Complex, 5486 Cascade Road, Lake Placid. Surrounded by spectacular foliage, people can watch the U.S. national championships in ski jumping, while listening to live bands and enjoying food and beverages.

The same day, in the Capital District, the Hudson Valley Wine and Leaf Peeping Fest will be celebrating the season with free wine tastings and food samples served outdoors under tents at Hudson Valley Wine Market.

Area chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus promote the season and arrange for busloads of tourists to head this way.

But we think many communities in the region are not doing all they could to exploit the parade of changing leaf color. More festivals, business displays, welcome events and marketing campaigns could be created to take advantage of the reliable onset of this fall treasure chest.