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Fall foliage expected to attract more tourists this season with vibrant colors

Signs of bright foliage are popping up all over trees in Meredith’s downtown neighborhood. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
September 30, 2009
Now that fall has arrived, bright yellows, oranges, and reds are starting to show on trees in the Lakes Region, while forestry and tourism experts are eagerly preparing for the second busiest season in New Hampshire, thanks to the large amounts of rain and the colorful peak season coming up on Columbus Day weekend.

Spokesperson for New Hampshire Travel and Tourism Tai Freligh estimated that about 7.5 million visitors as far away as Canada will come up to New Hampshire, including the Lakes Region to view the foliage by Lake Winnipesaukee. Freligh calculated that tourists would spend about $1,000,000,000 on their foliage expeditions.

"There are a lot of bus tours. The bus tour is a really popular group tour. People like going along the lake. There is also a Winnipesauke foliage train that's popular. There's good foliage around the water," said Freligh.

Freligh predicts that a lot of tourists will make their way up north this year for a chance to see the bright colors bloom, especially since more people put off trips this summer to avoid the rain.

"I think it is going to be pretty popular … gas prices are way lower than last year and the economy is in a better spot. There was not as much economy for the summer because of the rain, but all that rain made the trees much healthier," which means the trees will be much brighter, said Freligh.

Forestry specialist Karen Bennett from the Belknap County UNH Extension Cooperation concurred that the trees would be especially bright and attractive this year thanks to the bouts of rain earlier in the summer.

Bennett said she couldn't outright predict what colors and what brightness levels the trees could bring, but she said if the weather continues to behave during peak season, visitors and residents are in for a big treat.

"There should be beautiful foliage this year. The trees received lots of water and the rain came before the trees could get diseases. Healthy trees do what they are supposed to. They make bright colors," said Bennett.

Bennett explained that the weather during peak season also has a visual affect on the colors of leaves. Bright, sunny days leave the leaves looking vibrant, while dreary days wash color out of the leaves. There is a physical reason for all of this, said Bennett, because leaves develop "floures" in the sunlight, much like fluorescents and illuminate their colors.

The Lakes Region has some of the best foliage because of the maple trees, said Bennett, which turn bright reds and oranges and add an extra oomph to the fall color scheme. She said that oak and ash trees add a great touch as well.

But to fully enjoy the progression of the foliage to come, it's nice to know exactly how leaves change color, and why their colors vary so much. Being a specialist in this area, Bennett said that leaves remain green all year because they are using chlorophyll to manufacture food.

"When the days get shorter, chlorophyll stops being made. The other pigments, like carotenoids (also in produce such as carrots) that are already there, show up and make yellows and oranges," said Bennett.

During cold nights, sugar gets trapped in the leaves and it can't make its way back to the trees, so the leaves produce (or unveil) another pigment, being anthocyanins, said Bennett, which give blueberries their color and tree leaves, reds and purple hues.

"People say Jack Frost causes the color, but that's not really the cause of the color. Jack Frost does brighten up the leaves and give them their brilliance," said Bennett. "It's like a recipe; sometimes a cake falls flat with the same recipe that worked before."

If people are interested in keeping track of the foliage in the Lakes Region, Bennett suggested visiting www.visitNH.com.

Martin Lord Osman
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