Vermont Town Closes Roads Due to Autumn ‘Leaf-peepers’

    27 September 2023

    "Leaf-peepers" are tourists who visit the countryside in the northeastern United States each autumn. "Peeper" means looker, someone who looks.

    The leaf-peepers travel to see the seasonal changes to the trees. Their leaves turn color from green to deep red, bright yellow and rich orange before finally falling to the ground.

    Many leaf-peepers head to Vermont. They like to take photos of the trees, the hills, old farm buildings and houses in the state.

    Cars line a narrow road outside a private property in an undated photo, in Pomfret, Vt., that has become a destination for fall foliage viewers, clogging the rural road. (AP Photo)
    Cars line a narrow road outside a private property in an undated photo, in Pomfret, Vt., that has become a destination for fall foliage viewers, clogging the rural road. (AP Photo)

    They often stop their vehicles on the side of the road to take pictures. The visitors are good for the local economy because they spend money on hotels, restaurants and other business.

    But, the flood of tourists can also cause problems in small, usually quiet country towns. They create too much vehicle traffic, pollution and other trouble.

    One small town has taken surprising action to deal with the leaf-peepers. Pomfret, Vermont has closed roads to non-residents through the middle of October. Pomfret officials said the restrictions were carried out in reaction to what they called "poorly behaved tourists."

    Visitors often seek out Sleepy Hollow Farm in Promfret. They like to take pictures there. Police now are guarding the road from all but locals.

    The colorful hillside behind the farm is famous from the many images of it posted to social media services such as Facebook and Instagram.

    People who live in central Vermont say they understand how the land's beauty appeals to visitors. But they say the traffic slowdowns, blocked roads and bad behavior by visitors is a major problem.

    Nancy Bassett lives in the area. "It's just a shame," she said about the bad behavior, which includes some people trying to move beyond barriers to get better views. "It spoils it for a lot of people," Bassett added.

    Vermont is not the only pretty place that some argue has been ruined by social media. People have crowded into small streets in Paris and wilderness areas in California just to take a photo like the ones they see on Instagram.

    In the small city of Lake Elsinore, California, people stopped to take photos of a "superbloom" of wildflowers caused by a rainy winter in 2019. Locals said the visitors "trampled" the very flowers they came to photograph.

    In some places, such as the famous Zion National Park in the western state of Utah, visitors need a permit to enter some areas.

    The news of the Vermont closures prompted many to write about it on social media. One person asked: "Why in the world would you want to visit somewhere with a crowd of people? There are beautiful spots ... you can have all to yourself."

    One road, Cloudland Road, is now closed to visitors. There are "no-parking" and "no-photo" signs along the way.

    Residents say there are areas visitors can go that have parking and places to eat.

    Linda Arbuckle works at a store nearby. She said "people love the leaves ... and it brings people here and we don't want that to stop. Unfortunately," she added, "some people have taken it to the next step." Arbuckle said there have been homeowners who have come home to see tourists eating a meal on their front porch.

    I'm Caty Weaver.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.


    Words in This Story

    tourist–n. an out-of-town visitor who comes to a place for pleasure

    shame–adj. something sad or disappointing

    spoil–v. to turn something good into something bad, such as fresh food getting too old to eat

    trample–v. to run something over with your feet, to act without care

    photograph–v. to record an image using a camera on film or with a digital device such as a mobile phone

    porch–n. a part of a home, often in the front close to the entry that provides a platform for items such as a chair or table and cover from rain, sun or snow