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Gloom-and-Doom Projections Prove Wrong for Foliage Watchers

October 6, 1995

BOSTON (AP) _ The summer-long drought didn’t ruin New England’s spectacular fall foliage after all.

The leaves are turning nicely, and the ``leaf peepers,″ as the tourists are known, are coming.

``The colors are breathtaking, almost not real,″ said 91-year-old Ruby Twedell, who traveled from Medford, Ore., to Walden Pond in Concord, where despite a drizzle, the sugar maples and oaks in Henry David Thoreau’s old stomping grounds were vibrant in reds and yellows. ``I’m an art teacher and I learn so much about colors from these trees.″

During a drought this summer, when rainfall was inches below normal, dire predictions were heard of a less than spectacular foliage season.

In some places in the Northeast, in fact, the leaves have been turning plain old brown and falling off weeks ahead of time.

But tourism officials around New England said it was all a false alarm.

``It’s absolutely beautiful,″ said Bret Teillon, chief of forest protection for the Vermont Department of Forests and Parks. ``It was slightly slower coming on, but it’s lasting longer. It’s been very persistent.″

In Littleton, N.H., Chamber of Commerce secretary Dee Rupert said: ``We’re filled up. We’re reaching into areas people never thought about.″ She said she has a list of about 30 private homes in town where some weary travelers will spend a night this weekend.

Although it’s free to look, the foliage is very important to the New England economy, especially to the small businesses that depend on the busloads of tourists who are deposited at their doors for a few weeks each fall.

In New Hampshire, autumn revenues account for roughly a quarter of that state’s $2.5 billion tourism industry.

``They can’t look at leaves all day. They have to eat. They have to shop,″ said Wil Gaines, operations manager for the Bar Harbor Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Back at Walden Pond, Geri Crane of Jacksonville, Ore., snapped picture after picture and drank in the scenery.

``I always come to visit my friends here in the fall to see this. I love it. I love it! There’s nothing like the change of the leaves. There’s nothing as pretty as this. You can see this nowhere,″ she gushed.

Betty Verlhuicuen lives 30 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park in Loveland, Colo., and as pretty as the golden change of seasons is at home, she said it does not compare to the New England show.

``Up there we only have a kind of golden yellow,″ she said. ``Here it’s very colorful and all the colors are mixed up.″

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