NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- Bennington County is rebounding well this foliage season after a difficult year in 2011, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.
Tropical Storm Irene left the state in shambles last year just weeks ahead of the fall foliage season, a vital time of year for the state's tourism-heavy economy. But with roads now repaired and vibrant colors emerging, tourists are again flocking to the state to enjoy the season.
Every state in the nation
"We're not getting any of those calls from last year, like, ‘Are you open?'" said Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joann Erenhouse. "I would say the visiting public is finding everything they are looking for."
Erenhouse said a visit Friday by a couple at the Chamber office now allows the area to claim visitors from every state in the nation.
"Every state had come to visit us except for one. And there was a couple from South Dakota today," she said. "We're seeing a lot of people from all over the place. I think we have a more wider distribution of visitors this year."
And the best views of foliage may still be to come.
According to maps generated by the state, Route 9 from Bennington to Brattleboro is at near peak. That means about 60 to 80 percent of the leaves have changed color. Route 7 from Pownal to Manchester is still listed as early stage, with just 5 to 20 percent of the leaves changed. Route 313 in Arlington toward the New York border is also listed as early stage.
Erenhouse said many of the trees in Bennington have yet to change, but the surrounding, higher elevations are providing great views. "Here in town we're not at peak, but if you go any place five or 10 miles from town you'll see peak," she said.
Local merchants, restaurants and motels appear to be doing well, according to Erenhouse said. But, Columbus Day weekend will be the best barometer, she said.
"I think that they're reluctant to report anything right now. It's early still, and this weekend will be their busiest of the season," she said.