New England raking in millions from leaf peepers - WFSB 3 Connecticut

New England raking in millions from leaf peepers

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BLOOMFIELD, CT (WFSB/AP) -

A banner year is expected across New England, including in Connecticut, for leaf peeping, and as the leaves change over to red, orange and yellow, it means a whole lot of green for several businesses in state.

Along with the canopy of colors during the autumn season comes an infusion of cash. That's because the fall foliage season and all those leaf peepers bring big money to New England and its tourism industry.

"I was out here with the kids last weekend, really busy, lots of people,” said West Hartford resident Tara Rothstein, who was hiking at Talcott Mountain State Park in Bloomfield.

As she continued to hike through Talcott Mountain State Park, Rothstein said she loves the vibrant colors she saw on her journey. In fact, Rothstein said she just got back from a weekend in Vermont.

"It was a little past peak,” Rothstein said. “We missed it and it rained up there, so we're taking advantage of some peak foliage here close to home and taking a quick hike.”

In Connecticut, state officials said its peak season is expected to last through mid-November. That means now is the Nutmeg State's time to shine.

"It just brings out a new life with all the colors - the reds, yellows, oranges,” Rachelle Wilczak, of East Windsor, said. “It's just nice."

As for the tourists, they spend on hotel rooms and restaurants. And while folks might come for the foliage, the hope is they'll stay for other attractions as well.

Vermont and New Hampshire are the big destination locations for leaf peeping, with the Granite State projecting more than 8 million visitors spending more than $1.5 billion this fall.

As for Connecticut, in December, the state will release its figures dating back to 2006 - the last year it tracked tourism spending in state.

Megan Smith, Vermont's tourism and marketing commissioner, told The Associated Press fall visits to the Green Mountain State have grown between 3 and 6 percent every year since 2009, when the Great Recession bottomed out. Visits to Vermont's state parks are up 8 percent and now at their highest level since 1989.

The Associated Press also reported Maine and Massachusetts are seeing increases in spending due to leaf peeping.

"I work in development and there are a lot of people who come over from India and are developers. And this is just one of the parts that they just love in New England,” Jason Wilczak, of East Windsor, said. “They bring their families over and just enjoy this part."

According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Talcott Mountain State Park was at capacity Sunday. That means there were so many people at the state park that they ran out of parking spaces.

"It's indescribable. You just have to get up there. You can just see out wide,” Jason Wilczak said. "It's the perfect view of New England."

And it's something those who live here already know.

"We don't appreciate it in New England because we see it every year,” Jason Wilczak said. “I appreciate it, but I imagine it's worth making a trip for."

To see some viewer photos of the fall foliage, click here. 

Copyright 2014 WFSB (Meredith Corporation).The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.