Attack of the influencers: Vermont town shuts road to prevent Instagram hoards in leaf-peeping season

The small town of Pomfret, Vermont, has resorted to drastic measures to stop the flow of social media-hungry tourists clogging up rural backroads during the iconic fall foliage.

The town board agreed to block anyone but locals from using Cloudland Road, a dirt track with stunning rural views, during peak “leaf-peeping” season from 23 September to 15 October.

Windsor County sheriff’s deputies will monitor both ends of the road to stop the crowds which locals have branded “Tick Tockers.”

“It was too much,” local farmer Mike Doten told the Boston Globe. “Something had to be done.”

“There is no way a fire truck or an ambulance can get up this road in the middle of foliage season,” he added. “It’s just too crowded.”

An Instagram search for “Sleepy Hollow Farm”, a famous vista in Pomfret, yields countless identical photos of lone individuals standing on leafy lanes.

However, locals say the reality on the ground is far different: Tourists getting their cars stuck in the dirt. People hopping fences into private property. Thoughtless visitors using the bathroom and leaving their trash along the side of the road.

Prior to the shut-down, Pomfret tried making the popular road one-way, to seemingly little effect, so they’ve opted for new tactics including reaching out directly to influencers.

“Upon being informed of the situation by the residents of Pomfret, I recognized the importance of respecting the wishes of the local community,” Kiel James Patrick, one influencer, told The Daily Mail.

“In response, I’ve removed posts featuring Sleepy Hollow Farm from my platforms and communicated with friends and fellow influencers about the farm’s private nature and the need for privacy and respect.”

The message from town residents is at odds with the state which is trying to encourage the return of tourists after devastating floods in Vermont this summer.

“We know that folks all over the country saw images of the flooding, so we take it very seriously to make sure people know that Vermont is ‘very much open,’” Commissioner Heather Pelham of the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing recently told NBC5.

The state has spent around $200,000 on extra billboards and other ads in markets like Boston and New York City to woo visitors.

Vermont’s iconic fall foliage is a major driver of state tourism (AFP via Getty Images)
Vermont’s iconic fall foliage is a major driver of state tourism (AFP via Getty Images)

A million or more people visit Vermont each fall to see the foliage, according to officials, plowing hundreds of millions of dollars of revenues into the state.

Extreme weather, including heavy rains and wildfire smoke, may mean a shorter foliage season this year.

“This year trees have been stressed physiologically by two types of extreme weather we’ve seen in the Northeast: a summer of historic rainfall versus two previous years of drought,” University of Vermont professor Bill Keeton said earlier this year.

“Like drought, heavy moisture can cause leaves to drop off sooner than usual and have more muted fall colors overall, while the warming fall temperatures are delaying the onset of fall colors, resulting in a shorter foliage season.”