With the first day of autumn approaching, people are beginning to travel to New England to participate in seasonal traditions such as apple and pumpkin picking and to see the changing colour of the leaves.
But one town in Vermont has decided to shut down one of its roads for three weeks in response to the influx of tourists and influencers who have shown up looking for fall content.
Pomfret locals have spoken out about their anger regarding the number of cars, tour buses and drones flying across Cloudland Road, home to Sleepy Hollow Farm.
The town’s select board agreed with the residents and last month voted to block the road to anyone except locals for three weeks at the height of the “leaf peeping” season, from 23 September to 15 October, The Boston Globe reported. To ensure the rules are followed, sheriff’s deputies will have checkpoints at the top and bottom of the road.
According to locals, their area of Vermont has always been a popular tourist attraction, but there was a tonal shift five years ago when influencers began arriving. Prior to that, visitors were usually photographers. “They’ve been coming here for decades. You might have had six or eight cars come up at dawn,” Mike Doten, a farmer in the area, said. “They’re quiet. They don’t bother anyone.”
Other visitors were tourists sent by inns and bed and breakfast hosts in the area. “They’re not so bad,” Mr Doten’s wife, Amy Robb, said. “Both from a numbers perspective, and how they behave.”
The locals said that the main problem was influencers treating the road like a “public park.”
"We call them Tik Tokers," Mr Doten, who owns an 80-acre farm on Cloudland Road, told The Globe, noting he once saw a woman erect a portable changing booth on-site to take selfies in different outfits - and she wasn’t the only one. "The Tik Tokers started flocking here and they kept growing, year after year."
Mr Doten said it can also pose a safety hazard, potentially impeding a fire engine or ambulance from reaching the area in the event of an emergency. “There is no way a fire truck or an ambulance can get up this road in the middle of foliage season,” he said. “It’s just too crowded.”
This is Pomfret’s second attempt at controlling the influx of influencers; the town made Cloudland Road one-way only during the fall foliage season last year.
However, it proved unsuccessful, as instead of turning around and going back the way they came, visitors would drive up a couple of miles onto another road, racing down an unpaved road in a cloud of dust.
Neighbours of Sleepy Hollow Farm, one of the most popular spots, recently launched a GoFundMe to raise money for additional police and signage in the area. The page states that “Cloudland and surrounding roads become impassable during the fall, and roads and poorly behaved tourists have damaged roads, had accidents, required towing out of ditches, trampled gardens, defecated on private property, parked in fields and driveways, and verbally assaulted residents.”
The residents who successfully argued for a temporary road closure aren’t stopping there. They have contacted social media influencers who have promoted the area and local inns who send their guests up to Cloudland, asking them to refrain from doing so.
“Those who have responded have been understanding and empathetic, saying they didn’t know it was causing such a problem for people who live here,” said Mr Doten.
New England-based influencer Kiel James Patrick, who has over one million Instagram followers, told The Globe he’d removed posts featuring Sleepy Hollow Farm to respect the privacy of residents.
“Upon being informed of the situation by the residents of Pomfret, I recognized the importance of respecting the wishes of the local community,” he said. “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.”