Heading North for Leaf Peeping? Forget About Here

Roads near Vermont's popular Sleepy Hollow Farm will be open only to locals due to congestion
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2023 9:55 AM CDT
Leaf Peepers Get Themselves Banned at Fall Foliage Spot
Stock photo of a Vermont landscape in autumn.   (Getty Images/Don Donelson)

Leaf peepers traveling to the Northeast for the annual fall foliage display will have to forget about one destination on this year's list: The Vermont town of Pomfret has opted to shut down roads to tourists surrounding Sleepy Hollow Farm, one of its most popular tourist destinations in autumn. The reason? Too much traffic congestion. "Foliage season traffic in this area has steadily increased during the last several years, causing significant safety, environmental, aesthetic, and quality of life issues," notes a memo from the Town of Pomfret Selectboard, which first detailed the road closures due to "extraordinary tourism interest" last month.

That means that, through Oct. 15, only locals will be able to use the roads around the farm, as well as delivery drivers, emergency personnel, and agricultural vehicles, per the Burlington Free Press. The shutdown of sorts is hoped to prevent an excess of motorists converging upon the 18th-century farm, which over the past five years or so has seen a spike of visitors thanks to videos on social media platforms like TikTok. "At any one time on a sunny afternoon ... there can be as many as 100 or more cars parked on the side of what's essentially a lane-and-a-half road," says John Peters Jr., the Selectboard's chair.

Traffic has made things so bad in the area at this time of year that residents have a hard time pulling out of their driveways; emergency vehicles have been similarly stalled. One woman tells the Washington Post that a tourist once wandered into her garden house seeking a bathroom. "It's become a real nuisance," says Windsor County Sheriff Ryan Palmer. "And, in some cases, a real safety issue." Last year, the town tried to tamp down on the problem by making one road leading to Sleepy Hollow Farm one way, and it helped a bit—but not enough.

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Pomfret residents even tried more desperate measures to keep people from coming, like writing negative reviews of the farm online or trying to get the farm's location scrubbed from Google Maps. The road closures, which will feature signage and physical barriers, will be enforced by police and private security, Peters tells the Free Press. "One of the appeals of Vermont is the foliage, and we all understand that," Eric Duffy, municipal manager for the nearby town of Woodstock, tells Travel + Leisure. "The big thing for us is to appreciate the difference between a private home and a public space." (More Vermont stories.)

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