- author, Susan Budheiser
- scroll, BBC Travel
Stepping into the town of Pomfret, in the US state of Vermont, you are immediately impressed by its rustic beauty.
From the north, Haw Hill Road descends the hill in a series of gentle curves, each curve revealing green farm fields dotted with sheep or areas of woodland where red and orange autumn leaves cling to the branches.
In one house, a tree laden with apples stands on top of a stone wall, and the top of the tree is full of decaying fruit.
At the beginning of October, more than half of the cars in circulation in this city of 900 people had out-of-state license plates.
One of them, from Florida, stopped suddenly on a road with a speed limit of 72 kilometers per hour, blocking one of the two lanes. the reason? Take a photo of the farm silo against the background of autumn leaves.
With a few businesses — a general store, an arts center with a gallery and theater, and a few apple or pumpkin farms — Pomfret is generally a quiet, unpretentious place.
But in the fall, when “leaf peepers” from around the world descend on the region’s hills and into small towns to view the changing leaves, everything changes.
Until recently, the number of leaf peepers visiting Pomfret was slower than dial-up Internet.
But since photos of Sleepy Hollow Farm, a 115-acre private farm located on a country road, began circulating on social media a few years ago, locals say things have spiraled out of control.
A quick search on Instagram reveals thousands of photos of the winding dirt road that leads to an elegant 18th-century house on Cloudland Road. It’s no wonder this unexpected farm has become known as one of the “Most Photographed Places in the State.”
“It’s a beautiful place. It’s a shame that it’s being destroyed for everyone,” said Deborah Goodwin, exhibition coordinator at the Pomfret Community Arts Center. “[Nos] The last two years this has been out of control. Tour buses were just dropping people there.”
Goodwin says social media influencers regularly jumped a gate covered with “No Trespassing” signs, set up changing rooms to accommodate their many costume changes, left “city cars” stranded on the narrow dirt road and left bodily waste on the side of the road. . The Road.
“It was bad,” she recalled. “The residents went to [governo local] They said: ‘We can’t allow this anymore.’
During the 2022 fall foliage season, law enforcement officials temporarily converted the road through Sleepy Hollow to a one-way street.
This was not enough to prevent tourists from misbehaving. This year, locals tried a different approach: crowdfunding.
In the GoFundMe appeal, a team of organizers wrote: “[Temos] There has been an unprecedented rise in tourism “influencers” driven by Instagram and TikTok… [que] “They destroyed roads, got into accidents, demanded tows from ditches, trampled on parks, defecated on private property… and verbally attacked residents.”
So far, the request has raised 103 donations and raised $16,068.
As a result, city officials voted to close roads leading to the farm during the peak fall foliage season (September 23 to October 15) to non-residents, drawing the ire of travelers who drove to the area hoping to capture the idyllic scenery.
Most Pomfret residents emphasized that they are not anti-tourists; They simply want people to treat their hometown with respect.
Many have also expressed concerns about the safety of Cloudland Road residents, as well as tourists themselves.
According to Windsor County Sheriff Ryan Palmer, “This is not a road designed to accommodate multiple vehicles. [Em 2021 e 2022] There were queues of traffic along the road and it was not possible to get fire equipment or an ambulance to pass. “It was putting pressure on the area’s infrastructure.”
Things were different in the busy nearby town of Woodstock, where the Cloudland Road ends.
There, crowds of visitors walked in and out of pretty shops, their windows decorated with warty pumpkins. Outside cocktail bar Au Comptoir, customers wait at tables leaning against the stone walls.
On the city’s sidewalks, people stopped to take panoramic photos of the majestic buildings erected by the Rockefeller family. The city’s restaurants were also crowded.
At Woodstock Inn & Resort, there was only space in the on-property restaurants for those staying at the inn.
Unlike Pomfret, Woodstock is a town that thrives on tourism and is equipped to handle it.
Lori Crowningshield, retail manager at Vermont Flannel Co.’s flagship store on Elm Street, reported it was having its busiest weekend of the year. She explained that after a rainy summer that “was very difficult for everyone,” she explained, “We really need tourists here.”
But what’s good for Woodstock isn’t necessarily good for Pomfret.
At a time when cities like Venice are so full of travelers that authorities are looking to impose a tourist tax on visitors, and when trendy restaurants are banning influencers and their phones, Pomfret is just one of many places around the world trying to curb overtourism and fight hashtags – but this It comes at a cost.
According to Palmer, the road closures in Pomfret aren’t just law enforcement; It’s also expensive. Palmer estimates Cloudland Road residents footed a bill of more than $10,000 so authorities could post road closure signs and enforce patrols — all of which drew more people to town as word spread.
Palmer hopes the Pomfret drama will be resolved. Residents have floated the idea of creating a reservation or ticketing system for visits to Sleepy Hollow to help manage tourism more responsibly, but he says that option is not being seriously considered.
“We love having tourists here, it’s a big part of Vermont’s economy and we want people to enjoy the natural beauty, visit the vendors and shops,” he said.
“The important thing is to be respectful of people’s homes and property…please come, just be respectful.”
“Proud explorer. Freelance social media expert. Problem solver. Gamer.”