QUECHEE – “It is like a Stephen King Novel,” relates Mary Crowder, of the Quechee Gorge Rental Center and Tourist Assistance Bureau. Crowder was referring to the huge numbers of leaf-peeping out-of-stater’s who are now refusing to return to their home States. Many of them were literally standing on each other’s shoulders on the Gorge Bridge and Route 4. “We don’t even have leaves anymore! Why are they still here?”
A similar situation is happening in Stowe, where the top of Mt. Mansfield is seeing a record breaking number of sightseers. Hiram Summit, of Stowe Condominium and Pup Tent Rentals, says people are lined up for blocks seeking accommodations as they refuse to leave the State with the lowest COVID numbers in the Nation. State officials are considering using the National Guard to set up emergency camp sites for the foliage viewers.
The Secretary of State’s office is scampering to see if the tourists can qualify as residents and receive absentee ballots for the upcoming election. Meanwhile, parking lots and open fields are jammed with vehicles. Interstate rest areas are being opened 24/7 to handle the crush, convenience store restrooms are over taxed, and commodities in supermarkets are becoming in short supply.
Many of the 2.6 million are now required to quarantine for 14 days which exacerbates the problem. Vermont health officials are concerned that it may be difficult to get people out of the state while requiring them to stay put for up to two weeks.
A spokesperson for the Vermont Tourism and Resettlement Consortium, states they anticipated a peeping surge but no one expected the foliage fanatics to refuse to leave. Concern now exists whether the influx of skiers in November will add to the problem. Minerva Hairpuller, of the Vermont Agency of Ski Trail Enthusiasts, says “We expect that there will be an additional surge, a really big surge!”
For now, Vermont is asking people to stop coming here, unless it is to pick up someone who is already here and take them away.