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Tourism official hopes county is in for 'spectacular' fall

September 23, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

Falling temperatures this week was a sure sign that autumn was on its way.

Today officially marks the first day of fall.

Now that days get shorter and nights get longer, leaves will begin to change color. The changing colors of leaves primarily are regulated by how long the nights are.

When night length increases in the fall, chlorophyll production slows down in the leaves. Eventually, all of the chlorophyll is destroyed, and the leaves reveal the colors of other pigments, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Web site, www.fs.fed.us.

Foliage turns bright shades of red, yellow, orange and gold, and attracts many "foliage spotters" to Washington County, said Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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October is a busy month for tourism. Area campgrounds and hotels attract more guests in October than in September, and "fall foliage is a big part of that," Riford said.

"A lot of people from the Northern Virginia area and D.C. love to get out to Western Maryland and see miles and miles of beautiful trees," Riford said.

Paul Breitenbach leaves maps of the best scenic routes in the county for his guests at the Jacob Rohrbach Bed and Breakfast in Sharpsburg.

The routes take guests from Sharpsburg up to Pen Mar, and back through Cavetown, all on back roads, Breitenbach said.

Breitenbach's business at the bed and breakfast is constant from April through November, and fall foliage is an "added incentive" for tourists in the later months, he said.

"People come here in the fall because of the nice weather," Breitenbach said. "They like to go outside."

Guests hike the C&O Canal and tour Antietam National Battlefield in the fall, Breitenbach said.

People expect colors to start changing in early September, but that is not the case, Breitenbach said.

Color probably will peak around Oct. 22, he said.

Riford said the area around Hancock is ideal for those interested in enjoying fall's brilliance. The Western Maryland Rail Trail is perfect for a bike ride or stroll through fall's crisp air, he said.

"I'm hopeful this particular autumn will be spectacular," Riford said.

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