Make The Cape Cod Canal Into A Fall Foliage Destination


I apologize to long-time readers, because I am about to embark on an annual rant of mine. I will continue this rant, once a year, until I get what I want.

Fall Foliage is a major tourist attraction in New England. People come from everywhere to watch our foliage turn over. It all happens naturally, for the most part. God or Mother Nature or whoever designed New England had the right idea with October and the trees.

It also happens at an opportune time, right when the summer tourist season is ending. Autumn’s color show extends that season through October.

However, New England’s fall foliage scene has a weak link, and that weak link is Cape Cod. It’s not from a lack of effort… Cape Cod has a few strikes against her when it comes to fall foliage.

Due to her longitude and her coastal climate, Cape Cod turns colors last in New England. While parts of New Hampshire are already done with color by Columbus Day, Cape Cod’s foliage- what there is of it- has a season that runs into November… well into November on a warm year, like this one. While that gives us anchorman position in New England, it means that our foliage has to survive the inevitable October nor’easter.

Cape Cod also has the wrong trees, which is sort of where this article is headed. We have wayyyy too much pine. Part of the reason is that we clear-cut Cape Cod during the pre-Internet days, and pine has out-competed the other trees. Our soil is sandy, which seems to harm pines less than other trees. We also lost a lot of trees in the 1938 hurricane, and tree-restoration projects focused heavily on cheap Jersey scrub pine.

When you go to Vermont and look at the forests, that is what New England is supposed to look like. When you look at Cape Cod, you see what it looks like if you destroy the trees and then replace them on the cheap.

We’re not lacking in cool trees, and you can get a fine show on Cape Cod. We’re just a weak sister in the New England family, a featherweight in a room full of heavyweights. It’s not going to get any better without human intervention.

That’s why we should line the Cape Cod Canal with trees that will produce spectacular color in October.

right now, the Canal is a wonderful place to take a walk. You have boats, ducks, fishermen, girls, and all sorts of fun stuff happening down there. It’s a minor attraction, but it’s an attraction. Making it into extreme southern New Hampshire during October foliage season would add an element to that appeal. It would do so at a time where the beach-tourist dynamic is being devoured by colder weather.

It would cost some money, but not that much. A lot of the materials needed could be gathered by an ambitious Boy Scout gang taking a New Hampshire road trip. If fifty kids get a thousand acorns each… that’s like five hundred thousand trees eventually or somethin’…

Send them up to gather every spring for a decade. Spread the acorns out along the banks of the Canal, maybe remove some under-performing trees, and Voila! We suddenly have a fall foliage superpower on Cape Cod

Not all trees in New Hampshire will produce the same foliage colors on Cape Cod, so maybe we should gather our acorns from somewhere more local (Standish forest?). The soil along the Canal may not be right for growing a scarlet oak, although that could also be remedied.

We wouldn’t see payoff for 50 years or however long it takes a tree to get big enough to dominate the local color scheme. It is quite possible that I, the guy with this idea, may not live to see the foliage, even if they started planting today.

However, once those trees start showing their true colors, we’ll have a tourist attraction. Why drive 5 hours to Maine and deal with those people when you can go an hour south of Boston and have the whole foliage experience concentrated in one lovely walk along an ocean river? We’re also closer to Providence, Connecticut, New York and everything SW of Maine.

Someone who knows trees more than I do should already be working on this.



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