Leaves predicted to change color earlier than in past few years

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Mill Creek Metro-Parks visitors this year are seeing foliage that actually is more in line with the typical color change schedule than in the past two years.




Linda Kostka isn’t the least bit shy about listing the countless spots within Mill Creek MetroParks that are ideal for taking in vibrant displays of red, gold and orange foliage each fall.

There’s the gorge near Lanterman’s Mill, or any length of the MetroParks Bikeway, or the vistas above lakes Cohasset, Glacier and Newport.

And that’s just the start.

“It’s always just beautiful in the fall,” said Kostka, the development and marketing director for Mill Creek MetroParks. “We do notice a lot of people at the park then, because they want to look at the leaves and enjoy the MetroParks before winter.”

This year, though, those who already are anticipating the wide array of fall color changes — at Mill Creek MetroParks or elsewhere — won’t have much longer to wait.

Thanks to above-average rainfall early in the summer, Ohio’s trees are changing color earlier than in previous years, said Casey Burdick, fall color forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Subsequently, fall color likely will peak in Northeast Ohio in the second week of October, or even in the beginning of the third week, she said.

But this timing is actually more in line with the typical color-change schedule than in the past two years, when peak fall color arrived a week or two later than normal across most of the state.

“This year is more on time,” Burdick said. “The weather has been better through the spring and summer months, with more moderate rainfall. It also wasn’t a real dry, hot summer or fall — which will help the trees recover from the past few summer and fall seasons we’ve encountered.”

Arid summer weather forces trees to hold onto their leaves for longer than normal, she said, adding that trees are “still a little bit stressed” from this weather, and that the fall color currently visible is a product of the harsh conditions in recent years.

Even so, trees are looking healthier at this point in the year than they have in the past, Burdick said.

She noted, too, that for the best vibrancy in fall colors, days should be sunny and nights should be cool, but not freezing, throughout September. These ideal conditions cause the chemical reactions that help trap leaf-produced sugars inside each leaf — and produce the brightest hues.

“So far, the weather here in September has settled in to be just right,” Burdick said.

Julie Bartolone, a naturalist at the Ford Nature Center, said the fall foliage could last up to a month, depending on the amount of wind and rain. The more inclement weather there is, the more quickly the leaves will break off and fall, she added.

But before then, there are a number of ways to enjoy the season, including a “Kayaking as the Color Begins” tour of Lake Newport on Oct. 12, and a four-mile “Carnival of Color” hike around Lake Glacier on Oct. 13. Bartolone will lead both events.

“These are two good local ways to view the color change at its peak,” Bartolone said. “We’re really lucky to live here and see that.”

To track weekly fall color changes across the state, visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ website devoted to the season, http://fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov.

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