Fall's colors en route

Rick Miller/Olean Times Herald

Slight color changes are evident in parts of Allegany State Park and other areas of Cattaraugus County and the Southern Tier, including hills around Red House Lake in the park.

LITTLE VALLEY — Summer’s roller coaster weather — wet early and dry later — may mean a prolonged fall foliage season in parts of the Southern Tier.

The weekly I Love New York Fall Foliage Report that began earlier this month reported an average 10 percent change in the color of leaves in the Little Valley area and in Allegany State Park.

Becky Smith, who has been making predictions for the Little Valley area for I Love New York for the past 13 years, works in the Cattaraugus County Tourism Office.

She compared the approximate 13 percent change in color around Little Valley this week to last year’s foliage report, which was 30 percent at the same time.

Smith’s report for I Love New York for last week was “a little more than 10 percent color change for the weekend, with some yellow hues of average brilliance emerging from the green backdrop.” The report from the state park called for up to 10 percent change.

“It’s really been sunny,” Smith told the Times Herald on Tuesday. “That helps the leaves keep their chlorophyll and their green color.”

Smith said leaves often achieve their peak color during the first or second week of October.

“I think we’ll keep the leaves and the colors around a little longer this year,” she said. “Once they start changing, they change quick.”

Because of ample summer rain, Smith thinks the leaves will be very colorful this year.

How does Smith decide what percentage of change in the leaves to report to I Love New York every week?

“I go outside in Little Valley and take a guess at what percentage of trees have changed,” Smith explained.

The leaf spotters’ reports are reported each Wednesday, predicting the percentage of change in the foliage for the next weekend.

In the Chautauqua-Allegheny Region — Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties — regular reports are received for Little Valley and Allegany State Park.

The abundance of maple trees in the central part of Cattaraugus County are colorful but seem to peak earlier than the hardwoods at higher elevations in Allegany State Park, Smith said.

“People have been driving here from all over to see our colors for years,” Smith said. “Coming down Route 219 from Springville is just a beautiful ride.”

Check the Fall Foliage Report on the I Love New York website — www.iloveny.com — for a weekly update by region.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)