To help area residents plan their fall excursions, Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites is offering Leaf Watch 2010 at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/leafwatch through the end of November. The website monitors trees at its most colorful venues, including Red Top Mountain State Park in Cartersville. Along with routine postings from park rangers, the site also contains safety tips for campers and hikers and educational information, like why leaves turn color.
"A few years ago one of the park staff at Amicalola [Falls] shared an e-mail they had gotten from some visitors, who had said they had planned on coming, read [the ranger's] update and postponed their trip so they could come during peak leaf season," said Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. "So I know people are planning their vacations around [Leaf Watch]. It's so popular. People will call us during the summer and ask if we're going to do it again."
This year, the Leaf Watch initiative contains some new features that Hatcher believes will enhance the website's previous offerings.
"We have a webcam that is mounted at the visitor's center at Black Rock Mountain," she said. "It's looking out over the mountainside above the city of Clayton. If you can go [online] right now, you can see that everything is still green. You can see a couple of trees that have started turning a little early but it's nice because people can go online and watch it progress throughout fall. We did have this webcam several years ago there but it was broken so we haven't had it for a few years. But when we did have it in the past, we had people who would go look at it every day and really look forward to it, so I know it's something visitors appreciate.
"Then, the other thing that's new is the partnership with Georgia Forestry Commission. They have a forester who does a weekly blog. She kind of gives a perspective over all of Georgia as opposed to a very specific park. So we've added a link to her blog and we've put some of their educational material about changing leaves on our website."
Due to warm temperatures and the lack of rain in September, Gary McGinnis, senior forester for the Georgia Forestry Commission's Rome District, believes leaves should start transforming into colorful hues next week and reach their height by the end of the month.
"I think they really are going to be turning quicker this year. ... We stayed so warm and dry there in September," McGinnis said, adding the result is some foliage is already turning brown. "We had I think the most 90-degree days during September than we've ever had and no rain.
"Typically we would have more abundant rain and we would typically see it slowly cooling off toward September and we didn't see that. So I really think it's going to be a short, quick fall."