By Lauren Wanko
A palette of colors — burnt orange, reds and yellows — takes over Cattus Island County Park every fall..
“Just the different colors makes everything look like a piece of art when you’re looking at it. It makes you feel really good,” said Beachwood resident Brittany Andresen.
Leaves fall softy from the towering trees, sprinkling the park grounds with a bed of color.
“The color you see in the fall are present all year long, they’re just drowned out by the greens. The green is chlorophyll. When that breaks down, other colors come out,” said Ocean County Parks and Recreation Naturalist Christopher Claus.
In the fall, the trees go dormant. They cut off the mineral and water supply to the leaves, which in turn break down, transforming forests into a rainbow of autumn hues. The chemicals in the leaves determine the color.
“And those chemicals are present if you think about that’s if you think about a house that’s been painted many different colors and the last color you put on is green, and then you scrape away the green underneath, you’re gonna see potentially red or yellow of a combination of both,” Claus said.
“In the fall, they just jump out at you, they jump out at you in ways that they don’t do that in other seasons,” said Barnegat resident Donna Repoile.
“I think it increases people’s moods. You see people change moods in the fall. I think some of that good mood you see is when the colors are the brightest because then leaves are down and I think people get into a different mood for the winter,” Claus said.
An estimated 75,000 to 100,000 people visit Cattus Island County Park every year, but visitation increases by 20 percent in the fall.
“I wouldn’t say that they all necessarily know that they’re coming to see the foliage but I think a lot of them if you sat down and really polled them I think the foliage has a certain pull,” Claus said.
“It’s my favorite time of year,” said Toms River resident Clint Lehman.
It’s called “leaf peeping” and it’s something Lehman enjoys doing at the park.
“It’s just absolutely gorgeous, particularly here,” Lehman said.
“We come actually different seasons because it’s just so beautiful here. I think this is the best season however,” said Joyce Ballman.
“It’s definitely the prettiest time of year. It’s nice to be out here with all the pretty colors as they change,” said Shane McWeeney.
Still, autumn offers more then varying shades of color. Flowers like the seaside goldenrod bloom in the fall.
“The colors are something to appreciate, but look a little closer because I think you’ll find other things to appreciate in the fall, other natural phenomena that happens this time of year — the smells, the sights, everything,” Claus said.
And since chilly temperatures are quickly approaching, there’s no better time to take in all that autumn has to offer than this weekend.