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Continuing a tradition in the Northeast United States, including New Jersey, that began centuries ago with the Native Americans and colonists, the Somerset County Park Commission invites children and adults to a 90-minute program to witness how Maple tree sap can produce delicious New Jersey maple syrup.
The series of weekend demonstrations are free and begin this Saturday morning at the Environmental Education Center's Sugar Shack at 190 Lord Stirling Road, Basking Ridge.
During a series of programs that will continue through March 10, the trees are tapped. Participants will learn about sap collecting methods from the past and present, and experience the boiling process that results in maple syrup.
Naturalist Rich Hoffman said that a taste of maple syrup is offered, even if the EEC can't hand out the syrup produced that day.
Hoffman said it is likely that maple syrup was produced in this area. The late Bernards Township farmer and Libertarian, Irwin Richardt, produced syrup from maple trees on land off Allen Road in Basking Ridge that now is the Sons of Liberty municipal park.
The public programs on maple sugaring are scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays, February 2 and 3; February 9 and 10; February 16 and 17; February 23 and 24; March 2 and 3; and March 9 and 10.
Saturday maple sugar program times are set for 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Sunday's program times are set for noon and 2 p.m.
Participants should allow at least twenty minutes to walk from the EEC near the parking lot out to the sugar shack.
Organized groups, such as Scouts, may schedule demonstrations during one of the time blocks by contacting the EEC at 908-766-2489, ext. 332.
The ”Sugar Shack,” run by the Somerset County Park Commission Naturalists, is a one-half mile walk through the forest from the Environmental Education Center building. Along the way, visitors will witness the Great Swamp in a setting that summer visitors never see. Trails are well marked and easy to follow.
The site is accessible to mobility-impaired individuals with forty-eight hours notice providing that weather and ground conditions permit.
"The program provides background on the manufacture of maple syrup, its history, technology, and food production in addition to education the natural environment," Hoffman said. " But, what I like most about the program is that it is fun to be in the winter woods, smelling the sweetness coming from the sugar house and being near the warmth of the fire.”
Information and trail conditions may be obtained by calling 908-766-2489. Individuals with hearing impairments may call NJ Relay at 711. Information on this event and other Somerset County Park Commission activities may be found online.