January 24, 2019

Tapping into nature

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Sap dripped off a spile at Pattison Park last winter. The Clermont County Park District celebrates the collection of maple sap and its transformation to syrup with a variety of winter events.

People often complain about the up-and-down nature of winter temperatures in southwestern Ohio.

Not Clermont County Park District employees.

Naturalist Alyssa Rooks led staffers through the frigid sugar bush Jan. 22. Armed with drills, mallets, spiles and buckets, the heavily layered crew tapped 35 sugar maple trees to kick off maple season in the Park District.

Temperatures soared from the single digits that morning into the low 50s the next afternoon, exactly the kind of cold-to-warm weather ideal for producing lots of liquid. In fact, trees yielded 20 gallons on the first collection day.

“That’s a good start, but we’re hoping for a lot more in the next month or so,” Rooks said. “It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup, so we’re already up to half a gallon, which is exciting for the first day.”

“We’re on the southern edge of maple production in the United States, but Ohio made the eighth-most syrup in the country last year ahead of Massachusetts and Connecticut.”

Vermont led the nation’s maple production in 2018; its 1.9 million gallons dwarfed the 90,000 produced in Ohio. Quebec, Canada, is the largest maple syrup producer in the world.

“We’re doing this on a pretty small scale,” Rooks said. “Some of the big producers have thousands and thousands of trees.”

Rooks hosts a Maple Days Hike from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, at Pattison Lodge. This free event features a walk through the sugar bush and samples of maple tea (with cookies) in the lodge afterward.

(While the hike is free, RSVPs are encouraged at either adrooks@clermontcountyohio.gov or 513-240-2615 to get an accurate count for food.).

School and scout groups will be on the grounds learning about maple production through February as well.

The culmination of maple season comes with the Park District’s 14th annual Pancakes in Park event set for 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 9, in the lodge. Cost is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for ages 6 to 12 and children 5 and under are free. Tickets available at the door.

Mark D. Motz is the Community Relations Manager for the Clermont County Park District. A native Cincinnatian, he has worked for more than 25 years as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. Away from work, he enjoys photography, theater and spending time with his nine godchildren.

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