Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fifty sweet years of maple sugaring at Kalamazoo Nature Center

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
March 12, 2015

Boiling sap (Photo by Kalamazoo Nature Center)

The Kalamazoo Nature Center with its 1,100 acres of wooded rolling land and varied educational offerings is recognized as one of the top nature centers in the nation. And for 50 years it’s been celebrating the coming of spring with the Maple Sugar Festival. 

Before the first crocus has yet pushed its green spikes above the snow, before the icicles have yet fallen from rooflines, and long before the first robin has braved Michigan cold, rows of metal buckets hang from maple trees. Taps piercing the bark drip with a sweet sap and collect in the buckets. The maple trees know, and spring is stirring deep inside their trunks.

“Maple sap begins to flow once the temperatures begin to rise above freezing,” says Jason Byler, public programs director, Kalamazoo Nature Center.

At the Nature Center, preparations are underway for their annual Maple Sugaring Festival. This year’s festival will be sweeter than most, because the Nature Center is celebrating its 50 years of maple sugaring.

The two-day festival runs March 14 and 15, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is free to members, $7 for non-member adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for children who are 4- to 17-years old, free to younger children. 

“The Maple Sugaring Festival is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” says Byler. “We normally see between 1,500 and 2,000 people during the two days of the festival and about 120 people become members. This includes both membership renewals and new memberships. When people sign up for a membership, we deduct the price of admission.”

According to the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, Michigan ranks fifth in the United States for maple syrup production. The history of maple syrup production dates back centuries ago, when Native Americans tapped maples for sap.

“At the Nature Center, we still have the Sugar Shack, which has been here for 50 years,” says Byler. The original structure, he says, has posts and a roof that are rotting with age. “We are hoping to build a new one, and the Maple Sugaring Festival will help fund that.”

Pioneer sugaring demonstrations will be held at the DeLano Homestead, the historic section of the Nature Center, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

“We will demonstrate how the sap was collected, boiled, until it evaporates into the syrup we know,” says Byler. Collecting and producing syrup has changed over the years, he says, using metal spiles rather than the wooden spiles of yesteryear. While sap was once ...


No comments:

Post a Comment