By Susan Tebben
The Mill Creek MetroParks maples have been tapped, bagged and sapped for the learning experience, and now will benefit the park.
Representatives from the park and Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association have introduced Mill Creek Maple Syrup, tapped from the Charles S. Robinson Maple Grove near the recreation area.
“The Rocky Ridge Neighbors are excited to be producing syrup here on-site for the first time, and we are even more excited to help out a project to further improve the lives of the county’s residents,” said John Slanina, president of the RRNA.
RRNA is an organization for the community adjacent to the Wick Recreation Area and the 125 sugar maples that were planted in 1951. About a year ago, the organization approached the MetroParks about tapping the trees to see if it could create syrup.
“We took classes through the Ohio State University extension service,” Slanina said Tuesday. “We also have some maple-syrup experts locally that we asked to help out.”
After learning what they needed to tap the trees and purchasing about $6,000 in equipment, Slanina said, the groups went to work. The equipment includes an evaporator, which is what boils the sap into syrup. It takes about 45 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of pure maple syrup, and 70 to 80 trees were tapped to produce the crop, according to Slanina.
About 20 volunteers removed 6 tons of sap by hand in February and March.
Weather turned out to be the biggest challenge for the group.
“Unfortunately, because this was a new project, we didn’t have a shelter for them,” said Linda Kostka, development and marketing director for the MetroParks. “Normally when you collect and do the filtering for maple syrup, it’s done in a building to avoid things like freezing weather.”
The bags on the trees did freeze during the process, but in the end, the syrup was collected, and 300 bottles were filled with Mill Creek Maple Syrup.
All proceeds from the syrup will go to the MetroParks and RRNA. Half of the proceeds will help pay for a new children’s playground at the Wick Recreation Area and half will go to improvement projects in Rocky Ridge.
The bottles are now numbered and on sale for $12 at Fellows Riverside Gardens, Lanterman’s Mill and Youngstown Nation on Phelps Street.
Two bottles are being auctioned at rockyridgeneighbors.com. The very first bottle of maple syrup produced is being auctioned with a current bid of $100. A “tasting breakfast” at the MetroParks log cabin on Lake Glacier, with pancakes, bacon, eggs and Rocky Ridge honey also is being auctioned, with a current bid of $300.