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Cleveland MetroParks Offers Last Chance This Season to See How Maple Sap Becomes Syrup

photo of Dane Johnson, Karen Lakus, Beth Robb, Cleveland MetroParks
At the Rocky River Reservation, Dane Johnson (left) boils down the sap into maple syrup, while Cleveland MetroParks Naturalist Karen Lakus and Historical Interpreter Beth Robb lead hikes through the sugar bush.

There’s just one weekend left to get a taste of maple sugaring in the Cleveland MetroParks. The climate in Northeast Ohio makes it ideal for collecting sap from maple trees.

This month, groups of about 60 people have been hiking through the Rocky River Reservation every half hour, learning the history of maple sugaring in Northeast Ohio. Karen Lakus is a naturalist at the Rocky River Reservation. She says sugar maples can grow in many places, but only in portions of the northeast and Great Lakes region is the climate just right for actually getting sap for maple syrup.

“We have just a small part of the northeast – Canada, New England, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan – where you can do this. Where we have sugar maples and also the right climate. You can grow a sugar maple in the south or somewhere out west, but you don’t have the right climate to take advantage of the sap.

“Now that we’re having the cold nights that we need -- followed by the warm days -- the trees are producing very well. We’ve tapped 80 trees, we’re gathering sap daily and cooking it in the sugar house and we’re making syrup.”

The program at the MetroParks has been running since 1982 and begins at the Maple Grove Picnic Area, just south of the intersection of Cedar Point Road and Valley Parkway.

You can learn more about Ohio’s sugar maples – and how they could be affected by climate change – on “OH Really?,” Wednesday on WKSU’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.