New Jersey has its own centuries-old tradition of making maple syrup: Starting this weekend, the Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge will again begin its winter demonstrations of how maple trees are tapped, sap collecting methods from the past and present, and the boiling process that results in delicious New Jersey Maple Syrup.

The Somerset County Park Commission invites children and adults to participate in the 90-minute public programs at the EEC's Sugar Shack at 190 Lord Stirling Road in Basking Ridge on both Saturdays and Sundays, February 7 & 8; February 14 & 15; February 21& 22; February 28 & March 1; March 7 & 8; and March 14 & 15. There is a suggested donation of $1 per person.

EEC naturalist Rich Hoffman, coordinator of the program, said the demonstration provides background on the manufacture of maple syrup, its history, technology, and food production in addition to education about the natural environment. "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," Hoffman added.

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Maple Sugaring is a tradition in the Northeastern United States that was begun centuries ago by Native Americans and colonists.

Multiple times for demonstrations

Saturday Maple Sugar program times are at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Sunday maple sugar program times are at  noon and 2 p.m. Participants should allow at least twenty minutes to walk from the Center to the Sugar Shack. Organized groups, such as Scouting groups, 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 experience 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.

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 at www.somersetcountyparks.org.