BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- With or without snow or cold temperatures, the annual "Maple Sugaring" program at the Environmental Center in Basking Ridge will continue to be offered to the public several times each weekend through March 15.

Continuing a tradition in the Northeast United States that was begun centuries ago by Native Americans and colonists, the Somerset County Park Commission invites children and adults to a 90-minute program to witness how maple trees are tapped and to learn about sap collecting methods from the past and present. Finally, participants will gather round for the boiling process that produces delicious New Jersey Maple Syrup. 

Free, but $1 donation suggested

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Programs for the public are scheduled to take place at the Environmental Education Center's "Sugar Shack" at 190 Lord Stirling Road in Basking Ridge, New Jersey on Saturdays and Sundays, March 7 and 8, and on March 14 and 15.

 The program is free with a suggested donation of $1 per person.

Saturday Maple Sugar program times are at 10 a.m., noon, and at 2 p.m. Sunday program times are scheduled for noon and 2 p.m.

Naturalist Rich Hoffman, coordinator of the program explained, “The program explains the manufacturing process of maple syrup, its history, technology, and food production in addition to education the natural environment. But, what I like most 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.”

Participants should be aware that they must allow at least twenty minutes to walk from the center to the sugar shack. Organized groups, such as Scouts, may schedule demonstrations during one of the time blocks by contacting the EEC at 908-722-1200, ext. 5332.

The "Sugar Shack" is located on a one-half mile walk through the forest from the Environmental Education Center building. Along the way, visitors will witness 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-hour notice providing that weather and ground conditions permit.

Information and trail conditions may be obtained by calling 908-722-1200, ext. 5327. 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.