BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Continuing a tradition in the Northeast United States that was begun centuries ago by Native Americans and colonists, the Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge again invites children and adults to a 90-minute program to witness how maple trees are tapped, learn about sap collecting methods from the past and present, and experience the boiling process that produces New Jersey maple syrup.

Programs take place at the "Sugar Shack" at the EEC, part of the Somerset County Park Commission, at 190 Lord Stirling Road in Basking Ridge, on Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 17 & 18; Feb. 24 & 25; March 3 & 4; and March 10 & 11. The program is free with a suggested donation of $1 per person.

The maple syrup demonstrations have also become a tradition at the EEC after having been presented for several seasons.

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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 Scouts, may schedule demonstrations during one of the time blocks by contacting the EEC at 908-766-2489, ext. 5332.

The Somerset County Park Commission’s ”Sugar Shack” is 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.

“The program explains the manufacturing process of maple syrup, its history, technology, and food production. 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,” said Naturalist Rich Hoffman, coordinator of the program.

Information and trail conditions are available by calling 908-766-2489. Individuals with hearing impairments may call NJ Relay at 711.