TITUSVILLE, NJ — The art of maple sugaring, known as a harbinger of spring, is featured in a series of educational programs to be held through early March at Washington Crossing State Park.

"Maple sugaring is a hands-on activity that serves as an excellent vehicle for teaching many important natural resource concepts," said Mark Texel, director of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Parks and Forestry. "The programs are geared to youngsters and families, giving them a taste of the past and the outdoors, while creating memories that will last a lifetime."

The park is currently offering maple sugaring demonstrations by reservation with schools, scouting groups, clubs and community groups. The demonstrations provide an introduction to tapping trees, maple sugar processing, tree identification and folklore.

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The park also will offer public demonstrations during the first two weekends of March. This program is offered from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 and Saturday, March 10, and from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, and Sunday, March 11. Advanced registration is required.

The programs begin in the park's nature center, then proceed to wooded areas where participants can experience tapping a tree and bringing buckets of sap to the park's pavilion, where they are processed into syrup.

Visitors to the park can observe Wayne Henderek, a state park service interpretive specialist, working in the park pavilion, boiling sap that has been collected and answering questions.

"My objective is always to get people to love nature, and to respect the park and the natural environment, to have fun with nature," said Henderek, who has has been demonstrating maple sugaring at Washington Crossing for 32 years. For a DEP podcast on maple sugaring with him, click here.

Maple trees are a dominant feature of the park and much of the northern part of the state. Maple sap has a higher sugar concentration than other trees. It delivers water, sugar and nutrients as the trees leave winter dormancy.

In New Jersey, maple sap begins to flow in mid-February, when the nights are below freezing and the days generally warm to above freezing. The season lasts three to four weeks. The state has more than 30 farms in eight counties that produce maple syrup, with Sussex County having the most, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Straddling Mercer and Hunterdon counties, the 3,575-acre Washington Crossing State Park preserves the area where George Washington's Continental Army landed after crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776.

To reserve a group demonstration or to reserve a spot in the public weekend programs, call the park’s nature center at 609-737-0609. For directions, a park map and other park information, visit the Washington Crossing State Park website.

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