A sure sign that spring is on the way is the tapping of sugar maple trees at Ryerson Conservation Area near Riverwoods.
This year, however, drought conditions that have continued since spring of 2012 are being taken into account. With the recent snow and cold weather, last summer's dry heat seems like a distant memory. Yet, it was only this past week that the National Weather Service officially changed its "moderate drought" designation to "abnormally dry" for most of Lake County.
While every drop of rain and flake of snow are helping to slowly ease our way out of last summer's dryness, the damage already done by the drought will determine the sweetness of this spring.
Ryerson is one of the few local areas where climate conditions are right for maple syrup production and where the trees grow to a diameter and height that allows for tapping. For this maple syrup season, the naturalists at Ryerson will take a conservative approach to sugar maple tapping that occurs annually in February.
Traditionally, 30–35 sugar maple trees are tapped for syrup production. This year, based on recommendations from the University of Vermont's Proctor Maple Research Center, a more conservative number of trees, 10–15, will be tapped in an effort to curb the stress to our sugar maple trees.
Although there will be a significant decrease in the quantity of trees tapped, it will in no way affect our popular Maple Syrup Hikes, which are offered the first three weekends in March.
The hikes are offered on Saturdays and Sundays from March 2 through 17, providing visitors with a tour, and taste, of the process. Participants will follow the process from sap to syrup and taste the final product.
The one-hour hikes run every half-hour from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 pm and are open to all ages. Registration is required and hikes fill fast, so be sure to register soon. Cost to attend is $6 per person and there are special sessions designed especially for large parties or Scout groups.
Ryerson is located on Riverwoods Road south of Half Day Road and west of the I-94 Tollway in Riverwoods. For additional information on this or other Lake County Forest Preserve programs, call 847-367-6640 and request a free copy of the Horizons quarterly newsletter.
Submitted by the Lake County Forest Preserve District