Mill Creek Maple Syrup Project events held this week

Representatives from Mill Creek MetroParks and the Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association will cut the ribbon on the new Mill Creek Maple Sugar House at the James L. Wick Recreation Area (1861 McCollum Rd., Youngstown, 44509) Wednesday, April 30 at 10 a.m. The Sugar House was constructed this spring by volunteers from the Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association as a place where the sugaring volunteers could cook down sap from the nearby maples in the Charles S. Robinson Maple Grove to make syrup. Donors to the project include The Youngstown Foundation, Gelbman Foundation, J. Ford Crandall Foundation, Mill Creek MetroParks, The Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, USDA, 4th Ward funds from Mike Ray, and the Home Savings Foundation.

Along with the ribbon cutting for the Sugar House, sales of this year’s batch of Mill Creek Maple Syrup will begin on Thursday, May 1 at 10 a.m. at Fellows Riverside Gardens. Proceeds from syrup sales will go to the Children’s Play Area at the Wick Recreation Area. Last year’s batch of syrup sold out in less than 24 hours.

Then on Saturday, May 3 at 1 p.m., volunteers from the Mill Creek Maple project and the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (PLYMC) will host a special “Mmm-mmm Maple Syrup” event at the Sugar House. PLYMC Librarians will host a story time for kids, and Mill Creek Maple volunteers will be on hand with syrup samples to taste.

The collaborative partnership between the Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association and Mill Creek MetroParks took shape in fall of 2012 when MetroParks staff was approached by several members of the neighborhood group. Their idea was to tap some of the maple trees in the grove, and create maple syrup that could be sold as a fundraiser to benefit both the Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association and Mill Creek MetroParks.

About the Mill Creek Maple Project:
In 1951, a grove of 125 sugar maple trees was planted in Mill Creek Park at Rock Ridge, now known as the James L. Wick Jr. Recreation Area, on the West Side of Youngstown. The intent was to someday tap these trees when they were old enough and collect their syrup. Named after former park commissioner Charles Snelling Robinson, the Charles S. Robinson Maple Grove has matured, and now, over 60 years later, the sap has been harvested for the second time during an entire “sugaring” season. It takes 40-50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of pure maple syrup and each syrup bottle is individually labeled and hand-numbered. Two members of the Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association spearheaded this project. Paul Hagman and John Slanina attended classes to learn the maple sugar-making process from the ground up, along with the food handling requirements necessary for public sale of the product.