Amy Stiefel, Fort Drum forester, hands out a cup of warm maple syrup to children March 15 during Maple Days outside LeRay Mansion. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Fort Drum Natural Resources taps into North Country pride during Maple Days
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 15, 2023) -- The pleasing taste of warm maple syrup on a cold winter day brought community members to the Historic LeRay Mansion District this week during Fort Drum Maple Days.
Amy Stiefel, a forester with the Fort Drum Environmental Division’s Natural Resources Branch, said that Maple Days is an opportunity for people to learn about maple syrup production and the history of the industry in New York state.
“We describe the process of how sap moves through the trees, and how we collect some of that sap and turn it into maple syrup,” she said. “Here at the LeRay sugar bush, we have about 220 buckets out to collect sap.”
Roughly 40 gallons of sap is required to make a gallon of syrup, and the team of foresters empty the buckets into the evaporator housed inside the lean-to outside LeRay Mansion to demonstrate how it is processed.
“I love showing people new to Fort Drum and this area, who have never seen real syrup being made, how easy it is,” Stiefel said. “They’re amazed how it is just taking sap from a tree and then boiling it. You see all sorts of reactions when they taste it for the first time, and that’s really fun to watch.”
She said that some people also are surprised to learn that Fort Drum has a land resources team with foresters who protect and sustain more than 70,000 acres of forestland on the installation.
“We explain how we are here to oversee the management of the forestland for training and recreation but also for the forest products we can get, like maple syrup,” Stiefel said.
Kristina Dela Cruz brought her daughter to Maple Days because they were working on a school project.
“My family is doing a study on trees for kindergarten, and so we thought Maple Days was perfect for us,” she said. “We’re learning about the deciduous trees and coniferous trees, and this was so interactive and interesting.”
Dela Cruz said her family moved to Fort Drum a little over a year ago, and they missed the last Maple Days.
“This is our first one, and it’s really nice,” she said. “The kids are enjoying themselves, and we learned a lot.”
Attendees could discover even more about maple syrup production in this area – long before Fort Drum was constructed – inside LeRay Mansion where static displays and members of the Cultural Resources team provided historical context.
Additionally, maple farms throughout New York state are hosting Maple Weekend activities, such as syrup-making demonstrations and pancake breakfasts.
“This is unique to the Northeast, because maple syrup only comes from places with these colder climates,” Stiefel said. “It’s a huge industry in northern New York, and it’s a historic one. When people hear how the Native Americans taught the early settlers how to make maple syrup, it’s basically still the same process today.”
Maple Days runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. through March 18 at Fort Drum. The Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation will host a free pancake breakfast, open to all DoD ID cardholders, from 9 to 11 a.m. March 18 at the Commons. For more information, call (315) 772-7864.
For more information on Maple Days, visit https://fortdrum.isportsman.net/maple-days.aspx. To find more local Maple Weekend activities this month, visit https://mapleweekend.nysmaple.com.