Top: Fort Drum foresters built a lean-to in 2020 near a maple sugarbush in the Historic LeRay Mansion District in preparation for Maple Days. Weeks later, the event was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maple Days event is back, March 14-19, at its new location, where community members can sample the fresh maple syrup and learn about the tree-to-table process of making maple syrup. Above left: Rodger Voss, Fort Drum forester, drills a hole in a maple tree to collect the sap that will be processed into maple syrup during Maple Days at the Historic LeRay Mansion District. Above right: A drop of sap falls into the bucket while foresters from the Fort Drum Environmental Branch tap maple trees March 7 throughout the Historic LeRay Mansion District in preparation for Maple Days. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Maple Days makes a sweet return to Fort Drum
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 11, 2022) – Fort Drum’s Maple Days are back, and community members can sample the sweetness and partake of this popular northern New York tradition.
“This is a fun opportunity for people to get outdoors and learn about the syrup-making process from start to finish,” said Rodger Voss, Fort Drum Natural Resources Branch forester. “We’ll walk you through the entire process – from the tapping of the trees and how sap flows, to how syrup is produced in the evaporator. You get to see everything, hear everything and taste everything.”
The public is invited to attend Fort Drum Maple Days, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., March 14-19, in the Historic LeRay Mansion District.
“We will be running our new wood-fired evaporator in the lean-to we built,” Voss said. “And it’s a really good spot, right next to a historic sugarbush.”
In 2020, the Fort Drum Natural Resources’ forestry team built a wooden lean-to shelter from scratch to house the new evaporator and provide a better view of maple syrup production. Voss worked with fellow forester Mike Stiefel on the project over the winter so it could make its debut at Maple Days (which was cancelled due to COVID-19).
“Mike cut the trees down in an area that needed a little thinning out in the training area, and we slowly whittled away on the project,” Voss said. “This was actually the first time either of us has ever built one of these.”
Voss said that they modeled the shelter from a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lean-to design, with assistance from Justin Wood, Fort Drum Public Works engineer, to validate the structural safety of the project.
Additionally, the two giant cast iron kettles that were first showcased at Maple Days in 2019 will be back, so attendees can learn “the old-fashioned way” of making maple syrup.
“It worked out pretty well, once you get the hang of it,” said Amy Stiefel, Fort Drum Natural Resources forester said. “The syrup looks a little different, tastes a little different, but not in a bad way. People seemed to enjoy seeing that.”
Voss said that New York is the second-largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S., and there are sites all over the North Country where people can enjoy Maple Weekends, learn about the industry and purchase locally made maple syrup.
“We promote the New York State Maple Syrup Producers Association, and we’ll also have information to share with people about their local Maple Weekend events,” he said. “There’s a lot of history in New York about maple syrup, and it’s still a pretty big local industry.”
Yet, there is something unique about hosting a Maple Days event at Fort Drum.
“I believe Fort Drum is still the only installation in the Army that produces its own maple syrup,” Voss said. “There’s definitely a real sense of pride that comes with that.”
Fort Drum maple syrup is available on post, in various sized bottles, at the gift shop in the Heritage Center, Bldg. 10502, South Riva Ridge Loop, and at Fort Drum Outdoor Recreation, Bldg. 11115, Iraqi Freedom Drive.
To learn more about Fort Drum Maple Days, visit https://www.facebook.com/FortDrumNaturalResources/.
For more information about New York State Maple Weekend events, visit www.mapleweekend.nysmaple.com.