Killens Pond Nature Center will offer a Maple Madness class from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27.

Delaware’s climate and maple syrup don’t normally mix, but Killens Pond State Park will be exploring the process of syrup making at an upcoming workshop.

Rachael Phillos, a Killens Pond park naturalist, said the park holds the program annually as a learning opportunity for families, even though the park itself only has one or two sugar maples.
“It’s a great event,” she said. “A lot of time we eat or drink things but don’t know where they come from.”

Phillos said the program teaches attendees how syrup is made and hopefully will include a trip out to one of the park’s sugar maples, which might be tapped.

In the past, the park hasn’t tapped the tree because it hasn’t met the right conditions. She said the tree must be a certain diameter or taking the sap can hurt a young tree’s growth. In addition, weather conditions must be right to have sap flowing.

The sugar maples typically used to make syrup aren’t native to Delaware because they thrive in colder climates.

Jason Beale, manager of Abbott’s Mill Nature Center in Milford, said red maples are the common maple tree in the First State and they have a lower sugar count. The sap in a sugar maple is 2% to 3% sugar, while a red maple will have 1% to 2% at the most, which means it takes a lot more sap to get edible syrup.

Beale, who has worked in places in Ohio and Pennsylvania where he’s made syrup, said Abbott’s Mill does tap red maples for arranged school trips.

However, making syrup isn’t as easy some people might think, he said.

Once weather conditions in February or March are right with freezing temperatures at night and a warm up to around 45 degrees during the day, taps are put in the trees. Beale said it’s mostly a process of monitoring and collecting the sap as the buckets or bags fill up; it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. Typically the sap is then boiled over a woodstove fire for eight to 14 hours at a constant temperature.

“At the end, it’s a mad rush to get the syrup off the stove because you don’t want it to burn,” he said, adding “It’s not something that’s easy to produce, where you can put it on a stove and walk away.”

All that labor and time, along with the variable weather, are what makes genuine maple syrup so expensive, Beale explained.

Additional Killens Pond park activities
Meet at the Nature Center

A hot cocoa hayride will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, as long as the snow has been cleared off the trails. Cost is $4 for adults, $2 for children 12 and younger. It’s recommended to bring a blanket and private hayrides can be arranged. Full moon hike will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, weather permitting. Cost is $2 per participant; participants need to wear snow boots.

2.33 million gallons of maple syrup were produced in the United States in 2009
$40.50 average price per gallon for maple syrup in 2008
0.269 gallons average yield per tap in 2009
Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service

WHAT Maple Madness
WHEN 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27
WHERE Killens Pond Nature Center, 5025 Killens Pond Road, Felton
MORE INFO Pre-registration is requested by calling 284-4299

Email Jayne Gest at