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Nyack People & Places: Maple Sugar Day at Marydell

by Mike Hays
In the late winter-early spring season, when maple sap begins to rise up from the tree roots to the branches, Native Americans used to build special sugaring camps. In honor of that tradition, Marydell Faith and Life Center and co-sponsor Friends of Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain will host its annual Maple Sugar Day gathering open to the public this March 3.

Maple Sugar Demonstration

Tap- and sugar-master Bob Stien assembles all the necessary tools for tapping a tree: drill, hammer, spiles, hooks, buckets, and lids. Bob lives near the Marydell property in Upper Nyack. He is an expert at finding the right sugar maple tree and in finding the right spot to tap.
The timing of sap flow is not an exact science, varying every year. Sap flows best when sunny days above freezing are followed by nights below freezing. Think of it as a hidden moment before spring fully arrives, in which the tree begins to send nutrients up the trunk to branches just before flower buds and leaves form.

Bob Stien gets ready to empty a bucket of sap in Upper Nyack.

At Marydell Maple Sugar Day, Stien will demonstrate how to tap a tree by drilling a small hole and inserting a small metal tube called a spile (and no it doesn’t hurt the tree.) A bucket covered with a lid is attached to collect the sap. The bucket needs to be emptied frequently when the sap flows. A flowing tree can yield 10-20 gallons of sap.

The Health Benefits of Maple Sap

Fresh sap will be available for tasting on Maple Sugar Day. New sap is clear, invigorating, slightly sweet, and loaded with nutrients, including minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus as well as anti-oxidants. Some consider it a health food. Koreans recognize the health benefits, calling the sap from the tree “Gorosoe,” which is translated as the tree that is always good for the bones.
Making syrup from sap is a labor-intensive process which will be demonstrated on Maple Sugar Day using a large kettle on an open fire. About 40 gallons of sap are needed to make a gallon of syrup and care must be taken to avoid burning the syrup during reduction.

A fanciful drawing of a Native American maple sugar camp. Note they are using iron kettles over the fire.

About Marydell Faith & Life Center
Maple Sugar Day at Marydell is a special program of the non-profit and nondenominational Marydell Faith and Life Center whose mission is to share the natural beauty of its land next to Hook Mountain with people of all faiths. The center offers educational and environmental programs that reflect a belief in the eternal blessings of nature honoring the community of Catholic women who founded Marydell in the 1920s.
Marydell Faith & Life Center is located at the northern end of North Midland Avenue in Upper Nyack. Parking will be available. Attendees are encouraged to register for this free event by calling 845-358-5399 or by emailing
Photos by Mike Hays

Michael Hays is a 30-year resident of the Nyacks. He grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has recently retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. He is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.

HRHCare Community Health logoNyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is brought to you by HRHCare and  Weld Realty.


Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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