March is an exciting time in Cleveland Metroparks, but it's not basketball that people flock to see, it's the annual tapping of the sugar maple trees in the Rocky River Reservation - a Park District tradition that goes back to the early 1980s.
Maple sugaring season requires weather conditions of below freezing temperatures at night and above freezing temperatures during the day in order to make the sap flow. In Northeast Ohio, early March is primetime for tapping trees.
To celebrate the centuries-old practice of maple sugaring, Cleveland Metroparks naturalists will lead hikes along the sugarbush trail under the still bare branches of the sugar maple trees at Maple Grove Picnic Area in Rocky River Reservation on the first three weekends in March. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22, free guided public hikes will leave the Sugarhouse every 20 minutes (last hike leaves at 3:40 p.m.) to show guests how sap is collected and boiled into delicious 100 percent maple syrup, and then let them taste it for themselves with a free sample.
Schools and other groups can be accommodated for History of Maple Sugaring programs on weekdays by appointment. Call (216) 734-6660 for more information.
This year, Cleveland Metroparks and the chefs from Merwin's Wharf restaurant will honor the maple sugaring tradition with a special pancake breakfast at Rocky River Nature Center on Saturday, March 21 from 9-11:30 a.m. The Maple Sugaring Pancake Breakfast includes a delicious breakfast with the finest maple syrup Ohio has to offer, a horse-drawn wagon ride to and from the sugarbush trail, the guided hike and souvenir signature maple candies made in-house by the chef at Merwin's Wharf. There are several scheduled times available for the wagon ride and hike, and tickets for the breakfast must be purchased in advance. Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased online at clevelandmetroparks.com or by calling the Rocky River Nature Center at 440-734-6660.
Maple Grove Picnic Area is located off Valley Parkway in Rocky River Reservation, between Cedar Point Road and Spafford Road, south of the Rocky River Nature Center.
For more information, visit clevelandmetroparks.com.