LANSDOWNE – Every spring Murray Kilfoil volunteers with the maple syrup operation at LORDA park in Lansdowne. With the sweet smell of sap boiling in the background he is taken back to his childhood.
“Fifty-five years ago I did this the old-fashioned way,” he said. “We collected the sap in a one-horse sleigh and dumped it in a barrel on the back, boiled it down in a pot on the back yard and finished it on the kitchen stove.”
Much has changed since that time. At LORDA, where they are in their fourth year of tapping trees, they now use a reverse-osmosis machine to reduce the amount of water in the sap and then use an evaporator to boil it down from there. In a final step it is put through a bottler finisher which purifies it to sweet perfection. While some of the trees are still tapped and hold buckets, many have been transferred to a piping system that carries the sap straight from the trees down to a barrel.
While the maple syrup and other products are sold as a fundraiser for the park, it’s also a way to attract visitors. The park is completely wheelchair-accessible and the activity building is designed for people to be able to come and easily watch the process.
Kilfoil said last year they had someone come in a wheelchair who was able to back their van right into the building, get out and watch as maple candy was made.
“He sat there for two hours,” Kilfoil said. “It was the first time he’d been out in months.”
The activity building itself has been a big improvement for the park in general and also houses a woodworking shop.
“A few years ago we didn’t have this activities building so we were basically a summer operation,” Kilfoil said. “It was mostly the fishing and camping. This opens it up year round.”
Dave Leese, founder and curator of the park, said so far the syrup production is going well, with their first boil held Monday. He said it’s hard to say for sure how much they’ll get since it’s so dependent on the weather, but in the past few years it’s proven to be a great fundraiser for them.
“The people were excellent to us last year,” he said. “The first year we started out we made $3,000 selling maple syrup. The next year we made about $5,000. Last year we budgeted to do $8,000 worth of business and we wound up doing approximately $14,000.”
But every cent is needed to keep the non-profit going. The park needs about $86,000 a year to operate, of which they need to fundraise approximately $60,000.
“We’re having a tough time,” Leese said. “With the downturn in the economy we’re suffering badly.”
This year he said they’re trying to cut costs by putting in solar-powered aerators for the pond, so they don’t have to use electricity and also need to do some work on several machines.
“It’s getting tougher and we just could use the public’s help,” he said.
Last fall, the Leese family renewed the lease for the land that the park is on for a dollar a year for the next 50 years.
Leese hopes to see the park continue to thrive as a place for all people, particular those with disabilities who may find difficulty getting around other parks.
Did you know
• Maple sap is heated to 219 F to be converted to syrup
• It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup
• Maple sap has a 2.5 per cent sugar content.
• Maple syrup has a 66.5 per cent sugar content
• A gallon of maple syrup weighs 11 pounds
Want to go?
LORDA is now open for anyone who would like to stop by and see how maple syrup is made. The store is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and has numerous maple products. People can also call to pre-order anytime.
To get there, take Exit 20 off the Trans Canada Highway and head towards Union Centre. Continue straight for about 17 kilometres. The park will be on your left.
For more info call 396-4470 or visit www.facebook.com/LORDAPark.