ORMOND — One of the sweetest educational opportunities you’ll ever experience has settled into its new home: South Nation Conservation’s (SNC) flagship Maple Syrup Education Program has relaunched for its 18th season, now at the Oschmann Forest in Ormond, North Dundas.
Donated to SNC in 2017 by the Oschmann Family in memory of Gertrude Oschmann, the 18-acre forest boasts a diverse woodlot that was actively managed for maple syrup production for 50 years until the early 2000’s.
Thanks to funding support and partnerships with the Township of North Dundas, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG) and TD Friends of the Environment, a new parking lot, groomed trail, interpretive signage and maple sap collection infrastructure are providing local students with an educational experience focused on demonstrations of maple syrup production, forest ecology, and First Nations natural heritage.
The bilingual and not-for-profit program supplements the Ontario curriculum and has previously hosted upwards of 1,000 students a year at a local sugar shack. In 2018, SNC suspended the program to complete a program review to select a new venue.
The Oschmann Forest in Ormond was the perfect choice: it houses existing maple syrup infrastructure, existing nature trails and an abundance of maple trees. The forest also sits adjacent to a municipally-owned lot, allowing for partnership opportunities between SNC and the Township to expand recreational offerings in the community.
On March 28, North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser, and SDG Warden Jamie MacDonald, along with representatives from TD’s Chesterville Branch and SNC staff and Board members gathered at the Oschmann Forest to celebrate the program’s relaunch.
Students from Ottawa’s Metcalfe Public School and Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School of Cornwall were also on hand to be some of the first students to participate in SNC’s newly redeveloped tour.
“It’s a great feeling to finally see students connecting with the local environment here at the Oschmann Forest,” says John Mesman, SNC’s Communications Lead. “We’ve worked extremely hard over the past year to fundraise for the new program and work on improvements to render this forest fit for sap extraction, education and recreation.”
Plans are in place to have the forest ready to welcome families starting in May, when SNC opens all of its 14 day-use Conservation Areas across its 4,384 square-kilometer jurisdiction in Eastern Ontario.
“The Oschmann Forest offers tremendous potential for engagement,” added Bill Smirle, Chair of SNC’s Board of Directors. “Protecting and enhancing local forests are not only beneficial for students from across SNC’s 16 member municipalities, but also for the communities that rely on our forests.”