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Guelph-based project collecting maple sap to make syrup expands into Kitchener Waterloo (7 photos)

The vast majority of sugar maple trees in Guelph go untapped, said organizer of Urban Sugaring Project

The majority of sugar maple trees in the city are an untapped resource, says the organizer of a program that takes the maple sap collected by Guelphites and refines it into maple syrup.

Tapping kits were available for pick up Saturday during a free pancake breakfast at The Churches of Saint Matthias & St. James the Apostle Saturday.

There are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 sugar maple trees within the city limits of Guelph, said John Dennis, organizer of the Urban Sugaring Project.

“The vast majority of those go untapped,” said Dennis.

For $10, Guelphites who have access to a mature sugar maple tree can borrow a tap, metal bucket and a plastic food-grade bucket to collect the sap the tree produces.

Once collected, the sap is is pooled with other participants in the project and refined into maple syrup.

“People love the idea of tapping the trees on their property and then having pancakes or waffles with the maple syrup that came from their trees,” said Dennis.

Tapping responsibly will not harm the tree, said Dennis, and the sap collected is a small fraction of what the tree needs to thrive.

Some trees produce a lot of sap, while others do not. Dennis said all participants are guaranteed to receive syrup in the end.

Paul Macdonald has been participating in the program since it began.

He had previously considered tapping his own trees, but the thought of processing the sap and the specialized equipment that is needed was daunting.

Now Macdonald leaves the processing to the Urban Sugaring Project.

“They take care of the most difficult part of it and let me do the fun part,” he said.

The Urban Sugaring Project is operated under Transition Guelph, which also operates the Repair Cafe, Tool Library and Grow Garden.

Sally Ludwig, co-founder of Transition Guelph, said the group believes in reskilling people.

“It’s about getting back a lot of things that people used to know how to do for themselves,” said Ludwig.

Now in its third year, the Urban Sugaring Project is expanding into Kitchener and Waterloo, with recently received funding from the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

If any tapping kits are left over, Dennis said they will be available for pick up at the Guelph Tool Library.

Tapping the trees on their property helps Macdonald’s children understand where their food comes from.

“Plus, we get bragging rights later on that it’s our very own maple syrup,” he said.