The Urban Sugar Shack


It’s spring, and the sugar bush beckons—but you look at your car-hating children, consider the hour-long drive out to the maple-studded countryside and wonder: “Is there an easier way to do this?”
Actually, there is. You could take the whole family to the 2010 Maple Sugar Fest. Based in Vanier’s Richelieu Park (just a 10-minute drive from Parliament Hill), the Sugar Fest is one of Ottawa’s lesser-known festivals, and as such, makes for an entertaining family outing without the extra mileage.

Richelieu Park is home to what is arguably North America’s one and only urban sugar shack. The original shack was built decades ago, and reconstructed in 1998 out of trees felled during the massive ice storm that year. The shack sits among 17.5 acres of maples—about 1,000 trees in total—that are tapped each year to produce 400 litres of syrup. The syrup is sold and served at events throughout the festival, which runs from April 8 to 18 this year.

The festival is a great chance for children to get an up-close look at how it’s really done without having to walk too far. All the sap is still collected the old-fashioned way—buckets are hung on tree taps and carried to the sugar shack when full. The process becomes slightly more modern after that when the sap is boiled in a large evaporator before being bottled. Sugar shack volunteers are happy to explain the syrup-making process to little ones, so just ask.


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