This past Friday I had the opportunity to work outside of Union Beach at the serene Monmouth Battleground State Park. The plan was to work with park staff to clear brush. When we met with foresters John and Duffy, we learned that we would be clearing out a maple grove or “sugarbush,” which is a group of maple trees that are tapped for sap to produce syrup. This particular sugarbush is used as an educational tool to teach schoolchildren about where food comes from. John was concerned that the brush would block access to the trees and they would be unable to make syrup. They stressed that it was for educational purposes only, even though they did eat the maple syrup at the end.
The park is the site of a major artillery battle during the revolutionary war, and it hosts reenactments every year in addition to hiking trails, picnic areas and playgrounds. The battle was a draw due to heat exhaustion, but we came prepared for the winter conditions. This was supposed to be a long day and we came with full water bottles, tea in a thermos and cold weather gear. Our team of volunteers from Americorps and BWB were able to clear the sugarbush and taste some of the syrup in a few short hours. John the forester used a chainsaw to cut up large branches, and we piled the wood into shelters for animals to use over the winter. Because we cleared the sugarbush so quickly, we were able to move through the park, making piles of brush that could be later collected with heavy equipment. As a team we were able to make a big impact on the park to allow the picnicking and syrup collecting to continue.