By Carrie Stanziola
It’s syrup time: on March 5, Somerville residents can revel in the tenth annual Maple Syrup Boil Down Festival. Interested community members can come to 22 Vinal Avenue, between Summer St. and Highland Ave. near Union Sq, at 10 a.m., where they are invited to watch as sap from local sugar maple trees is boiled into maple syrup over a warm fire.
For the second year in a row, the project is being spearheaded by Tai Dinnan of Groundwork Somerville, whose aim is, in the words of Dinnan, to do “anything and everything that has to do with environmental and community health in our city. We focus on community initiated concerns or ideas and work to empower residents to improve the environmental and community health of our neighborhoods.”
According to Dinnan, the project was initiated by the Eagle Eye Institute in 2001, and organized by several other groups, before Groundwork Somerville took the opportunity in 2009 to manage the event.
As she says, “We felt that [the boil down festival] played an important role in our community, increasing awareness about the benefits of trees, local food production, getting people outside in the early spring and fostering appreciation for our urban environment.”
In addition to having fun, students who participate in the project come to be aware of the biology of trees, such as their parts and functions, how they are affected by seasonal changes and what conditions trees need to grow.
Perhaps most exciting for them, students also have the opportunity to participate in an outdoor festival during a month where there are few. Just as importantly, students learn the benefits of trees in their communities so they can help protect them. Guest Teachers, who are brought in from Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University, are young and enthusiastic. With them, students participate in activities and games encompassing all four seasons.
Students and volunteers are not the only ones who benefit from the experience. The event causes Somerville residents to envision their urban environment from a different perspective.
“They see trees as living things that can provide us with valuable resources but also neighbors that must be respected and kept healthy. Volunteers get to experience working within their local schools or can trek through the snow to collect sap, getting outdoor exercise and helping an important cause. Together, all community members are invited to celebrate at the free and fun Maple Syrup Boil Down Festival. We celebrate our environment and local resources together but also just enjoy the chance to enjoy being outside after being cooped up all winter,” Dinnan said.
Those who want to participate in this once a year event can expect to partake in syrup-tasting, music and children’s activities. Waffles, syrup and t-shirts will also be on sale.