North America’s only urban sugar bush
The Richelieu Park is a 17 hectare rich maple forest that is home to many species of birds and small woodland animals. Picnic tables, playgrounds, park benches, flower beds and the 2.5 km of hiking and cycling trails make this a popular spot.
The History of the Sugar Shack in Richelieu Park
The first sugar shack was built in the Richelieu forest by the White Fathers who made syrup for their religious community.
They built two sugar shacks in order to benefit from the maple trees located on their property. They built the first sugar shack in the fall of 1939, one year after their arrival. The first sugaring off took place when the snow was melting in the spring of 1940. The first batches were produced for the residents of the theological college. Several older citizens of Vanier remember helping the White Fathers gather the maple water in exchange for some maple syrup. During the spring of 1942, the White Father gathered about 1,000 litres of syrup along with a bit of maple sugar.
In order to modernize their facility, the White Fathers built a second sugar shack around 1960, on the same site as the first. Unfortunately, they left Vanier in 1976, and the production of maple syrup was interrupted in Richelieu Park until the Maple Sugar Festival was launched by the city of Vanier in the 1980s.
In the mid-1990s an organization called Action Vanier, headed by René Doré, took over the management of both the sugar shack and the Maple Sugar Festival. This group decided to build a new sugar shack, which was completed in 1999. Action Vanier’s dedicated team of volunteers was able to preserve the maple sugar tradition in Vanier until 2011.
As of the 2012 maple sugar season, the Vanier Museopark has taken on the task of preserving this tradition, and it is with a great deal of enthusiasm that the Museopark’s team has undertaken to perpetuate a time-honored custom promoted and maintained by the Withe Fathers and the volunteers of Action Vanier.
The Richelieu Park’s sugar shack continues to carry on the tradition of the maple sugar season. Each year, 1000 trees are tapped in the traditional way to produce about 400 litres of maple syrup.
Annual Maple Sugar festival
Every year, a Maple Sugar Festival takes place in Vanier Museopark, North America’s only urban sugar bush from the end of March to the beginning of April. The festival, which always includes maple taffy on the snow, has a lot of sweet activities. Several new activities are added each year.