The winter thaw in Sudbury will be a little less sweet this year now that — for the first time in a century — the Despatie Maple Sugar Bush in Hanmer is not tapping its trees.
Alice Despatie said the shutdown is partly because her son, Richard, is out of the country. Richard Despatie inherited the sugar bush property from her late husband eight years ago and has been trying to sell the site since 2009.
"It's hard work," she said, especially if there’s "lots of snow."
"So we have to get rid of the snow to get to our work. But it's the first time that it's not operating. It breaks my heart."
Syrup producers say taking some time off isn't necessarily a bad thing, however.
A spokesperson with the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association said the recent fluctuating winter seasons have made it more difficult for maple trees.
"If you're not tapping for one year and you let those trees rest, that's generally a benefit for the tree," Ray Bonenberg said.
'Attractive for tourists'
For Despatie, she hopes the sugar bush will be re-opened by her son next year — or sold to someone else who can.
"I do hope that it will continue to be a maple bush," she said.
"I do hope that somebody will think of maybe making it more attractive for tourists."
Similar maple sugar bush tourist attractions have been popular in Quebec, she said.
"I hope there's a future for it, because it's something special for the area."
The maple bush has been in the Despatie family since 1912. They started giving public tours to school groups in 1967.