After people in two separate locations in Riverside decided to tap maple trees on public property last week, Public Works Director Edward Bailey had some words of wisdom for anyone else who might want to make their own maple syrup: Please don’t do that.

Not that residents can’t tap maple trees on their own property — go right ahead — but tapping trees on the public way isn’t going to be tolerated.

“Trees are expensive and we really put a lot of resources into maintaining and nurturing the trees we have,” Bailey said. “We’re losing all these ash trees right now, and we’re just sensitive to it.”

On top of that, said Bailey, “it’s on public property. If one person does it, then everybody gets to do it.”

According to Bailey and Village Forester Michael Collins, three trees were found tapped last week: one on North Cowley Road and two west of First Avenue, on Forbes Road and on West Quincy Street.

Tubes connected to the taps fed plastic buckets and a jug. Collins, who was notified of the tapped trees by email and by public works colleagues, said the taps likely had been in place for a short period of time.

Bailey said he talked to one of the people responsible for tapping trees. She was miffed that the village was making her disconnect the taps.

“She was not amused,” said Bailey. “She viewed it as a learning opportunity with her kids.”

The woman argued that tapping the trees does not harm them and that others in Brookfield tapped trees without interference.

“I’m sympathetic to what she wanted to do,’ Bailey said. “But you’re better off finding trees on private property. I just don’t want to go down that road.” 

Brookfield Public Works Director Dan Kaup said that he is not aware of any widespread practice of tapping public maple trees in Brookfield.

“It’s never been an issue,” Kaup said. “It’s definitely not something I’ve noticed.”

In 2013, the Landmark ran a story about a man who lives in the Hollywood section of Brookfield, not too far from where the trees were tapped in Riverside, who taps a private tree and a few public trees to get sap to make syrup.

Collins acknowledged that tapping maple trees does not necessarily harm them, but said the village’s policy on tampering with trees is clear.

“It’s fairly harmless, but public infrastructure shouldn’t be used for private gain,” Collins said. “If the board wanted to do something to consider it, they could. But as of right now, it’s not something we’re encouraging.”

—Bob Uphues

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