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Ohio Maple Specialist Speaks at Annual Meeting of the Indiana Maple Syrup Association
Gary Graham, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Natural Resources at the Ohio State University Extension Center at Wooster, Ohio
Sugar Bush Management and Sugar Bush Liability
Gary Graham, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Natural Resources at the Ohio State University Extension Center at Wooster, Ohio, spoke to more than 100 maple syrup producers who gathered for their annual meeting on Saturday December 4 in New Castle.
Graham is an expert in the production of maple syrup in Ohio, and he speaks frequently to maple producers about maple syrup production and sugar bush management.
In his opening presentation, Sugar Bush Roads and Trails: How Big is Your Footprint?, Graham described the stress we put on our trees from root damage and soil compaction when we enter the woods with heavy equipment. ‘And of course woodlands should never be pastured. Graham recognized that gathering sap is a necessary part of making maple syrup, but he stressed use of improved gathering roads that are routed away from producing sugar maples.
Current research shows that damage can occur as far out as 3 to five times the diameter of the drip line. (a perpendicular line from the ground to the edge of a tree’s canopy) This does not leave very much room for roads in a typical woods.
Damage also occurs even if horses rather than tractors are used.
Wide tires and multiple axles reduce compaction by spreading the weight over a greater area.
Our speaker then shifted to human responses to maple syrup making in his second talk, Liability in Sugaring Operations.
Unfortunately, liability is a significant issue in our litigatious society. Graham shared ways in which sugar bush owners can enhance the safety of employees, visitors and consumers thereby limit the chances for injury and lawsuit.
Graham pointed out that where there is a question of liability, the law assumes that the person with the facility has the duty to protect those who visit. A plaintiff must prove that the person being sued failed to act to protect.
Liability increases accordingly depending on whether visitation is unauthorized, by invitation or by admission fee..
An owner’s duty to protect extends both to conditions known and unknown!!
Our speaker also discussed the “attractive nuisance doctrine.” Maintaining or permitting to exist a hazardous situation that is attractive to juveniles makes you especially liable if there is an accident.
In the sugar woods that might include wood piles, ladders to a rooftop or storage tank, trees that are easily climbed, or open sap storage tanks.
Liability can be reduced though not avoided by showing that the sugar bush operator exercised due diligence. This would include warning signs about hot surfaces and barricades to separate the visitor from hazards.
“Be sure warning signs include clear message for those who do not read,” Graham noted.
One of the most effective measures is to have personnel present to monitor hazardous areas or activities when visitors are present.
He also reminded syrup makers to warn visitors about the risks associated with weather during sugaring – namely hypothermia and falling limbs during windy weather.
It is also wise to prominently display announcement that you are not responsible for accidents and so indicate in any printed material that might go to visitors or customers. This will not totally protect you, but it is evidence that you have put your visitor on notice that they are visiting your sugarhouse at their own risk.