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Buckets off cemetery tree as Epping selectman's maple sales surge

Union Leader Correspondent

March 25. 2013 8:59PM
The buckets used for collecting sap from this maple tree have been removed after someone posted this sign complaining about tree-tapping in an old abandoned cemetery on Prescott Road in Epping. (JASON SCHREIBER PHOTO)

EPPING - Selectman Jim McGeough has removed two buckets he used to collect sap from a large maple that towers over a small abandoned family cemetery after someone posted a sign protesting the tapping.

"I didn't want to upset anybody, so I just took the buckets off," McGeough said Monday.

The person behind the sign that reads "No Cemetary Syrup ... You Sap" isn't known, but McGeough said he's convinced that it was politically motivated.

While the bright yellow sign - carved in the shape of a gravestone with a skull and cross bones - was designed to bring negative attention, it hasn't hurt sales of the maple syrup he makes at the sugar house on his farm on Prescott Road.

McGeough, owner of White Gate Farm, said many people have supported his tree-tapping effort.

"The sales have been booming," he said.

With enough support, McGeough said he would "gladly" put the buckets back up for the two weeks remaining in the maple sugar season, but for now he's decided to leave them off.

The old family cemetery has fewer than a dozen grave sites and lies just off the road in the area of 217 Prescott Road. The land is owned by Prescott Orchards Land Development. For many years it was an apple orchard; it is now a housing development.

McGeough said he's been tapping the tree for at least 10 years and was given permission by the land owner. The tree sits next to a stone wall at the edge of the cemetery, known as the Prescott Road Cemetery on Carr Hill.

Jerry Langdon, chairman of the Epping cemetery trustees, said the trustees have no problem with tapping a tree in the cemetery.

While descendants would still have control over a family cemetery even if it's on private land, Langdon said he doesn't believe there are any descendants around involved with the cemetery.

"Unless there's a descendant that has some control, Jim would have every right to do that as long as the cemetery trustees had no problem with it," Langdon said.

Selectman Karen Falcone said there have been no complaints about the tree-tapping in the cemetery, but suggested the sign may have come from a new resident living in the housing development.

"We have a lot of people who are not from the area living in the houses in the orchard. There are a lot of new people up that way and somebody obviously took offense," she said.

Epping isn't the only New Hampshire community where the question of tree-tapping in cemeteries has been raised this season.

A man in Laconia asked permission in February to tap a handful of sugar maples at the edge of the Hillside Cemetery. The cemetery is maintained by the city.

Kevin Dunleavy, the city's director of recreation and facilities, said the park commission approved the request with the condition that if concerns arose, the commission could revisit the tapping.

"I'm not aware of any problems," Dunleavy said.

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