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Cemetery tree-tapping takes sour turn in Epping

Union Leader Correspondent

March 24. 2013 9:33PM
Someone posted a sign to protest the tapping of a tree at a small family cemetery on Prescott Road in Epping. (JASON SCHREIBER PHOTO)

EPPING - Jim McGeough has been tapping a massive maple at the edge of an old abandoned family cemetery on Prescott Road for the past decade without a problem, but things got a little sticky this season.

Someone tacked a fake tombstone to the tree with a skull, crossbones, and the message, "No Cemetary Syrup," followed by the words, "You Sap."

"I didn't think it was upsetting anyone. Nobody has even said a word to me," said McGeough, who has 270 buckets attached to trees to collect sap on properties along Prescott Road - two are on the cemetery maple.

McGeough, a Prescott Road resident who is also a selectman, didn't notice the sign until Thursday afternoon when he was gathering sap to make syrup at his sugar house.

No one seems to know who was behind the sign, but McGeough said he planned to leave the buckets and the sign alone. McGeough began tapping the tree in the small Prescott Road Cemetery on Carr Hill about 10 years ago when the property surrounding it was owned by Ray Hetnar, who operated an apple orchard for many years before the land was sold and homes were built. He claims the tree isn't actually in the cemetery, but it appears to sit right at the edge near Prescott Road.

"It's a very good producer," he said of the tree.

Town Administrator Gregory Dodge said he hasn't heard any complaints about the tapping.

Jerry Langdon, chairman of Epping's cemetery trustees, said he sees nothing wrong with tapping a tree in the cemetery, which has fewer than a dozen gravestones.

"It's definitely not an issue with us," he said. "I doubt very much that there are living descendants that do anything with that cemetery."

Robyn Pearl of Loudon, publicist for the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association, said she's never heard of any problems related to tapping trees in a cemetery and is unaware of any laws prohibiting tapping in cemeteries.

She said there shouldn't be an issue as long as maple producers get permission from the landowner.

"I'm sorry that someone is making a big thing out of it," Pearl said. "It's always a very exciting time of year for all of us."

As curator of the Epping Historical Society and a longtime Epping resident, Joy True is familiar with many of the old family cemeteries in town and said she doesn't see a problem with it either.

"Jim is very respectful, so he's not going to do anything disrespectful to a cemetery," she said.

Jeff Snow, superintendent of Edgewood Cemetery in Nashua and secretary/treasurer for the New Hampshire Cemetery Association, said the issue hasn't come up at the cemetery he oversees. However, if someone asked to tap a tree there, he said he would probably say no.

"Everybody has different thoughts about cemeteries. Some people feel it's a place for the living, with open space, and people should be enjoying it, but I've had some people who don't think people should be bicycling or walking in a cemetery," he said.

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