Tech opens Nara Family Maple Center
HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University leaders and the Nara family will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly constructed Nara Family Maple Center at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18 at the Nara Family Forest in Torch Lake Township, Michigan Tech announced in a release.
At a signing ceremony June 28, 2018, at the Nara Nature Trail, Ruth Nara of Houghton and Bootjack donated the 640-acre forested parcel to Michigan Tech. The 640 acres of land and the timber on it are valued in excess of $2 million. The property also contained a sugar shack, where gathered maple sap is boiled down to produce syrup.
The Nara Family Maple Center will be used for K-12 outreach and for Tech students to teach the history and heritage of sugar maple trees, and “all the wonderful things the forest can produce,” according to William Roberts, Tech’s vice president for advancement & alumni engagement, who mentioned it in his report to the Tech board.
Those attending will hear from University leaders, faculty members from the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, and the Nara family.
Taylor Tankersley, with Michigan Tech’s Office of Advancement, said a newly constructed sugar shack houses the evaporator that was used in syrup production at the university’s Ford Forestry Center in Alberta, where Michigan Tech’s School of Forestry offered a comprehensive non-traditional course covering syrup culture and business practices as well as taps and boils.
“There is a pavilion area too,
The Nara Family Forest, comprised largely of mixed hardwoods, forested wetland, and lowland conifers, was donated to the university in June 2018.
Robert Nara, late husband of Ruth, was born on October 10, 1935 in Detroit, a son of William O. and May (Monk) Nara. He was a 1953 graduate of Lake Linden-Hubbell High School. He attended Michigan State, and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1959.
He operated a dental practice in Houghton for several decades and was the founder of Oramedics International, an organization promoting preventative dentistry.
Generous donors to the Copper Country, one of their most famous is the Nara Nature Park in Houghton, where visitors enjoy boardwalks around the Pilgrim River, trails up through the woods, and bridges over creeks. They also created and funded the Nara Animal Shelter.
Robert served on many boards throughout the community. He was very generous and truly wanted to make the world a better place.
As a passionate forester. Nara enjoyed his family maple forest in Bootjack and improving the health of the trees there. Robert was the third generation of Nara to own the property, which had a rich history when it came into his possession.
His grandfather, James W. Nara, John W. Nara immigrated from Finland in the 1890s, and became one of the Copper Country’s first commercial photographers. According to the Michigan Tech Archives, where Nara’s photograph collection is housed, his success as a photographer permitted him to invest timber lands in the region, including the Bootjack area. He became one of the first advocates for selective logging practices. In addition to selective harvesting and milling of lumber, Nara leased cutover lands to Finnish immigrants for small farms and are the subjects of many of his photographs.
The Nara Family Maple Center ribbon cutting ceremony will start at 10 a.m. and the public is invited to attend and meet Michigan Tech leaders. The new Maple Center is located at 45016 N. Jacobsville Road, in Lake Linden.