True Friends


Nonprofit Friends of Codorus shares a love of nature as big as the great outdoors

By Karen Hendricks  |  Photography by Melissa Ring

Under a bright blue sky, about 25 people gather in the woods as a “Maple Sugaring” sign points the way toward Codorus State Park educator Renae Weidner.

Despite the blue sky and sunshine, it was early February.  

“Frozen nights and warmer days are what wakes up the trees and makes the sap start to flow—it’s the right magic going on inside the tree,” says Weidner.

In the woods that day, there’s another kind of magic. About a dozen spirited volunteers gather to support Weidner and the state park by stirring, cooking and bottling maple syrup. It’s the first of an entire year’s worth of fundraising events planned by the 300-member-strong Friends of Codorus. 

Like the sap and syrup flowing that day, the nonprofit Friends has a sweet reputation—as the biggest, most active, even award-winning Friends group among all Pennsylvania state parks.

Tapping Trees

Codorus’ 3,500 acres encompass Lake Marburg and offer boating, fishing, hiking and camping. The park is home to bald eagles and many other forms of wildlife, and it’s also a place of human refuge and recreation for locals and visitors alike.

“We have really good people in this area who like to help us out—we are very blessed in that sense,” Weidner says. “The Friends are amazing—I absolutely couldn’t do a program like this without volunteers.”

On this winter day, Weidner provides the program’s educational component and the Friends provide the manpower.

Dressed in her park ranger uniform, Weidner guides attendees of all ages to a sugar maple tree, its sap oozing and dripping here and there, leaving sticky, shiny patterns across the blackish bark. Even though York County isn’t within the normal range of sugar maples, Weidner says many grow within Codorus, one of Pennsylvania’s 124 state parks. 

Everyone takes a turn, using a tapping hammer, then a hand-cranked drill. They tap into the tree’s sap, activated by the warmth of the sun. Weidner adds a little spout and, sure enough, sap begins dripping into the bucket. One by one, attendees catch a drop of the precious liquid on their waiting fingertip, then bring it to their lips for a taste. Reactions are mixed. The glistening drops don’t taste nearly as sweet as they expected.

“Sap is 98% water,” Weidner says. “It takes 40 gallons of sap—and a lot of cooking—to get one gallon of syrup.”

She leads them down a little hill, where a huge kettle of sap cooks over an open fire. Billowing steam rises into whisps that disappear into the wind. Kids and adults alike are transfixed. A big silver evaporator, like a giant drawer, holds hot maple syrup that’s had nearly all of that water content boiled out. Weidner draws a silver ladleful and hands out spoonfuls of the oh-so-sweet syrup.

Although Weidner has led the program up to this point, now she’s surrounded by friends—literally the Friends of Codorus. They’re manning the fire, greeting the families in attendance and bottling the sap into maple leaf-shaped bottles—which many attendees purchase to take home as souvenirs—treats from the trees at Codorus. 

Maple syrup sales over several weekends total $1,400—all of which the Friends will donate back to the park. But like many of their events, raising money goes hand-in-hand with raising awareness and appreciation of nature. 

“The best part of maple sugaring is when the kids come out and taste maple syrup with their parents, because some have never been outdoors [in the park]. It’s worth the whole thing,” says Keith Taylor, 70, of Hanover. His career path took him to nine state parks, working his way up to park manager. Now, as a retiree, he’s one of the Friends’ dedicated volunteers.

Tapping Volunteers

Within the Friends, dozens of subgroups are focused on specific activities and events. One of the group’s biggest sources of revenue is the outpost, a store where campers can purchase firewood, ice, ice cream and other camping essentials every weekend from April through October. 

Taylor oversees the firewood crew, which splits, cuts and stacks campfire-size pieces of wood from trees cut down or collected by park staff. It’s an ongoing process, and Taylor says it’s hard to keep up with the demand.

“We went through all the firewood we had during Covid, because of the surge in camping,” Taylor says. “Since then, we’ve doubled how much firewood we sell.”

Firewood sales spark a significant portion—about a third—of the Friends’ annual budget of $135,200. The group hosts two additional big money-making events—Experience Codorus Outdoors (ECO) and Codorus Trick or Treat (CTOT), according to Frank Kozak, 68, of Hanover. A retired geologist, he’s currently president of the Friends.

ECO, set for June 8 and 9 this year, focuses on outdoor activities for children, Kozak says. For an entry fee of $10 per car, families can enjoy fishing, water slides, a climbing wall, obstacle courses, admission to the park’s nature center and more.

Campers, local businesses and organizations participate in CTOT by setting up “fabulous Halloween displays—they’ve been doing it for years—and they bring thousands of pieces of candy for trick-or-treaters,” Kozak explains. For $20 per carload, families can trick-or-treat along a path through the park, plus enjoy nature-related activities, for an entire day of fun.

Both events are organized by Kathy and Brad Bealing, whose “passion for the park is unparalleled,” says Kozak.

In fact, the couple was awarded the 2022 Individual Volunteer Award by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, while the Friends of Codorus was recognized as the 2022 Bureau of State Parks Group Volunteer Award.

“I truly think they are the best Friends group in Pennsylvania’s state parks,” says Mathias Weinzen, Codorus’ assistant park manager, who nominated the Bealings and the Friends for the awards. “In 2022, they put in over 4,000 logged hours, and that doesn’t include a lot of their volunteer hours that went unlogged.”

That translates to 77 documented volunteer hours each week. 

“The last 13 years, they’ve helped the park renovate Black Rock Lodge, raising over $200,000. That’s the biggest thing they’ve done,” says Weinzen. The lodge, a two-story historic home located within the park, opened in fall 2022 and is available for reservations.

Codorus typically attracts 1.5 million visitors annually, ranking fourth among all state parks for visitation, says Weinzen—and the Friends play a role in those figures.

“Everything they do is wonderful, and they truly care about the park,” he says.

Park staff, including Weinzen and Weidner, create wish lists and projects to further enhance the park—and the Friends make them happen.

The list of accomplishments—projects and purchases—since the Friends’ founding in 2006 is long: kayaks and a kayak shed, a pavilion, turtle platforms in the lake, a playground within the campground and three teaching stations where Weidner can present educational programs. Some Friends’ projects, like firewood chopping, is ongoing—including trail maintenance and removal of invasive plants.

“Sometimes our work is not exciting stuff, but necessary stuff,” says Suzanne Gamber, the group’s vice president. “The first day I volunteered, I was putting my hands in the dirt, among the worms, but I loved every minute of it.”

Gamber, 62, of Hanover, initially became a member because she wanted to support the organization’s work financially. But over the years, she became more and more hands-on. In addition to her board position, she currently oversees the Friends’ Breakfast with Santa event.

Over the years, the group has—appropriately—forged friendships within its membership.

“I’ve made some of my best friends through this group,” says Kozak. “We all work very well together, and it’s that love of the park that keeps us all going.”

And he says new friends are always welcome.

“We’re always looking for new people,” Kozak says, “and we need to continue getting the word out in the community about what a wonderful resource we have in the park.” 

For more information on the Friends of Codorus, including membership, volunteering and the group’s calendar of events, visit

To learn more about Codorus State Park, visit


About Author

Karen Hendricks

Karen Hendricks is a a lifelong journalist of 30+ years and plays an important role with the editorial team at CG. In addition to overseeing the social channels at the magazine, Karen is also an accomplished freelance writer. Her skills with pen and paper are only the tip of the iceberg, as she is also an avid runner, recently completing 50 races to benefit 50 causes for her 50th birthday. Learn more about this beautiful endeavor as well as her other passions by visiting

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