A year ago, naming the highest point on Cantigny’s 500 acres might have been a puzzler. Now there is no question: It’s Butterfly Hill, the newly created overlook at the south end of the Oak Colonnade.

At approximately 800 feet above sea level, we might have named it Mount Cantigny. It’s taller than planners expected it to be when Project New Leaf began. Butterfly Hill, however, is the perfect choice. From its summit, visitors enjoy a nice view of the giant butterfly-shaped flower bed on the golf course—a colorful spring and summer landmark that Cantigny golfers know well. Until now it was invisible from the park.

Secondly, the hill is situated near a section of the former “butterfly trail,” a path once used by naturalists to monitor Cantigny’s butterfly population.

Butterfly Hill arose from surplus soil removed from construction areas around the park in 2017 and 2018. Keeping the soil on site was more economical than hauling it away, and project planners recognized an opportunity to create a new attraction for park visitors.

“The hill is a natural link between the park and the golf course, which we’ve never had before,” said Scott Witte, director of horticulture. “Park visitors are going to love the panoramic view.”

Final shaping of Butterfly Hill is almost complete. Witte wants the hill to complement the existing landscape, blending naturally with its surroundings.

In 2019, a grass walking path, connected to the wood chipped trail by the First Division Museum, will lead visitors to the lookout point. Native grasses and sedges will surround the ascent. Once the plantings mature, Witte’s team plans to add plant material attractive to pollinators like bees and, of course, butterflies.

The landscape immediately east and west of Butterfly Hill has also acquired a more open look. Acres of mostly nonnative tangle were cleared and mounds recontoured, granting park visitors a new vista to the south. The lush fairways of Cantigny Golf are suddenly in plain view.

Butterfly Hill and the land around it is another example of how Project New Leaf is opening sight lines and connecting Cantigny’s formerly separate elements and features.

Besides all that, Witte believes the hill will be a popular spot for sunset watchers.

Butterfly Hill receives some final contouring in late October. The shape of the hill and future plantings will make the overlook blend with its surroundings.

Butterfly Hill’s namesake flower bed is easily seen by golfers, and will now be visible to park visitors. Photo by Lee Hogan.

Posted by Jeff Reiter

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