We are well into the second full year of Project New Leaf and there is much to report. Thanks for your patience as we improve the park.

Naturally we devoted the winter months to indoor work, primarily an extensive remodeling of the Cantigny Visitors Center. Le Jardin now features a grand new entrance and inside the room you’ll notice new carpeting and a redesigned bar area. A badly needed coat room was added, too!

The fresh new look extends to our coffee shop. In fact, Bertie’s is now called Bertie’s Bistro and offers a full lunch menu. After 30 days, the new dining concept is proving to be a hit with our guests.

In the main gallery—the room with the map under the floor—we expanded the information kiosk to better serve visitors and provide room for a membership services desk still to come. New flooring and wall colors complement the kiosk and deliver an updated look and feel.

The level of outdoor activity really took off once spring finally arrived. Fences north of the Visitors Center will be down in time for Mother’s Day, providing a new east-west passage to the gardens and McCormick House. Be sure to take a stroll around (and across) the new Pond Garden, too, also available Mother’s Day weekend. Soon the thousands of native aquatic “plugs,” planted last fall, will spring to life around the water’s edge.

The upper and lower display gardens and new Rose Garden are not yet open but we removed the fencing so you can see the planting process. We anticipate a Grand Reopening event this summer and will keep you informed.

Over in the picnic grove, the Red Oaks Farm playground is on target for a Memorial Day weekend debut. Kids and parents alike are going to love this farm-themed playscape with ramps, bridges and sidewalks for easy navigation. You can watch this video to learn more.

Plenty of fencing remains, visible as you enter Cantigny Park. Behind the barriers we are constructing the Oak Colonnade, a key feature of Project New Leaf. Parallel rows of trees (48 in all, of various oak species) will extend from the Visitors Center all the way south to the First Division Museum. The Colonnade will be a dramatic and unifying landscape element for the park.

Additional work behind the fencing includes a spacious arrival plaza outside the Visitors Center main entrance, with lots of seating. Our priority is to have the new space, and the north section of the Colonnade, completed by June. This will restore easy entry to Le Jardin and the Visitors Center.

At the south end of the Colonnade—roughly between the parking lot and First Division Museum–we’re adding a building with restrooms and visitor information. We’re also expanding the south parking lot by 350 spaces. By late summer, access to the First Division Museum should once again be simple and direct from the south lot.

Again, thanks for your patience as we forge ahead. I’m confident that Project New Leaf, when finished, will exceed your expectations. I welcome your comments at newleaf@cantigny.org.

Matt LaFond
Executive Director
Cantigny Park

Posted by Jeff Reiter

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