Mayslake volunteer helps bring life to the landscape

Mayslake Forest Preserve in Oak Brook is overlooked by locals as a destination for decompressing, according to volunteer Anne Cahill.

She's been reminded of that recently amidst the renewed popularity of open spaces.

"When Fullersburg (Woods) parking lots were full, I would go to Mayslake and there would be, like, three, four or five cars in the parking lot," Cahill said.

She surmised the reason is that the historic Peabody Mansion is closely associated with the site.

"People don't tend to think of mansions with forest preserves. Mayslake is nature, but it also has the mansion," Cahill said. "I like the idea of the quiet, the solitude, the greenery, the expanse of undeveloped land. You can just wander and walk around."

The former long-time Hinsdale resident, who moved "from the mainland" to neighboring Golfview Hills about 20 years ago, became a volunteer gardener at the DuPage County Forest Preserve District site in 2018.

In fact, giving back through gardening was a seed sown several years ago during a mansion tour.

"I always thought, 'When I retire, this is one of the places I would like to volunteer,' " Cahill related.

The plantings encircling both the mansion and the chapel a short walk away were laid out by volunteers about 15 years ago. Cahill said a group of eight to 10 green thumbs arrive every Wednesday and Friday from March to October to keep that legacy flourishing

"We just show up in the morning. We take turns among us being the lead gardener, who decides what needs to be done, and then work on it for a couple of hours," she said. "It's mostly retired people. We also enjoy the camaraderie, especially now during the COVID."

Saturday is National Public Lands Day to promote the maintenance and appreciation of places such as Mayslake. This year's theme is "More Ways to Connect to Nature."

She revealed one of the fresh connecting opportunities they will soon present is next spring's new garden installation at the chapel.

"The colors in the garden will copy the mosaic on the chapel. It's very pretty," said Cahill, who also serves as a docent, leading tours of the mansion and grounds.

She admitted to concern that coronavirus neglect this spring would have left the gardens in disarray. But she was pleasantly surprised to discover that a few stealth agents had apparently been able to keep some order.

"By the time we got back there in June, it really wasn't in bad shape," she remarked.

She spoke of the rewarding feeling when noticing visitors admiring her group's horticultural efforts.

"They like to be able to have lovely gardens around a lovely building. They enjoy that is fits in with the whole setting, whether they are gardeners or not," Cahill said. "It's a beautiful place to be."

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean