Stepping back in time to the 18th century at Isle a la Cache preserve in Romeoville will be even easier and more authentic in the years to come as three improvement projects unfold at the site.
The upgrades will be happening simultaneously throughout the preserve.
“The projects will overlap for a period of about 18 months, and by mid-2021, Isle a la Cache will have had a major capital investment that will significantly improve the preserve,” said Tina Riley, the site’s facility supervisor.
All of the exterior upgrades will complement the popular Isle a la Cache Museum, which features French fur trade era exhibits as well as a Blanding's turtle education area complete with live turtles.
An eastern section of the preserve known as Island Grove will be improved with a boardwalk, deck and trail connection.
“Island Grove is an area that has been used in the past as a picnic grove for students during field trips,” Riley explained. “It is a wooded setting that provides shade for small gatherings. The new boardwalk will serve as a bridge and the deck will provide programming space for school groups and other visitors.”
The new trail connection will link the grove to the museum campus, Riley added.
“This will improve the flow of foot traffic around the preserve and will help guide visitor experiences, allowing them to get the best views of the preserve and see the outdoor exhibits.”
A three-sisters garden and native plants also will be installed. A three-sisters garden features squash, beans and corn, a trio of symbiotic species that native Americans were known to plant.
Exhibit upgrades at the existing replica longhouse will consist of two orientation kiosks, wayfinding signage, and four interpretive exhibits highlighting native American living, including a replica wigwam and interpretive signs for the three-sisters garden.
The project also includes improved interior seating in the longhouse, a new program deck space, a boardwalk, trail connections, a replica outdoor cooking exhibit, an improved campfire area and landscaping.
“We’re increasing the longhouse’s authenticity to better portray how one may have been built and used prior to and during the fur trade era,” Riley explained. “Additional cultural materials will be added to show visitors the materials and objects that were utilized in the daily lives of Native Peoples in this area. And the immediate area around the longhouse will be enhanced with native plants."
Funding for the Island Grove and longhouse improvements is coming from an Illinois Public Museum Capital Grant Program.
The third project involves the installation of a 150-person capacity picnic shelter, a latrine, walkways, parking lot rehabilitation and landscaping. The latrine has been installed, but a change order for the picnic shelter needs to be approved by the Forest Preserve’s Board in June.
The preserve did not have a latrine in the past, only a port-a-potty, and restrooms were only available when Isle a la Cache Museum was open.
“The shelter, which will have a lovely river overlook, and related improvements will greatly expand the use of the preserve and enhance visitor experiences,” Riley said.
"Once all of the work is done, the preserve will do a better job of telling the story of the Native American experience that existed before European settlement," she added. “This interpretation will exist outdoors making it available to visitors even when the museum isn’t open, which will add an entirely new feature to the site.”
Funding for these preserve improvements is coming from the District's Capital Improvement Program and Infrastructure Maintenance and Replacement Program and from a contribution by the Village of Romeoville.
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