Renovating the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation’s 1,200-acre private retreat in Dundee, Illinois presented a tremendous opportunity for the Van Zelst team. This hidden gem—just 40 miles northwest of Chicago, is comprised of ample woodlands, lowlands and farmland, and is home to more than 250 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, and much more. This setting, encompassing the Foundation’s retreat and headquarters, is fully dedicated to environmental conservation and education. A seemingly natural landscape is key to complementing the group’s goals.
The Van Zelst design and installation teams worked hard to maintain the Foundation’s intimate, natural “North Woods” feel as we enhanced and added to the public spaces and native plantings. For example, even though the wildlife areas were all man-made on land that had previously been used for dairy farms, the work had been environmentally sensitive and consistent with the founder’s vision.
To further correspond to the Foundation’s initial vision, new group gathering areas and meandering pathways use only hardscape materials that were available when the property was initially built and landscaped in the early 1960s. A mix of bluestone, gravel and Lannon stone keeps even the most sophisticated areas from feeling too formal. When guests walk out to the bubbling trout stream, recreational lawn and natural playground, every surface and material is consistent with the overall, natural landscape aesthetic.
Van Zelst also upgraded the main entrance to the reserve, developed a new parking area that can be converted to an outdoor event space, and added expansive plantings of native grasses and wildflowers to further showcase this stunning refuge for plants, animals, researchers and members.
We’re proud to announce that this project is a 2013 Illinois Landscape Contractors Association (ILCA) silver award winner. For more details about the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation and our role in the updates, see our official press release.