Habitat Renewal in Downtown Chicago

Habitat Renewal in Downtown Chicago

by Joel Brammeier, Lake Michigan Federation

Chicago’s lakefront has served as its crown jewel since the 19th century. Landmarks such as Buckingham Fountain, the Field Museum and the Lincoln Park Zoo are instantly recognizable and draw visitors from around the world to Chicago every year. The city’s commitment to making the shoreline a resource available to all people has provided opportunities for a wide variety of different recreational uses.

Most Chicagoans know the 91-acre parcel of land jutting from downtown’s Grant Park as Meigs Field airport. This land is also known as Northerly Island, its given name when it was created by the city of Chicago in the early 1900s. Only about 200 people use the airport each day, and recent studies have suggested that Meigs Field operations have a minimal impact on the economy of the city. The site is currently not available for any use other than general aviation, effectively cutting off citizens and tourists from a major portion of Chicago’s lakefront.

When the Meigs Field lease expires in February 2002, the Federation hopes to see the conversion of the peninsula into Sanctuary Point – the Federation’s proposed name for the park it hopes will become an ecological haven for both people and wildlife. The Federation is advocating the redevelopment of the land into a restored natural habitat that mimics the landscape of presettlement Chicago, with coastal wetland and dune habitats. It would be an outdoor “living museum” and act as a natural extension of Chicago’s three traditional natural history museums.

LMF’s volunteer Lakefront Task Force has helped develop a proposal for the site and the Federation will continue to work with the Chicago Park District to push for implementation. You can access architect’s renderings of the proposed plan on our website at www.lakemichigan.org.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.