The image of planes flying low over city neighborhoods is not generally associated with Lake Michigan shoreline restoration. The Federation has learned recently that, at least in the city of Chicago, these two issues will be linked for some time to come.
Meigs Field airport sits in the unlikeliest of places: a peninsula jutting directly into Lake Michigan from downtown Chicago. In the mid-90s, the city announced its intent to close Meigs Field and return the use of Northerly Island to the millions of people who live in and visit Chicago each year. Prompted by this news, the Federation’s volunteer Lakefront Task Force decided to advocate for natural habitat creation on Northerly Island. The Federation’s plan for the site won the praise of Chicago’s top elected official when Mayor Richard M. Daley told reporters he thought the plan was “a great idea.”
Unfortunately, recent negotiations over the expansion of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport have delayed the creation of a native habitat on Northerly Island. In exchange for O’Hare expansion, Mayor Daley agreed in December to Illinois Governor George Ryan’s request that Meigs Field remain open, with closure possible as early as 2006. The Federation will continue to work with environmental leaders, government agencies, and local citizens over the next 5 years to ensure that Meigs Field closes and Northerly Island becomes a premier display of natural habitat in an urban setting.