There was more than sand dunes and waterfowl on Northerly Island this morning.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined architect Jeanne Gang and others for a status up date on the massive terraforming project.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, working with the EPA, is transforming the former airport into a semi-aquatic lakeside ecosystem.
It’s part of a $1.1 billion project called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Since 2010 its been cleaning up and fixing up parts of the Great Lakes to make them more like they were before being exploited by industrial development.
There are more than 2,000 projects in the G.L.R.I. Northerly Island is one of six projects being carried out in the city of Chicago restoring 400 acres of wetlands and prairies at a cost of $3.1 million. Jo-Ellen Darcy with the Corps says there are three studies now being done that could add another 600 acres. The EPA looks at the island as a giant hands-on science museum and laboratory for kids.
Mayor Emanuel is excited that very soon groups of children will start camping on Northerly island. “We have thousands of kids who can’t make it to Wisconsin, can’t make it to Michigan, can’t make it to Starved Rock [State Park], and they’re not part of nature. And sometimes they don’t make it to [Lake Michigan] which is only a couple of miles away from their home.” The Chicago Park District is running programs where groups of children will be able to spend the night under the stars on the island.
It’s been more than a decade since Mayor Richard M. Daley bulldozed Meigs Field (CGX) in the middle of the night to turn it into a park. The transformation is expected to be complete with the official ribbon cutting this fall.