Sunday, November 28, 2010

Meigs Field Now Bird Sanctuary

Northerly Island is, by all accounts, an enviable piece of real estate. Located just southeast of the Museum Campus, the peninsula was once home to a little airport known as Meigs Field, which met its now-infamous end back in 2003, when Mayor Richard M. Daley covertly sent a fleet of bulldozers to tear up the runways in the middle of the night, without warning the public or getting approval from any of the city's usual legal channels. Unapologetic in his actions, Daley cited only a concern that having an airfield so close to downtown posed a "terrorist threat", in a very-belated response to the September 11th attacks.

Although pilots and other aviator enthusiasts still harbor a great deal of resentment toward the mayor and his seemingly rash decision, it sounds like Northerly Island will soon become a permanent hub for winged creatures of the feathered variety.

In the years since the runway debacle, the Park District has already made great strides in beautifying Northerly Island. They have done a good deal of prairie restoration on the southern half of the peninsula, and erected the Charter One Pavilion, a 7,500-seat (temporary) concert venue to the north. This article in yesterday's Tribune details how architects plan to unveil green designs for a permanent concert facility (revenue from these concerts will help fund this project) and to restructure the old terminal building, by removing the walls (which have claimed the lives of many a migrating bird) and turning it into an open-air pavilion.

A more concerted effort will be made to turn the island, which is on the direct flight path of many migrating birds, into a bird sanctuary and hospital, while underwater rock formations will harbor many more species of aquatic plants and animals. I walked the length of Northerly Island earlier this fall, and despite a group of tourists on Segways, I found it to be a surprisingly peaceful place. I think a nature sanctuary is a great idea, and the views can't be beat!

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