Northerly Island

sights / Parks & gardens

Northerly Island information

Chicago , USA
Address
Street 1400 S Lynn White Dr
Getting there
bus 146 or 130
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Lonely Planet review

Northerly Island was once the busy commuter airport known as Meigs Field. Now it's a prairie-grassed park with walking trails, fishing, bird-watching and an outdoor concert venue.

The shift from runway to willowy grasses has its root in a controversial incident that reads a little like a municipal spy thriller, complete with midnight operatives and surprise bulldozings. To sum it up: Mayor Richard M Daley wanted the land for a park; businesses wanted to keep it for their private planes. A standoff ensued. Then, one dark night in March 2003, Daley fired up the heavy machinery and razed the airfield while the city slept. His reasoning? Terrorists could attack Chicago with tiny planes launched from Meigs; the airfield was a security liability. Why it couldn't be jackhammered during daylight hours was never answered. But by 2005 the controversy had died down, and Chicagoans were out in force, happily exploring this beautiful piece of lakefront that had been off-limits for a half-century.