CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Richard M. Daley will long be remembered for his midnight raid on Meigs Field, when city backhoes ruined the runway and the lakefront airfield was shut down.
Now, as Daley prepares his political swan song, the land that’s left where Meigs Field once was may become one of Daley’s defining legacies.
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The Chicago Park District was on Thursday night was scheduled to unveil a long-range plan for Northerly Island, the man-made peninsula that juts out southward from the Adler Planetarium that used to be occupied by Meigs Field.
Currently, Northerly Island features walking paths, fishing and the Charter One Pavilion concert venue. Part of the former Meigs Field airport terminal is also used as a bird hospital.
The new plans are expected to include a new concert pavilion that resembles a giant land mound, wetlands for migrating birds and the people who watch them, and chain of reefs that would protect a deep-water lagoon where patrons may swim, scuba dive, canoe and kayak.
The reefs are intended in part to restore populations of common Lake Michigan fish, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, brown trout, yellow perch and coho salmon, among others.
“This is a dream come true. This is more than we ever imagined would have been possible out here,” Bob O’Neill of the Grant Park Conservancy told CBS 2’s Mike Parker.
In the Chicago Tribune Thursday, architect Jeanne Gang called the plan “almost like a Millennium Park of nature.”
Northerly Island was envisioned in the 1909 Plan for Chicago by Daniel Burnham, as one of the northernmost points in an archipelago of manmade islands along the lakefront. But none of the others were ever created.
The island was in the world spotlight as the site for Chicago’s 1933-34 Century of Progress Exposition.
The single-strip Meigs Field opened on the island in 1947, and was used largely by commuter flights to and from Springfield and other nearby locales. But after years of on-again-off-again plans to close the airport, Mayor Daley infamously bulldozed the runway in March 2003 to make way for the park.