In the heart of the Museum Campus, south of the Adler Planetarium and east of Solider Field, lies Northerly Island. This 91-acre peninsula used to be the home of Meigs Field, which catered to aviation enthusiasts and brought business into the Loop. Today, Northerly Island is a “nature preserve,” but is for the most part deserted. The potential of this space has been seen by many for many years, and Chicagoans have often wondered what will become of this quiet plot of land, which used to be a bustling airstrip.
Chicago Park District is choosing to take advantage of this hidden gem on Chicago’s lakefront. Northerly Island is being converted to a more appropriate nature preserve. The first phase of renovations will shuffle the park’s flat soil to create five different ecosystems at different elevations, as well as a new underwater habitat. This phase will tackle the southern half of the park. In addition to this, the park will be expanding its camping program–in addition to the 320 camping spots already offered, 900 more will be added at Northerly Island. Employees from the Adler Planetarium will help campers identify stars, Field Museum employees will help kids identify animals and plants on the island, and Shedd Aquarium employees will be there to aid the campers in identifying fish and other aquatic life in the underwater habitat.
This park, located on the doorstep of the city, holds a promising new opportunity to integrate more native wildlife into Chicago’s landscape.