Northerly Island's New Park Will Open To The Public Friday

By Kate Shepherd in News on Sep 2, 2015 3:41PM

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The new 40-acre Northerly Island Park will open to the public Friday, according to the Tribune.

The park, which is on the former site of the Meigs Field airstrip, features man-made hills, a 5-acre lagoon and bike and pedestrian trails with beautiful views of the skyline. It was designed by the award-winning Studio Gang architecture firm and landscape architecture firm SmithGroupJJR. When Northerly Island Park opens to the public on Friday, it will mark a new chapter in the long, controversial history of the island and the now-defunct Meigs Field.

The Northerly Island Park project has a lot in common with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's other recent public park revitalizations: The 606 and the Riverwalk.

"We are at the epicenter of taking old transportation platforms and turning (them) into public space," Emanuel told the Tribune during a preview walk of the park Tuesday.

The costs for the $9.7 million park were covered with $6.3 million in federal funds and $3.4 from the Chicago Park District's revenue from the concert venue on the other half of the island.

The opening of the park will mark the official end of the infamous Meigs Field drama. Mayor Richard Daley announced in 1996 that he would close the airstrip to build a park but then-Gov. Jim Edgar put an end to his plans by having the legislature authorize a state takeover of the area.

But state legislators were acting in their own self-interest. They used Meigs Field so often that Sen. Dick Durbin dubbed it "Springfield's personal airport" during Tuesday's preview, the Tribune reported. One of Daley's most notorious demonstrations of power was shutting it down for good in 2003, claiming it would help prevent terrorists from crashing planes into downtown buildings.