Daley's Midnight Run on Meigs Field
It was perhaps the first attempt
by a top government official to save open space
not destroy it under cover of darkness. Shortly
after midnight on March 31, Chicago Mayor Richard M.
Daley dispatched heavy equipment to slash large Xs through
the runways at Meigs Field, effectively closing the
Daley explained the next morning
that the airport's lakefront location had allowed planes
too close to downtown skyscrapers. This, he said, contributed
to an apprehensive public mindset and compromised security
against terrorist attacks. This precautionary step against
terrorism was consistent with the mayor's widely praised
proposal to build a park and restore habitat on the
91-acre landfill site, called Northerly Island.
The hopes of parks supporters had
been dashed when Governor Ryan had insisted on keeping
Meigs open in exchange for supporting Daley's expansion
plans at O'Hare airport. But when the governor failed
to uphold his side of the bargain, Daley was able to
revive the plan for a new gem in the lakefront parks.
City officials haven't released any new plans for Northerly
Island, but they have been working with several groups
since the mid-1990s on plans for the site, according
to Cameron Davis, executive director of the Lake Michigan
Federation. "The city is going to need to progress
on a step-by-step basis on Northerly Island," said
Davis, citing current lack of funds as the largest barrier
to construction. "It's going to take some time.
The first phase will be for the city to evaluate all
of the plans, then put together a strategy."
The Lake Michigan Federation released
its plan for Northerly Island in February 2001, exactly
one year before Meigs Field was originally scheduled
to close. The Federation based its design upon an earlier
plan by the city to return the site to the parkland
use for which it was originally built. "It was
developed with enormous input from volunteers and members
throughout the community," said Davis. "It
really represents the wishes of average citizens."
"Sanctuary Point" would integrate
original elements of Chicago's lakefront, such as shoreline
prairie, woods, dune ridges, and wetlands, with a focus
on creating habitat for wildlife, most notably fish and
migratory birds. Winding paths would connect with Burnham
Park, 12th Street Beach, the Adler Planetarium, and an interpretive
center occupying existing buildings.