New Northerly Island preserve gives peaceful perspective on city


The preserve opened on Sept. 4 and is located at the South end of Northerly Island.

By Metro Repoter

A 43-acre nature preserve opened at the south end of Northerly Island, 1521 S. Linn White Drive on Sept. 4. The preserve offers a path for residents to walk, bike and bird watch where an airport runway used to be until the lease expired in 1996.

The space is located near the First Merit Bank Pavilion, a popular music venue located at 1300 S. Linn White Drive. The space  was renovated using funds from a federal grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and funding from the Chicago Park District, creating a space for residents to connect with nature and promote wildlife development, Chicago Park District spokeswoman Zvezdana Kubat said.

The park offers Chicagoans and visitors a one-mile multipurpose trail around the island, a four-acre lagoon and a view of the city, Kubat said.

“If you’ve been back there, you’ve seen that a lot of the land is still behind fences because [the Army Corps of Engineers is] getting the plants established, but that also means certain programming that we would like to do, we can’t because we can’t be on the lawn,” said Teishetta Daniel, center director of Northerly Island Park.

When the park opens in its entirety, the Chicago Park District will offer fishing, camping, nature programs and

stargazing events, Kubat said.

“There’s a lot of opportunity down the road for when the park fully opens,” Kubat said.

According to Kubat, the park will not be fully opened for at least another year.

Doug Blanchard, who works at Jensen Litigation Solutions in the Loop, said he has been running at Northerly Island Park for many years.

“They did a great job. It’s nice to have it open again,” Blanchard said. “I think [my favorite part is] being out at the lake without noise from Lake Shore Drive and the city, and you can still see the skyline, but it’s definitely out of the city.”

Daniel said the park is also a place for residents to interact with nature.

“It’s very rare to find a natural area like this so close to the city center, and we wanted to pay homage to Daniel Burnham [ the legendary city planner] and his vision for the site as well as offering amenities to our park patrons,” Kubat said.

David Dolak, a senior lecturer in the Science & Mathematics Department at Columbia, said the park is important because—in addition to its entertainment value—it gives birds a clear space to fly when they migrate.

“[These birds] having another place to stop [on their way to Florida] is very important,”

Dolak said.

Because of the migration, people will see lots of small birds, hawks and the occasional snowy owl, Dolak said.

Throughout the year, the park district will host Adventure Days to bring a large crowd to the park to “focus on outdoor education and recreation,” Daniel said. The next Adventure Day is set for Oct. 17.

Past Adventure Days have centered on the seasons in which they occur, according to Daniel, with winter days being celebrated with snowshoes, campfires and hot chocolate. Other Adventure Days feature collaborations with  museums such as The Art Institute  or the Field Museum.

“I think it’s significant that a city this size would decide to do something like this, that the city has this commitment to keeping parks public and that the park is a natural area as well,” Daniel said. “To have a lot of silence and to see all the hustle and bustle, but not be able to hear it. That’s really special.”