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Long Awaited Northerly Island Park to Officially Open on Friday

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The lower 40-acre portion of Northerly Island that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working on tirelessly for the last few years is virtually complete and ready for its grand debut later this week. During a media preview of the new park space yesterday, Mayor Emanuel announced that the new Northerly Island Park will open to public this Friday. The site was previously a small airport for private jets and was the center of a famous controversy back in 2003 when Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered bulldozers to demolish the airport's runway in the middle of the night. However, the land has been reclaimed by the public and will include various ecosystems and landscape features.

Designed by landscape architects SmithGroupJJR and Chicago's Studio Gang, the new park will feature a five acre lagoon, a row of man-made hills and a bicycle/pedestrian trail. Not to be confused with the northern section of the island that features an outdoor concert venue, the southern section will offer Chicagoans a glimpse into several different micro-ecosystems featuring native plants and some wildlife (though nothing too wild). One of the highlights of the new park's programing will be camping retreats for those looking to escape the downtown hustle but remain close by. According to the Tribune's Blair Kamin, the final product isn't exactly true to the original plans—but for practical reasons. The new Northerly Island won't feature a ring of man-made reefs, but instead the eastern edge of the island has been reinforced with rock mounds to prevent erosion.

The new Northerly Island Park joins a handful of other exciting high-profile public park projects for Chicago, including The 606, Maggie Daley Park, the Chicago Riverwalk extension and the Grant Park Skate Park. One of the highlights of Mayor Daley's legacy is the creation of Millennium Park, and Mayor Emanuel has carried this torch to see that the city continues on the path of delivering exciting landscape architecture and public park space. Of course bulldozing an airstrip in the middle of the night is a heavy-handed move, but many will say that it was ultimately the right decision when considering what it has transformed into.

·Northerly Island Park opens Friday on Chicago lakefront [Tribune]
·Northerly Island Park: Beguiling lakefront landscape justifies Daley raid [Tribune]
·Previous Northerly Island coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Parks & Rec archives [Curbed Chicago]