City to expand camping at Northerly Island

Programs will expand as lakefront park is renovated over next two years

08/16/2012 6:13 PM

By Ben Meyerson

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This fall, the Chicago Park District and the Army Corps of Engineers are kicking off Northerly Island's rehab from a flat former airfield to a topographically varied nature preserve. The first phase of the project will tackle the south half of the existing park.

Above, a rendering shows what the park could look like when all phases of the renovation at Northerly Island are finished someday.

Courtesy Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago Park District

The first phase of Northerly Island renovations, above, will shuffle the parkís now-flat soil to create five different ecosystems at different elevations, as well as a new underwater habitat off the shore.

Courtesy Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago Park District

Chicago kids hoping to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to go camping wonít have to go as far soon, the city and park district officials announced Thursday morning.

Northerly Island, the lakefront park in the South Loop formerly known as Meigs Field, will expand its camping program in 2013 as part of the cityís plans to rehab the south end of the peninsula into a nature preserve. Chicago Journal broke the story of Northerly Islandís rehab two weeks ago.

The park district already offers 320 camping spots throughout the year, most of which are at Northerly Island. But under the new plan, an additional 900 camping spots will be added at Northerly Island, 600 for family campers and 300 for 12- to 15-year-olds in the park districtís wilderness camping program.

Some of the new spots will open up in 2013, when the southern end of the park begins to reopen as a nature preserve with multiple habitats; most of them will be in place by 2014.

Northerly Islandís neighbors at the museum campus will come by to help out, too. 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 help kids identify fish and other water animals next to the island and in its new four-acre pond.

Daynah Parker, a former student at Skinner West Elementary in the West Loop, participated in a camping session on Northerly Island two years ago with her younger sister, Jadah. She enjoyed it, she said at a Field Museum press conference Thursday before she introduced Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Among the other activities, she said, was a slightly embarrassing round of karaoke.

ďItís probably good we were out in the middle of nature,Ē she said.

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