Published: January 19, 2016

Post-storm Northerly Island update

Northerly Island, the Museum Campus park that occupies the peninsula where small planes once took off from Meigs Field, was re-opened last fall after a two-year, $9.7 million renovation project. I wrote a review of it at the time. One of my concerns that I wrote about was a last-minute modification to the plans: due to storm damage that occurred during the construction, a large wall of rip-rap was added to the lakeshore in an attempt to protect the park from future storm damage. While perhaps important from a structural perspective, the wall had the unfortunate effect of blocking off visitors' views of the lake as they enjoyed the wide path around the newly constructed lagoon. 

A major storm system passed through Chicago on December 28, bringing with it howling east winds, which in turn created huge waves that pounded the lakeshore. Lake Shore Drive flooded and much of the lakefront bike path was closed. Two days later, it was announced that the east (lakeside) trail at Northerly Island would be closed for the remainder of the winter, because "high wave events have been eroding the trail and is [sic] tossing rocks along the trail." Curious, I headed over there to take some photos and see the damage for myself. I was especially interested to see if the rip-rap wall succeeded in limiting damage to the areas it was built to protect and to see how much disturbance there was to the fragile vegetation. While the damage to the trail and vegetation was less in areas where the rip-rap wall was, even that couldn't fully contain the enormous waves, which knocked down a long stretch of adjacent fence.