Post-storm Northerly Island update

Storm damage Northerly Island

Storm debris, broken fence, closed path, and erosion under the east trail at Northerly Island. 

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. 

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Storm damage Northerly Island
With the Chicago skyline in the background, you can see the rocks and gravel strewn about the recently planted grasslands. The trail is also covered with debris. This area was not protected by the wall of rip-rap along the shore. 

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Storm damage Northerly Island
This area has been planted with native grasses during the renovations, but all that was covered by gravel and stone in the storms. 

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Storm damage Northerly Island
A view of the east trail looking south, where it is covered in stones, gravel, and storm debris. The fence is damaged in places as well.

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Storm damage Northerly Island
Storm debris, broken fence, closed path, and erosion under the east trail at Northerly Island. 

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Storm damage Northerly Island
Water washing over the rip-rap wall knocked down the path-enclosing fence in some places.

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Storm damage Northerly Island
This photo shows the knocked-down fence and extensive erosion under the trail on the east side of the lagoon. The soil underneath the path was already eroding quite severely before the storms; the park district had put down the rocks seen here to try to prevent further erosion. It didn't work in the face of the big storms that passed through on December 28. 

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Storm damage Northerly Island
The fence was knocked down and sand and rocks covered the recently planted vegetation along parts of the east side of the lagoon.

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Storm damage Northerly Island map