Lake Erosion Closes Portions of Northerly Island

Parts of the Northerly Island park that opened just last fall are now blocked off, closed to the public because of lake erosion.

Pounding waves and gusty winds have taken their toll on the sea wall designed to protect the island from erosion. Now, the barrier has fallen victim to it and Chicagoans can’t access parts of the area that opened just last fall.

“It is a little disappointing, yes,” said runner Yijing Luo. “You can have fun, but they are closed." 

It’s been less than a year since the almost 10 million dollar ecosystem restoration project first opened on the former site of Meigs Field. Now, the easternmost path on the island is already closed.

“What has happened there is due to some storms, several storms, there has been water coming over the lake side of the island there and flowing across the path,“ said Roy Deda, deputy project manager of the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the project.

The Army Corps of Engineers is studying the problem to see what can be done, but Deda said this year has been worse than others “because of the increased lake levels that we have seen over the past couple of years.” 

That doesn’t change the disappointment plenty of people feel when visiting the park.

“I would like for there to be some more activity out here,” said Saya Valentine, who is part of a group of art students who frequents Northerly Island. “All the time we just come out here to take pictures and enjoy nature.”

“I have heard that they are trying to make a picnic area on that side, but it’s been closed up for a very long time,” added Kamil Kwasnik.

The erosion isn’t happening just at Northerly Island either. Large chunks of pavement have dislodged at the lakefront bike trail near Oak Street Beach, forcing runners and cyclists to make their way through an obstacle course of debris.

The Army Corps of Engineers is working with the Chicago Park District on plans to make repairs both to the path and Northerly Island, and will reinforce some of the materials around the path, enabling them to open the now-fenced off space for public use. 

“A little more access would be nice,” said student Alexis Hartford. “More free space to roam would be cool.”

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