With the final demolition dust settling over what used to be Meigs Field, the question now becomes, “What would keep this from happening elsewhere in the future?” Last month, crews resumed the destruction of Chicago’s idyllic lakefront airport to the dismay of aviation groups, including Friends of Meigs Field and AOPA, which had led the fight to save the long embattled facility.
The Chicago Park District board of directors has voted unanimously to proceed with demolition of Chicago Meigs Field. The board, all appointees of mayor Richard Daley, refused to defer the decision even a few weeks to allow the Friends of Meigs Field to present a plan that would reopen the airport as a combined park and airport.
It has been more than a month since Chicago mayor Richard Daley’s midnight raid on the city’s lakefront airport, Meigs Field. By now, the story of the runway’s actual destruction is widely known. Reactions have been pouring in from groups as diverse as NBAA, the Experimental Aircraft Association and the National Air Traffic Controllers’ Association.
AOPA has proposed that the city of Chicago apply for $41 million in federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding to buy Meigs Field from its current owner, the Chicago Park District. AOPA president Phil Boyer said, “The funds will give [the Park District] significant resources to improve existing parks and create a new one on Northerly Island where there’s adequate space for both Meigs and a park to exist.”
One year ago this month the FAA said it would take legal action against the city of Chicago because officials failed to notify the agency 30 days before closing Meigs Field. In the early morning hours of March 30, 2003, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley sent heavy equipment onto the airport to carve trenches across its single runway, citing terrorism worries as his reason.
On the first Saturday in February, despite record warmth, only two bicyclists and a Chicago police car took to the sloshy paths at what used to be Meigs Field. The former GA airport has been reincarnated as Northerly Island, a wildlife grounds. The former terminal houses exhibits on flowers, birds and a poster of Northerly from 1931. There is no mention, inside or out, that an airport occupied the site.