Chicago Sun-Times
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Chicago outdoors: Guys, gossip & gals (special edition)

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Let's go back to Ralph Grasso's original idea: Make the spring fishing event at Northerly Island the ``Harrison Ford Fishing Derby.''


Fran Spielman, the Sun-Times' ace city hall reporter, had quite the story in today about Mayor Daley and Ford, the faux conservationist (conservation if it doesn't interfere with his play planes).

Daley was more polite than I would have been, but he called Ford what he is, ``an elitist.''

Why, because Ford, who takes pride in pushing environment efforts, mouths off regularly about the change of Northerly Island to a park from its former role as an airport for elitists.

Reading the story brought back a sharp memory of the first pulic event at the former airport in June of 2003, a couple months after the airport runways were X'd out.

I remember the raw excitement and emotions of people getting out to that public space for the first time in half a century.


It was touching, historic day in Chicago outdoors, as a couple key graphs show from my June 25, 2003 column for the Sun-Times:

For some adults, the history ran deep.

``This is the Harrison Ford Fishing Derby, isn't it?'' Ralph Grasso cracked.

Ford, the five-plane-owning movie star and faux conservationist, mouthed off about Meigs two weeks ago, inadvertently symbolizing the elitist nature of the lakefront airport.

``I caught my first fish a bluegill here in 1956,'' Grasso said as he stood with his wife, Barb, by that very bend in the sidewalk. ``My dad used to park his Studebaker over there and take me. Then the bastards won't let us in.''

So far, ``the bastards'' are being kept away. We're closing in seven years now of public access at Northerly Island.

There's all kinds of problems with plans, or lack of execution of plans, but at least you can fish, bike, hiks or simply get away to one of the coolest pieces of urban wildness anywhere.


Daley has many legacies as his time winds down. In my world, Northerly Island is one of the greatest, and the potential is even greater.

I sure hope dawn is just beginning for Northerly Island.


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It has been a wild ride. I take pride in being able to call the old Meigs Field terminal, the Fishing Headquarters for the Chicago Park District. Every time I hold class out there I think of that very morning following the runways getting X'ed out. I kick myself, if thats possible, and say, how cool is this that this is a public venue now. So yes, I hope it stays the way it is for years to come.

Carl Vizzone

I vividly remember waking up and listening to the news and figuring it was a cheap radio gag on April Fool's Day. But to make sure I turned on the TV and there it was, a done deal. I just hope we hang on it.

It's Park District property.
Why should it be held privately for wealthy businessmen?
Let them build a private airport if they want an airport. -This land belongs to the people.
I hope it remains public, as it should be.
Seems like a no-brainer that park district property should not be held in exclusivity.
I agree, that the X-ing out of the runways, was one of Daley's most memorable moves.

Raptor, Amen on about all of that. For better or worse, I think Northerly Island will define the Daley years, good and bad.

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on January 14, 2010 8:57 AM.

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