You have to ignore the abandoned mobile homes tagged with gang graffiti and the occasional yellow-eyed zombie wandering the narrow streets in Chicago's only trailer park if you want to see the place for what it really is.
A poor folks' paradise.
Harbour Point Estates in Hegewisch -- between Wolf and Powder Horn lakes -- sits on an old landfill straddling both sides of 134th at the Indiana border.
Locals know that part of town as "Little Arizona." It's "country living" in the big city, trailer parkers say. And more than a few of them have the lawn decorations to prove it.
Jerry Seibt rents a rickety trailer there for about 500 bucks a month on prime real estate -- a backwater channel with a tiny pier, a fire pit and makeshift bench.
"The best part about this place," Ol' Jerry says, "is the fishing.
"Bass. Blue Gill. Northerns. Catfish. Carp. I don't need to go to no Wisconsin. I catch 'em all right out back. Big ones, too."
Other folks say having a small yard of their own on quiet streets near the mature cottonwoods, and being just a short drive to cheaper gas and smokes across the border makes the place special.
Hunters love Wolf Lake -- the only place in Chicago where you can legally bag a goose or a duck. Some mornings, distant shotgun blasts are alarm clocks.
At Powder Horn, bird watchers can catch a glimpse of endangered black-crowned night herons and stroll along wildflower fields.
Ol' Jerry's lived there for about 16 years now and has never really thought about moving anywhere else. A lot of his neighbors feel the same way.
Too bad it's not up to them.
Harbour Point's owners finally figured out that those 130 acres are too valuable for a trailer park. They're betting people who can afford to buy a house might pay as much as $386,000 to live there.
They're planning to clear out the place and build houses, condos, a mini-mall and new parks there. Ald. John Pope is backing their pitch for tax incentives to help pay for installing sewers, public streets, sidewalks and lights, so it's pretty much a done deal.
The trailer dwellers know they'll get tossed out one of these days, just not when.
"I'll believe it when I see it," says Paul Demkowicz.
Four generations of his family have called the Estates home. His parents moved there from Burnside in the 1970s. The Estates were booming back then -- packed to the gills with about 3,000 trailers and loads of decent, hardworking people, Paul says.
But by the early 1990s, Harbour Point had become a trailer park cliche. Drugs. Crime. Gangs. Pregnant teenagers.
Ol' Jerry swears he remembers a night gang-bangers shot a trailer park kid right in front of his mother, or something like that.
"It was hell on wheels back then, man," Ol' Jerry says.
In 2000, new owners bought the trailer park, evicted troublemakers, removed their dilapidated homes and called the cops to help.
"We got rid of the undesirables and there were many, many of them with criminal records or being sought on warrants or doing a lot of bad things," co-owner Eric Hagen says.
Now, the place is safe and neighborly again, 20-year resident Lois Lucas says.
"It's quiet. There's no problems that I see here now," she says. "I love it here. I don't know when I'll have to move or where I'm going to go. It's terrible, and I'm sick about having to move."
But Lois figures people who buy homes and settle there will love the place, and Hegewisch will be better off without the trailer park and its troubles.
"I'm upset and hurt. This isn't just a trailer. It's home for me," she says. "But it will be better for the neighborhood when it's gone. If people buy the homes, they're getting lucky. It's beautiful here."
Construction could start in the spring, with the first batch of homes ready for new neighbors in 2009. If all goes well, the city's last trailer park will be a distant memory in about 20 years.
Still, poor folks who knew it as paradise will miss it.