Chicago's Northerly Island to Be Turned into Camping, Wildlife Haven

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According to the Chicago Sun-Times , Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday officially announced that Northerly Island will undergo some major changes as the city plans to establish the area as a brand-new camping and recreation site. The mayor made the announcement at the Field Museum in downtown Chicago and spoke about the importance of the plans for Chicagoans, especially children.

Here are some facts and details about the plans to transform Northerly Island into a recreational area for Chicago's residents:

* CBS Chicago noted that construction on the island, located across from Soldier Field and the Museum Campus, will begin this fall.

* Funding for ecosystem restoration is going to be provided by a federal program and the city, specifically $2.8 million as part of the Great Lakes Fisheries Ecosystem Restoration grant and $1.5 million from the Chicago Park District.

* The restoration project will be executed in collaboration between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Park District and aims to turn 40 acres of the southern portion of the island into ecosystems in order to attract wildlife, reported WLS .

* The first phase of the project will include restoring spots into different ecosystems, like a pond, marsh, prairie, savanna, and even a chain of reefs around the peninsula.

* After completed, the island will serve as a camping area for families and for children enrolled in the Wilderness Camping program. This program will teach youths important outdoor skills.

* In total, there will be the opportunity for 600 people and 300 youths to camp on the island every year. Currently, the island only has 160 annual camping spots available, according to another Chicago Sun-Times article.

* Although camping would be available as soon as next year, all work is expected to wrap up in spring of 2014 and will be followed by a five-year maintenance initiative.

* In addition, the mayor said that these are not the only plans for Northerly Island, but only an initial phase.

* Other aspects of the project to come in the future include a new open-air concert venue that will hold 14,000 people and ferry services to and from the island in the summer.

* Speaking to the public about his announcement, Mayor Emanuel said, "The goal now is not only to make sure Northerly Island is returned to its natural habitat, which is what the Army Corps is doing, but then using our Park District to come up with programs with a focus to bring kids to … experience a part of the city they may never see."

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. Currently pursuing her master's degree in environmental science, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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