I went swimming in Lake Michigan yesterday (my swim season doesn’t end until the air or the water becomes unbearably cold) at my favourite place in the world. This place has been extremely important to who I am today. Coincidentally I’ve also watched the area evolve right before my eyes.
This is a semi-short post on a 2.8 mile long stretch of beach that helped define who I am today. A more in-depth post will be in a diary update.
The beach has eroded away and now the water is just a few footsteps from the parking lot. It’s a vastly different landscape than it was six years ago during the summer of my first year with Tucker (yes Adam Ferrara signed that... don’t ask).
2.8 miles up north is a place that’s been arguably even more important to me. Without it, I doubt I would have ever come out as the new me when I did.
Those are the partially collapsed towers of the Zion Nuclear Power Station.
Little did I know when I started coming here in 2011, I actually came to this exact spot when I was a little kid. It’s been a wild emotional experience to see the plant go from the place it was to where it is now.
My first experience with this place was the “Powerhouse” on a 2nd Grade field trip. The Powerhouse was a museum next to the plant that showcased the power, science, and history of electrical generation. Owned by Commonwealth Edison, admission was free and the building existed to showcase and educate on the awesomeness of electricity.
The plant closure dramatically changed the local area. Jobs were lost, property values plummeted, and everyone suffered. Eventually ComEd demolished the Powerhouse in the mid-2000s too, leaving its wind generator all by itself still running and operational, however providing energy to nothing.
When I first arrived again in 2011, the plant was still there, albeit dormant (it was in SAFSTOR until the #2 reactor’s license was up in 2013) and the area surrounding the plant looked straight out of a post apocalyptic movie. The wind generator was still there beautiful as ever. One of the water pumping islands appeared to have exploded, creating an interesting attraction for beachgoers to swim out to (more pictures will be included in a companion post in my diary). But the coolest parts for me were the abandoned access roads to the plant and the abandoned beach.
Not long after the closure, Zion didn’t feel the need to keep open and maintain the access roads. So they put up some wooden bollards on every end and left the road to rot while serving a new purpose as a bike trail. Before you ask, of course I’ve driven my smart on these roads. As it turned out, the bollards are spaced apart only a few inches wider than a second gen smart’s width. Certainly, my car was the last car to ever drive this road that isn’t a city owned maintenance vehicle.
There were maybe a combined total of 10-ish miles of road left abandoned and by 2014 most were destroyed and turned into conventional bike paths. This little half mile strip is almost all that remains of the old roads.
The beach to the south (where I took the photos of the GS by the water) gets infinitely more traffic despite both beaches being a part of the same State Park. The northern unit is essentially abandoned. They maintain the new bike trails, but that’s it. If you go to this 2+ mile beach on the 4th of July, you'd be lucky to see 20 people here. That made it a prime spot for me to be me without fear of getting "caught".
The two beaches will forever be my favourite placed in the world. They were places I could be a woman without fear of harm, they were places I got a knack for exploration, they were the places I got a massive appreciation for science and what can be beautiful about power generation. No matter how they may change, they’ll always be in my heart.
I think I know what my next bike should be: An old adventure bike or dual sport!