A south suburban airport proposed to be built in Peotone was first mentioned by Professor Stanley Berge, of Northwestern University, Nov. 13, 1968.
Berge also envisioned a high-speed train service to downtown Chicago. The airport would serve as an additional airport in the Chicago metropolitan area.
On Jan. 27, 1970, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley shelved the airport plans, saying it wouldn't be necessary until the year 2000. It's now 2018, and the citizens of the rural Peotone area still are in limbo along with the airport itself.
Filmmaker Tom Desch presented a 50-minute rough cut of his new documentary "The Field — A Fight or Flight Story," at Feed Arts & Cultural Center last Thursday evening. Desch, the creator of "An American Home: Frank Lloyd Wright's B. Harley Bradley House," began work on the project in 2002 with co-producer Brian Kallies. Desch, originally from Herscher, was 22 at the time. Earlier producers on the film also include Ken Gumbs and Kate Sosa.
"My previous works have been a lot more informational," said Desch before showing the film. "With this, there's no narration. No voice-over. We don't want to tell the audience what to think."
"The Field" has an anticipated Fall 2018 broadcast debut on PBS. "That's the goal. There's still a lot to be done and donations to be raised. There's expenses you just can't avoid like closed captioning or color correction," Desch said.
If you'd like to donate to get the film onto PBS, you can go to thefielddoc.com and click on the donate button in the upper right corner, or write a check to The Center for Independent Documentary, and mail it to "Care of Tom Desch, 4824 South Dorchester, unit 1, Chicago, IL, 60615. All donations are tax deductible.
The film details the efforts of residents who fought to save their homes, farmland and livelihood versus suburban politicians such as former Gov. Pat Quinn, who acquired a $100 million budget for the airport, believing it would jumpstart the community's economic base.
The main characters of the film would be airport foes George Ochsenfeld and Judy Ogalla.
"This airport is based on greed, not need," said Ochsenfeld, who's lifelong home and land is set on the northern most part of where the proposed airport would be.
Throughout the film, the audience saw Ochsenfeld as the president of S.T.A.N.D (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down).
"S.T.A.N.D has had a very big part in arguing against the airport," Ochsenfeld said.
There are two sides to the idea of a proposed airport in rural Peotone. It could generate more than 100,000 jobs in the area, a side former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. favored. On the other side, are the many people who've lived in the area their whole lives, feared losing their homes, and there's questioned why the airlines would even want to come to this area.
"A lot of people have sold their land because they were pressured by IDOT or eminent domain," said Ochsenfeld.
After showing the rough cut, Desch opened the floor for questions and comments. It was mentioned that the film overlooked many things, such as how the airport would effect the Will County Forest Preserve.
"After showing the film to another filmmaker, who thought there was too much in the film, they said, a film shouldn't be the Wikipedia entry. It should be what drives people to Wikipedia," Desch said.
"We wanted to keep filming until something happened one way or the other, but I think there's good character stories, and a good beginning, middle and end."
Through the years, the film saw Ogalla endure the stress of fighting the airport proposal, raising her young children and being elected to the Will County Board.
"As far as being on the county board, for the last two or three years, the conversation has changed," said Ogalla after the showing of the film. "That's from years and years of having a conversation and talking to people who were in the room at Bult Field when Pat Quinn was there, now actually understand why the people living in Peotone don't support the airport."
The proposed airport is within the airspace of an existing airport, Bult Field, a privately owned property in Monee that handled an average of 36 flights per day with a 5,000 foot runway. On July 1 in 2014, IDOT purchased Bult Field and the surrounding farmland for $34 million for the proposed airport.
Since March 2002, Illinois has acquired 4,400 acres of land at a cost of $95.6 million, with the most recent purchase being 10 acres on Eagle Lake Road, in Beecher, in June of last year according to www.southsuburbanairport.com.
On the website, you can view the total number of parcels (115) that have been acquired and for how much by the Illinois Department of Transportation's Division of Aeronautics. Four thousand of a desired 5,000 acres of land have been purchased in order to complete phase one of the airport as of last year.