Great Fanfare, Fun at Sweeney Park Opening

Eric J. Kos    A young lady enjoys a ride down the “zipline,” one of the many fun things to do at the newly opened Jean Sweeney Park. The city dedicated the park last Saturday on the site of the long-shuttered Alameda Belt Line railyard.

On Saturday, Dec. 15, the Alameda community celebrated a historic occasion with the grand opening of Jean Sweeney Open Space Park. 

The 25-acre park is located on the former Alameda Belt Line Railroad property on the west side of the island. The site now includes open space areas and active uses such as a natural based playground, picnic pavilion and a segment of the Cross Alameda Trail for bicyclists and pedestrians. 

The newly opened park has a rich history behind it. When the railroad was decommissioned in the 1990s, the land was slated to be sold to a housing developer. 

After much research, Jean Sweeney found the original contract between the City and the railroad. The contract entitled the City to purchase the land back at the original purchase price plus improvements. Jean Sweeney initiated a ballot measure to zone the land as Open Space, which passed by a large majority of voters.

With tons of community support, Saturday’s event brought out a few well known guest speakers including Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Jean Sweeney’s husband Jim Sweeney also made a speech and received a standing ovation when he got up to speak. 

“This has to be a park,” Jim Sweeney said. “These were the inspired words Jean expressed when she first visited the Beltline Railroad yard property after observing the quiet, pristine, and secluded nature reigning there which surrounded her. She recognized it as a wonderful treasure that had to be preserved. It has taken 20 years, but through her dedication and persistence and that of many others her dream has come true.”

Sweeney Park is now open 24 hours a day. Future phases of the park will add a community garden, an outdoor classroom and hiking trails through woodland areas.