Sweeney Park Opening Scheduled

Courtesy photo    A drone photo of Jean Sweeney Open Space Park

The City of Alameda announced it will celebrate the grand opening of its newest park, Jean Sweeney Open Space Park, on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 10 a.m. The event takes place at the east entrance of the park at Atlantic Avenue and Sherman Street. The event will include music, food and fun for the kids.

The 25-acre park on the West End includes a nature-based playground, picnic pavilion, open-lawn area, a plaza, small picnic areas, landscaping with California native and drought-tolerant plants, and a segment of the Cross Alameda Trail for bicyclists and pedestrians. A historic centerpoint is a restored Southern Pacific “Big Reds” train waiting station, reused as a gazebo. Future phases will add a community garden, more playgrounds, a bike skills loop, demonstration gardens, an outdoor classroom and hiking trails through woodland areas.

Jean Sweeney Open Space Park is located on the former Alameda Beltline Railroad property that was secured by the city at its original purchase price due to the advocacy efforts of local resident, Jean Sweeney. The area extends from Constitution Way and Atlantic Avenue to Sherman Avenue. The property adjoins the Alameda Food Bank.

After the railroad was decommissioned in the 1990s, the land was slated to be sold to a housing developer. Through tireless research, Jean Sweeney found the original contract between the city and the railroad, which entitled the city to purchase the land back at the original purchase price plus improvements. The land was valued at $20 million and the city was able to purchase it for just under $1 million. 

Jean Sweeney also initiated a ballot measure to zone the land as open space, which passed by a large margin. The process to develop the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park master plan exemplified the residents’ deep-rooted commitment for the park’s development. Kristoffer Köster of KKDesign generously developed the park’s master plan at no cost to the city and more than 1,000 residents participated in the design process. 

“‘This has to be a park,’” said Jean’s husband, Jim Sweeney, “These were the inspired words Jean expressed when she first visited the Alameda Beltline yard property after observing the quiet, pristine and secluded nature reigning there, surrounding 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.”

The strong community support for Sweeney Park is also evident in the broad sources of funding that have supported the $10 million project to date. Major funding came from grants from the Active Transportation Program administered by Caltrans, the Land and Water Conservation Fund administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and Tim Lewis Communities. Additional significant local funding came from the Rotary Club of Alameda, Jean Sweeney Open Space Park Fund, Alameda Kiwanis Club and Alameda Community Fund as well as the City of Alameda.

“Sweeney Park is the culmination of the work and thought of our entire community,” said Amy Wooldridge, director of Alameda Recreation and Parks Department. “People who attended meetings, contributed to concept and design ideas, volunteered for clean-ups, donated funds, wrote letters of support and voted. This park is here because of the desire and commitment of Alamedans.”