Upcoming Developments at Jean Sweeney Park
Renovation and development of several parks, such as the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park, will soon begin to share the spotlight with housing developments. Located at the former Alameda Belt Line rail yard between Constitution Way, Atlantic Avenue and Sherman Street, Jean Sweeney Open Space Park’s topography is unique among Alameda’s parks as a large open space within an urban environment. Estimated to cover 27 acres, this park will be the largest in Alameda.
In addition to its expansiveness, the development plan seems promising. The park will feature several bicycle/ pedestrian accessways and a multitude of amenities, including a community garden, areas for public art, numerous trees, foot bridges built above creeks and a mix of active and quiet areas.
“When it opens, Jean Sweeney Open Space Park will be an Alameda treasure with something for everyone, from bikes to gardens to natural exploration for kids,” Alameda Recreation and Parks (ARPD) Director Amy Wooldridge stated. “It has been amazing to work with so many committed Alamedans to develop this park.”
According to a map on the city website, the park will comprise of 12 entrances encompassing five trails and loops namely, the Cross Alameda Trail, Secondary Trail, Walk Loop Trail, Bike Skills Loop and Bike Walk Loop. All other trails and loops besides the Cross Alameda Trail lie within the park and lead to its various sections.
The Cross Alameda Trail is a bicycle and pedestrian, city-wide trail that leads into the park and out along Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway. Nine of the 12 entrances, between Sherman Street and Constitution Way will have cross paths that enable visitors to access all the park’s trails and amenities.
The cost of developing such an enormous space is quite high, however. Wooldridge and ARPD estimate that developing the park requires a budget of about $12 million, with $6.5 million currently available. Of this, $2.5 million is from the Active Transportation Program, which will fund the Cross Alameda Trail. The remaining $4 million is comprised of a $2 million grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $2 million from Tim Lewis Communities. Funds from the Tim Lewis Communities will fund the eastern third of the park. ARPD is currently working with a landscape architect to complete the detailed design of the park, noted Wooldridge.
The Belt Line once connected businesses and industries along the Oakland Estuary. According to “Abandoned Rails” (www.abandonedrails.com/Alameda_California), the city completed construction of the railroad in 1918. Trains traveled along Clement Avenue into the Belt Line’s rail yard. The city sold the railroad line in 1924 to the Western Pacific Railroad Company and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe for $30,000. The Belt Line continued to flourish and remained in operation until 1998.
After the Belt Line ceased operations, the city decided to purchase the land from the railroads. Jean Sweeney, a former citizen of Alameda, played a crucial role in this transaction. In her research, she discovered the clause that required the city to pay the original price it sold the railroad for. This precluded the railroad company from setting an arbitrary price. As a result, the railroad sued the city, but ultimately lost. The judge’s decision required the railroad to return the land to the city for a price of approximately $1 million, in 2010.
The rail yard lay abandoned until 2013. According to Wooldridge, her department began seeking extensive community input on how the city should develop the land that year. As a result, the park, which the city decided to name for Jean Sweeney, gained momentum. The city created a Master Plan, which the City Council approved in July 2014.