Yesterday I attended the opening of a park that was 20 years in the making.
In 1998, Jean Sweeney, with her husband Jim, went to see the 27 acres of the Alameda Belt Line Railroad switching yard, nearly smack in the middle of Alameda's big island. Only the neighbors seemed to know the yard existed. The land was so quiet and serene, Jean told Jim, this land has to become a park. [sweeneyopenspacepark.org]
In 1924, the City of Alameda, Western Pacific Railroad Company, and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company entered into a contract to form a railroad company to be known as 'The Belt Line.' In 1998, Jean Sweeney found this contract while doing research through the City of Alameda historical documents. After the contract was found, the City of Alameda requested the Belt Line Railroad sell the Belt Line property back to the City. The Belt Line railroad filed suit against the City claiming it was not a valid contract. In 2003, the Court of Appeal, First District, Division 5, California ruled in favor of the railroad. Undaunted, Jean Sweeney urged the City Council to appeal, and in 2006, the Superior Court of the State of California ruled that Alameda could purchase back the 40 acres of Belt Line property. This decision was appealed, so the decision was not final until 2009. The City was able to purchase 40 acres for $966,000 based on the provisions in the contract from 1924. As the park is the result of Jean Sweeney's research and perseverance, the park was named in her honor.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured lots of dignitaries:
Alameda Mayor, Trish Herrara Spencer
United States House of Representatives Congresswoman, Barbara Lee
California State Assemblyman, Rob Bonta
Open Space Park Foundation Board Member, Jim Sweeney
As the dignitaries gave their speeches, everyone could hear children playing in the background, and at the end of the day, isn't that what it's all about?
There was even a band on hand.
But more importantly, the park has lots of amenities.
Places to grill
Space to play
Places to eat
A zip line
Places to swing
A really wide slide
A structure to climb
With regard to sustainability, the park adheres to a new Bay-friendly rated landscape standard:
The park includes drought tolerant, native plants. The plant choices are estimated to save 600,000 gallons of water per year as compared to traditional lawns but also provide 400,000 carbon offsets.
From a historical perspective, the historical society preserved and restored the old Webster Street train stop:
The park is a testament to local government in action. There were over 1,000 Alameda residents involved in the project to make the park a reality. Alamedans realize that parks and open spaces are as vital to communities as freeways and buildings. The approval process for the park and its funding plan have guaranteed the park's existence in perpetuity. Yesterday was truly a momentous occasion.
Parking is alive in the lab.