ALAMEDA -- The effort to create the future Jean Sweeney Open Space Park continued Monday when the Planning Board recommended the City Council approve a plan that will serve as a road map for fundraising, developing and designing the 22-acre site.

The master plan, which goes before the council on July 15, lays out how the former railroad property will be transformed with a community garden, a seasonal frog pond, an outdoor classroom, a picnic pavilion and other amenities.

Bordered by Constitution Way, Atlantic Avenue and Sherman Street, the future park is projected to cost $8 million to build.

The Alameda Recreation and Park Department has earmarked $235,000 for soil remediation at the site but will need to come up with about $275,000 annually to pay for the park's ongoing maintenance, Recreation and Park Department Executive Director Amy Wooldridge said.

"That does have to be part of the conversation," she said.

Money to pay for construction will come from developer fees and grants, including possibly the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program that supports the acquisition of land and waterways for public benefit, Wooldridge said.

Tim Lewis Communities, the developer behind the proposal to build homes at the former Del Monte warehouse on nearby Buena Vista Avenue, is expected to give $2 million toward the project.


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The park is named after Jean Sweeney, a longtime Alameda resident and community activist who died in November 2011.

"I am euphoric that we are at this point in the development of the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park," said Jim Sweeney, who was Jean's husband. "It's been a long 12 years since we started this process. We are now in the last stages of the beginning."

Jean Sweeney unearthed the 1924 purchase contract between the city of Alameda and the Western Pacific Railroad Company and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company. The contract contained a clause that allowed the city to buy back the property for the original $30,000 price, plus any additional money the railroad had spent for improvements.

As a result of the contract, which led the companies to create what was known as the Alameda Belt Line, the city secured the property for less than $1 million in October 2012. The site's current market value is about $20 million.

The master plan unanimously approved by the Planning Board on Monday shows that most places for active use at the park will be located at the outer edges, while the majority of the center will be open space with trails for walking and cycling. Picnic tables and benches will be scatted throughout.

The Cross Alameda Trail, a pedestrian and bicycle trail running the length of the Island, will skirt the park's northern edge.

"Jean recognized this park as an invaluable opportunity, a remarkable park in an urban area," Jim Sweeney said. "A passive, open space park for the people to enjoy, relax, meditate, to save themselves from the pressures of the kind of life we lead these days."

The council reviewed a draft of the plan in May 2013.

The revised plan that it will consider next month has one-acre fenced garden plots and one-acre of demonstration gardens, plus an urban orchard. A bike park initially proposed was dropped and replaced with an area for children to hone their riding skills.

Parking lots with a total of 120 spaces will be located at each edge of the park.

"The biggest feedback we got from residents was that it was too developed, so we really worked to make it less developed," Wooldridge said. "You see a lot of open space and vegetation with this plan."

Planning Board member and architect Kristoffer Koster of KKDesign developed the plan pro bono.

Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.

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