ALAMEDA -- City leaders have already decided to name what will become the city's newest public park, "The Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve." But they now hope the public will offer ideas on what the more than 22 acres should contain.

The Alameda Recreation and Park District will host two meetings to gather input on what to do with the former Alameda Belt Line railroad property, which could include community gardens, a wildlife habitat, playgrounds and sports fields.

"It is remarkable to have this large of a site available for new park development in an urban area," parks Director Amy Wooldridge said. "Now is the time for Alamedans to design this significant and historical space from its inception."

The first meeting will take place from 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 9 at the O'Club, 641 W. Redline Ave. The second meeting will take place from 7-9 p.m. Feb. 13 at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.

"It's exciting that a place within a city of the Bay Area is being preserved as open space and not developed," said Maria Reyes, 34, of Alameda. "Because once these places are gone, they are gone forever."

Jean Sweeney, who died in November 2011, campaigned to preserve the former railroad property as a park when many dismissed the idea as too expensive and facing too many legal hurdles.

Sweeney unearthed the 1924 contract between the city of Alameda and the railroad company -- a contract that contained a clause that allowed the city to buy back the property for the original $30,000 price, plus the cost of any investments or improvement the railroad made over the decades.

The contract cleared the way for the city to eventually purchase about 40 acres for just under $1 million.

The property includes the 22 acres of a former railroad yard near Nason Street and Constitution Way, along with about a half-mile strip about 200 feet wide connected to the yard. Other smaller parcels across the city are part of the property.

The Alameda Belt Line stopped operating the railroad in 1988, announcing that it planned to sell the property to a developer for $18 million.

When city officials told Sweeney they could not prevent the sale, she helped draft and successfully campaigned for a voter initiative to change the neighborhood's zoning from industrial to open space.

A retired teacher, Sweeney's community activism included serving on the city's Restoration Advisory Board, where she has helped oversee toxic cleanup at the Fleet Industrial Supply Center and the former Naval Air Station.

She also helped get the Alameda Veterans Memorial Building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

People who cannot attend the upcoming meetings on the Alameda Belt Line can still provide comments at www.cityofalamedaca.gov/Recreation or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/playARPD.

The feedback will be presented to the Recreation and Parks Commission on March 14 before the commission makes a recommendation to the City Council.

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

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