ALAMEDA -- A community garden, picnic spots, walking and bike trails and open space for wildlife are what most people want at "The Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve," the former railroad property that will become a city park, according to a survey and comments at community meetings.

Playgrounds also garnered public support, the City Council will hear Tuesday when it will consider endorsing a "preferred conceptual plan" for the 22-acre site bordered by Constitution Way, Atlantic Avenue and Sherman Street.

The idea behind the plan is for the council to provide direction on the park's future, and it will not include details or legally bind the city to a specific use. But city officials can still use the document to draft a conceptual design, review what environmental work may need to be done and look for grants and private funding.

"I hope it becomes a park that is welcoming to all kinds of people," Erika Reid, 23, said Wednesday as she walked near the site. "A place that has open space and trails can serve all ages, from new moms with babies to retired people out for a walk and some fresh air."

In February, more than 240 people attended two community meetings hosted by the Alameda Recreation and Park Department to offer input on the site's future. An online and print survey by the department received 659 responses.

Most people favored what city officials call "passive recreational uses," such as a community garden and open space, which generally cost less to maintain than a sports field or swim center.


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Picnic areas and open space for wildlife both secured about 55 percent support among those surveyed. Twenty-nine percent supported a swim center and about 15 percent supported a soccer field.

Walking and bike trails got the most support at more than 73 percent, while having a community garden received about 45 percent support, according to a background report for the council. The future park is named after Jean Sweeney, a longtime Alameda resident who died in November 2011. Sweeney campaigned to preserve the former Alameda Beltline property as a park when many dismissed the idea as too expensive and facing too many legal hurdles.

Sweeney also 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 that the railroad made over the decades.

The contract cleared the way for the city to eventually buy the property for just less than $1 million in a deal that was wrapped up in October. The site's current market value is about $20 million.

"It's pretty marvelous that Alameda has a site that will be a future park and open space in the East Bay, where property is at a premium," Joshua Mearsen, 25, of Alameda said. "I think a lot of people will not really appreciate that until the park is open."

Along with the future park, the council will consider applying for two grants Tuesday to help build the "Cross Alameda Trail" on a portion of the same former railroad property along Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway. The 2,300-foot property between Webster and Poggi streets currently consists of a dirt strip across from the College of Alameda.

City officials are seeking $793,000 from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and $701,000 from the California Natural Resources Agency to help pay for the portion near the campus. As part of the applications, the city is pledging $325,000 in matching funds from local developer fees.

When fully completed, the trail will begin on Main Street near the former Alameda Naval Air Station, travel along the Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve and end on Tilden Way at the Fruitvale Bridge. It will be part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, the network that will eventually provide a continuous path around the bay shoreline.

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

IF YOU GO
The City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.