Residents offer their thoughts on future Alameda Belt Line park

Residents offer their thoughts on future Alameda Belt Line park

Jess Anderson

Photo by Michele Ellson.

More than 100 people stopped by the Albert H. DeWitt Officer's Club on Saturday to tell the city how they think a new park to be built on the Alameda Belt Line's former rail yard should be designed.

The meeting was the first of two slated to be held this week in order to collect the community's thoughts on what the park should contain. A second meeting will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

The majority of residents who attended Saturday's meeting said the think the park should be set up as an open space preserve that will allow visitors to walk, hike, ride bikes, and enjoy nature. A bicycle and pedestrian trail is already planned for the park and is expected to be the first thing that is built there; a 2009 estimate put the cost of the trail at $1.4 million.

Some meeting participants asked whether the city would be able to secure enough money to fund construction of a new park. While the city was able to purchase the Belt Line property for under $1 million, it doesn't have the money to build anything there. So far, only the Alameda Point Collaborative has found funding to investigate the feasibility of a community garden they'd like to build behind the Alameda Food Bank on Thau Way, whose back door abuts the Belt Line property.

Recreation and Park Department director Amy Wooldridge said she doesn't have estimates for the cost of building the park, since costs will vary depending on what us built. Wooldridge said the city stands more of a chance finding state and government grants to help pay for a passive open space than an active use like athletic fields, for which the city would need to seek out sponsorship from corporate and private entities.

In addition to the pedestrian and bike trail, the city must also leave a swath of space for a possible future rail line that could run the length of the property.

Participants who attended Saturday's meeting were greeted by poster boards with pictures of ideas for the park, bocce ball, community gardens, community pools, open space preserves, and athletic fields. Upon entering, each was given a page of green and red stickers and were told to place the green sticker on the ideas that they deemed worthy of immediate pursuit and yellow stickers on ideas they thought should be addressed with caution.

Options plastered with green stickers included "Community Gardens," "Open Space," "Nature Reserve" and "Bike Trails." Some participants decided to post notes containing comments and ideas not already included on the boards; ideas that gained currency with participants included sustainable and ecological design and compostable toilets.

Linda Gates, a consultant working with the city on the park design, said the Belt Line property offers residents a "really unique opportunity" to build a "grassroots park" from the ground up. Alameda has 19 parks containing 142 acres; a completed Belt Line park will increase the city's park acreage by more than 13 percent.

"It's an impressive amount of space we have to work with here and the opportunity to work directly with the community on this vision is quite the special occasion," Wooldridge said.

A video featuring the late open space activist and onetime City Council candidate Jean Sweeney detailed Sweeney's involvement in efforts to secure the property. Sweeney discovered the 1924 agreement the city made to sell its railroad to the Alameda Belt Line – an agreement that included a buyback provision. She also wrote an initiative that was approved by voters that requires the land to be set aside as an open space preserve. To honor her, the City Council has opted to name the park the Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve.

The city is in the midst of performing remediation work on the property. An initial environmental study showed that there are some contaminants in the ground, including diesel fuel; soil sampling and cleanup - for which Wooldridge said there are grants available - are slated to follow.

"This is going to be a long process and we're just now at the beginning of this project," she said.

Wednesday's meeting will take place in council chambers, and will also be broadcast on Comcast cable channel 15. City Hall is at 2263 Santa Clara Avenue; council chambers are on the third floor. The Recreation and Park Department is taking additional input on the Belt Line park through a survey that's open through February 22 or by e-mail, at arpd@ci.alameda.ca.us.

Related: Opinions sought for Belt Line park

Comments

Submitted by Jon Spangler on Mon, Feb 11, 2013

An amphitheater and outdoor stage might be a good use for the Beltline. An outdoor venue for daytime dramatic productions (children's theater, high school plays, etc.), outdoor opera, and music concerts would be great additions to our community, a la Stern Grove.

I think a small bike hut with bike rentals, repairs, and perhaps bike safety classes would be helpful, especially if a BMX/ATB park is incorporated in the Beltline: being able to pump your tires up or fix a flat would not take much to provide and support the casual cyclists who will use the Beltline bike trails.

All multi-use paved paths should be at least 15 feet wide for safety--the current 12 foot Caltrans standard is inadequate for truly sharable paths when cyclists, joggers, parents with strollers, skateboarders, and others are out all at once.

There was strong opposition--as expected--to sports fields, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and other organized sports facilities.

Submitted by Jane Sullwold on Mon, Feb 11, 2013

The City has arranged a one-time opportunity for interested residents to walk the length of the property on Saturday, March 2, at 9:00 am. Participants are to park at and meet in the Wind River parking lot across from the old railroad building. Also, the Recreation and Park Department has an online survey on the City's website for people to express their views about what kind of park should be created on the land. It can be found at the following link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VPT5SNX If the link doesn't work, get on the City's websiter, click on Recreation, click on Alameda Beltline Planning Meetings, and click on Alameda Beltline Survey. Surveys must be completed by February 22.

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