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Jean Sweeney’s Legacy: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Alameda’s beautiful park nestled among Sherman Street, Atlantic Avenue, and Constitution Way is named after Jean Sweeney, a long-time Alameda resident who believed in giving back to her community. She fought long and hard to make it possible for the City to turn the land, formerly owned by Alameda Beltline Railroad, into a park for everyone to enjoy.

Alameda Post - a group photo in from of the Rotary Club of Alameda Pavillion at Jean Sweeney Open Space Park
2024 recipients of Rotary matching grants in front of the Rotary Club of Alameda Pavilion at Jean Sweeney Open Space Park. Photo Robin Seeley.

Back in 1918, the City had used 40 acres of land to construct a municipal belt line railway for industrial use, and then in 1924 sold the land to the Western Pacific Railroad and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway companies for $30,000. In 1999, the railroad agreed to sell 22 acres to a real estate developer for $18 million. Sweeney, a dedicated advocate of public parks, diligently researched newspaper archives, railroad museums, and City records, and discovered that the original 1924 contract clearly stated that the City could buy back the land at any time for the original $30,000 sale price, plus the cost of any added extensions and investments.

The City then announced its intent to repurchase all of the railroad land in accordance with the original contract. The railroad claimed the land was worth at least $30 million, and a lengthy legal battle ensued. The City ultimately prevailed, thanks to Sweeney’s research, and the City repurchased all 40 acres of railroad land in 2012 for less than $1 million.

Thanks to Jean Sweeney’s tireless efforts, the City saved at least $29 million—and opened her namesake park in 2018.

Our local Rotary Club followed Sweeney’s example of giving back to the community by funding the construction of the Rotary Club of Alameda Pavilion at Jean Sweeney Open Space Park. On Tuesday, May 21, the Rotary Club held its weekly meeting there and awarded matching grants to 11 Alameda nonprofit organizations to support their important contributions to our community.

The matching grants program enables Rotarians who donate to local nonprofits to double their contributions, thanks to matching funds from the Rotary Foundation. The double-donation recipients for 2024 include: Alameda Friends of the Parks, Alameda Boys & Girls Club, Alameda Education Foundation, Midway Shelter, All Good Living Foundation, Girls on the Run of the Bay Area, Lincoln Middle School Music Boosters, Dance 10 Dancers, Boy Scouts Troop 1015, Alameda Babe Ruth, and Alameda World Tournament Baseball.

As the photograph shows, the Rotarians and their guests were further rewarded by perfect weather as they enjoyed this amazing urban park.

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