The city will build a new park in Southwest Berkeley after being awarded $5 million by the Outdoors for All Act.
Berkeley applied for the grant earlier this year in order to fund a new park in the undeveloped areas of the Santa Fe Right of Way, a 3.5-mile area formerly used as an industrial railroad, according to Mayor Jesse Arreguín in a press release.
The grant, approved Dec. 8, will be used to convert the vacant lot into the Santa Fe Railroad Trackbed Park. Construction is expected to begin in the next two to three years, as first reported by Berkeleyside.
“While turning the currently unused land into a public park has long been on the minds of many, expensive remediation has posed a financial burden and stalled efforts,” Arreguín said in the press release. “Today the City of Berkeley is one step closer to building a new green public space where children can play, pets can run wild, students can learn, and friends can gather.”
Arreguín added that he is grateful to Gov. Gavin Newsom for recognizing the importance of the park conversion, as well as for the resources to transform the land into a public park. According to a press release by California Sen. Alex Padilla, the Outdoors for All Act is a bipartisan law established to fund urban projects that encourage outdoor recreational activities in low-income neighborhoods nationwide. The law, led by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, aims to improve park access in urban neighborhoods by providing more access to shade, tree cover and clean air.
“The project was selected, in part, because it will help address concerns of community-based organizations, environmental and health organizations … and residents committed to improving the health and recreational condition of South Berkeley,” said Jorge Moreno, a California State Parks information officer, in an email.
Moreno added the park will include play structures for children, community gardening spaces and gathering spaces.
To provide a space surrounded by natural elements, the park will also include drought tolerant shade trees, indigenous plants and shrubs, according to Moreno.
“This new linear public park will enhance the community’s health by providing a place for community gardening, gathering spaces, children play structures, and exercise features for all ages, from youth to seniors,” Moreno said in the email.
Tarunika Kapoor contributed to this report.