Just a few weeks ago, we posted a story to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) TrailBlog about the imminient completion of the Dutchess Rail Trail in New York, one of the final acts in office of outgoing Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus.
The completion of the Dutchess Rail Trail was set to draw attention once again to the possibility of connecting the Dutchess to the remarkable Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, and on to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail on the opposite side of the Hudson River.
Though the Dutchess is separated from the Walkway Over the Hudson by just one mile of disused rail corridor, the cost and complexity of negotiating a land deal with CSX Transportation Corp., which owns the disused corridor, had drained many supporters of any optimism that the link would happen.
Not Steinhaus, however.
“I believe there will be a meeting of the minds sometime next year that will finally allow for the acquisition of that final piece of property and the linkage between the [Dutchess Rail Trail] and the Walkway to become a reality,” Steinhaus told the Poughkeepsie Journal at the time.
They turned out to be words of great prophecy. Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., stood at a podium set up at the Walkway’s eastern gate to announce a deal had been struck to purchase the land from CSX for the creation of a rail-trail.
The announcement of a deal to purchase the relatively small section, in the city of Poughkeepsie near College Hill Park, makes real what has long been a dream of trails advocates, business people and residents – a complete trail system from Hopewell Junction to the town of Lloyd, taking in some of the region’s most scenic landscape and communities.
CSX has agreed to sell the eight-tenths of a mile stretch to Walkway Over the Hudson, a non-profit organization, for $1.15 million. The Dyson Foundation will provide $500,000, with $600,000 having been raised through recreational and environmental grants. CSX will donate $100,000 as a credit at closing. Preliminary work on the connection is expected to begin soon.
It is expected that the completed trail system will provide an enormous boost for tourism and economic development in the Poughkeepsie and Highland areas.
Since the Walkway opened in October 2009, it has drawn more than 1.2 million visitors and pumped more than $30 million into the local economy.
RTC’s own Karl Wirsing visited the area last year, and says the new connection will further enhance the great benefits of the existing trails, for visitors as well as locals.
“The view from the Walkway Over the Hudson really is spectacular, and the whole trail system there is a huge draw,” he says. “When the connection is complete, it will make for an incredibly scenic trail adventure. The river, the hamlets and towns, the scenary – it’s a wonderful place to explore. And all this within 70 or 80 miles of New York City.”
RTC offers its heartiest congratulations to all the community groups and individuals who have worked so hard over the years bringing this tremendous vision to fruition.
Photos courtesy of the Poughkeepsie Journal