New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday announced $5.5 million in projects to construct visitor centers at each entrance of the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world — Walkway Over the Hudson. Cuomo made the announcement mid-bridge before a number of local elected officials and others.
Walkway Over the Hudson spans the river between the Town of Lloyd in Ulster County and the City of Poughkeepsie, in Dutchess County. Cuomo says the energy efficient gateway centers that will be built at both entrances will help increase tourism not only for the Walkway, but for the entire region.
“Two welcome centers will enhance this attraction. I believe we’ll get more people coming here because of the welcome centers. I believe it will increase the regional tourism because if you’re getting people here, you’re getting people in the store if you’re thinking commercially, you come in for one product, we’re going to sell you another product,” Cuomo says. “You come in to see the Walkway, well, we have Minnewaska State Park, we have FDR’s home, we have Dutchess County Parks. Once we get you here, well, then you have to come back because there’s more to see. And we want to use this opportunity, this touching to introduce you to the entire region.”
Cuomo calls Walkway food for the soul. Rose Harvey is Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
“The west side is fully designed. It’s ready to go once we get that sewer line connected. And we’ll start construction in 2017,” says Harvey. “It’s got outdoor/indoor seating, more room for concessions, a new amphitheater for events, landscaping, upgrading the path. This isn’t all that sexy but even the bus turnarounds for all the people that want to get there. And guess what? No more trailers at the entrance of the west end.”
And she describes plans for the east side.
“More concession room, covered seating, gathering place, information booth, relocated signage and, guess what, no more porta-potties. A comfort station, well, not always, we might have some porta-potties,” says Harvey.
Of the $5.5 million dedicated for the centers, $3 million is for the east end visitor center and $2.5 million for the sustainable west end visitor center, which will be powered by a solar panel array. The state will commit $1 million toward the project, while the remaining $1.5 million will be raised by the not-for-profit Walkway Over the Hudson friends group. Both facilities will use energy efficient measures including LED lighting. Former Walkway Chairman Fred Schaeffer is a Poughkeepsie attorney who galvanized the grassroots effort that led to Walkway’s creation.
“The park is beautiful but we always know we can make things better. And I always said I didn’t want it to be just the longest park in the world or the most beautiful but also the friendliest park,” says Schaeffer. “So with the visitor center we can make people enjoy it a lot more. And hopefully they’ll come here with a lasting memory and they will think it’s not just the most beautiful but the greatest part in the world.”
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro were on hand for the announcement. Here’s Molinaro.
“The Walkway has been a tremendous addition to the regional tourism economy,” says Molinaro. “And what the governor has announced today is a real expansion of the Walkway’s footprint, its impact in its ability to attract countless visitors and with that tremendous visitor spending and economic improvement.”
Meanwhile, Walkway officials are gearing up for the June 12 Marathon Race Series. As for whether the Republican Molinaro is participating:
“I am, I’m… Actually the governor kept me from preparing. I have a 9-mile run I was supposed to be on this morning,” Molinaro says. “I was going to ask him to run with me but I thought that might be a little bit odd.”
The gateway visitor center projects are part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 initiative, a multi-year commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation by leveraging $900 million in private and public funding through 2020.