A 2.4 mile section of the Dutchess rail trail - phase 2 - had been completed here in Poughkeepsie near the end of June. The pahase 1 section, at the southern end in Hopewel Jct.,was completed last year. And that other trailway under construction,the "biggie". In the early 1990's, an organization was formed by Bill Sepe. Bill Sepe's dream was to convert (with volunteer workers and private donations) the old Poughkepsie-Highland RR bridge into a linear sort of park with a boardwalk, or walkway, so that people may go out onto the bridge and enjoy the awesome view etc. That organization waould be named http://www.walkway.org
"Walkway Over The Hudson". In the late 90's, after I had moved to here in Poughkeepsie, I had the oportunity during a public "open bridge" day at the west end in Highland, to go out on the bridge up to the first support, or "bent" in RR trestle parlance. It was indeed quite awesome, but was also a bit precarious.The track was still there and so to my left I could seen down through the RR ties, and to my right the only thing to prevent me from plunging 212' down to the river, was a somewhat flimsy looking wood rail. Once on the bridge I could also get a scale of just how big of a project it would be to convert this bridge into a "walkway" This would be no job for a bunch of amateur volunteers. Bill Sepe's dream would have been a nightmare. Over the next 10 years both the Dutchess RT and the Walkway seemed to fade into a wishful dream by a small handful of visonaries. During this period, unbeknownst to the public, a rift in the Walkway OTH organization had developed between Bill Sepe, and those that realized that to make it happen would require very serious money from the government, and also corporation with. These "rebels" within the organization were led by Fred Schaeffer. He had been on a couple of my bike rides I had led for the Mid Hudson Bicycle Club. I had also been on one or two rides he had led. In 2004 he became the chairman-of-the-board. Bill Sepe had a dream,but Fred Schaeffer had the practical business plan. He also has a vested interest as well, like myself and other cyclists, he would like to be able to one day ride across that bridge. And so there I was, on a short ride within the city of Poughkeepsie last year during the late summer, and as I rode along Parker Ave. I had seen that something was going on with the old RR siding to the main Maybrook line ROW. The track was being removed. Then a bit later I was on a ride across the river for an early apple picking ride. On my return, as I rode past the power sub-station along Haviland Rd. in Highland, I could see a construction area fence-gate and a construction office trailer. There was also a large Walkway Over The Hudson sign which also had the logos for the various contractors. It was finaly hapening after all these years, the old RR bridge was being converted into a walkway. The actual walkway would consist of 974 pre-fab concrete deck sections.
And so, on this last day of September 2009, the big day is almost upon us ....
The grand opening of the Walkway Over The Hudson, will be over the first weekend of October - Friday 10-02,Saturday 10-03, and Sunday 10-04.
The actual opening ceremony will be on Saturday. The ceremony for officials, dignitaries, and other invited guests will be between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM. It will be during this formal ceremony that the ownership of the Walkway will be handed over to the state to become a state park. On Sept. 16 the Walkway had gained status as a National Recreation trail - like the Appalachian Trail At 1:00 PM there will be a parade across the walkway. There is suposed to be a jumbo screen in Waryas park. The walkway will be open to the public at 3:00 PM.
On Sunday the Walkway will be open for the first full day for the public. Fred Schaeffer will be leading a mass ride across the walkway at 10:00 AM
The Walkway OTH site has a full schedule of the grand opening events over the weekend. The city of Poughkeepsie will be providing additional parking and a shuttle bus. Hopefuly they will sacrafice one of the new diesel-electric hybrid buses, with the bike racks, for this special event
shuttle. This will be much apreciated for the "topographicaly chalenged" cyclists coming up here, via train, as the east entrance on Parker Ave. is at elevation higher than the RR station.
note: the weather forcast for the weekend is not looking good - showers on Friday, and Saturday Sunday seems to be the best day for the weekend with partly sunny
(or cloudy) conditions On Saturday I may take the shutle bus as pedestrian to the walkway and just walk the section in Poughkeepsie - Friday was suposed to be just cloudy but showers are now predicted - this could pose a problem Frday night - there is suposed to be a lighted lantern release and fireworks