Dyson Foundation Supports Planning Effort to Maximize Community Benefits from Walkway

Thursday, July 28, 2011 -- Scenic Hudson
Jay Burgess Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc. Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740 jburgess@scenichudson.org
POUGHKEEPSIE – The Dyson Foundation has awarded Scenic Hudson a $45,000 grant that enables the organization to spearhead a planning effort to maximize the economic, social and recreational benefits that surrounding communities derive from Walkway Over the Hudson. The grant builds on the Dyson Foundation's financial and institutional leadership in development of the Walkway and Scenic Hudson's track record of connecting people with the region's natural and historic treasures. The immediate success of Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, which has attracted more than 1 million visitors since its October 2009 opening, already has proven an economic boon to the City of Poughkeepsie and Town of Lloyd. The new planning initiative, known as Walkway as Gateway to Success, brings together a diverse group of stakeholders—including Scenic Hudson, Walkway Over the Hudson, local governments, chambers of commerce and businesses—to create a concrete vision for building upon this success, strengthening connections between the Walkway and other local and regional assets, and ensuring that future development around the Walkway supports the economic revitalization it is spurring. In Dutchess County and Ulster counties, tourists spend a combined $963 million annually, sustaining nearly 18,000 jobs.

Initiative's goals intended to generate economic development, jobs

Walkway as Gateway to Success evolved out of a meeting convened in May by Scenic Hudson, Walkway Over the Hudson and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce with leaders representing 30 public and private stakeholders. They discussed ways of generating economic development and jobs in a manner that will protect the environmental and recreational assets surrounding the Walkway while providing safe, enjoyable connections to the communities' commercial and residential centers. The Dyson Foundation's grant will enable Scenic Hudson to work with three stakeholder committees involved in the Walkway as Gateway to Success initiative to develop a well-coordinated, strategic approach to achieve these goals. The types of outcomes it will support include:
  • Developing a unifying brand for the Walkway and trails around it—including the 4.5-mile Walkway Loop Trail, Hudson Valley Rail Trail and Dutchess Rail Trail—promoting the Walkway region as a major destination for recreation and heritage-based tourism.
  • Filling in "missing links" that will connect outlying parks and trails to the Walkway and nearby trails, creating a "green" infrastructure that enhances the Walkway region's tourism-based economy.
  • Completing drafts of the Walkway/Rail Trail Gateway Overlay Zoning Districts in Poughkeepsie and Lloyd, respectively, so future development enhances the experience of Walkway visitors and maximizes economic benefits.
  • Improving the Walkway Loop Trail, which links Walkway Over the Hudson and the Mid-Hudson Bridge with waterfront and downtown destinations in Poughkeepsie and Lloyd, so it further supports local businesses.
  • Creating an inventory of vacant or underutilized sites in the Walkway's vicinity that could be developed to support economic revitalization as a tourism destination.
"The Dyson Foundation's investment in Walkway Over the Hudson is now being leveraged, as we had hoped, by businesses and others in the communities around it. We are pleased to support Scenic Hudson and the other stakeholders in the Walkway as Gateway to Success initiative in their efforts to maximize the economic and recreational benefits that the Walkway can deliver," said Diana Gurieva, executive vice president and CEO of the Dyson Foundation. "The Dyson Foundation provided visionary leadership that made Walkway Over the Hudson a reality. The stakeholders engaged in the Walkway as Gateway to Success initiative recognize the tremendous untapped economic and recreational potential of the Walkway and Walkway Loop Trail. This generous grant from the Dyson Foundation will enable us to begin taking concrete steps toward fulfilling that potential on both ends of the Walkway," said Scenic Hudson Senior Vice President Steve Rosenberg. "Working in collaboration is the key to the success of any project, and this is yet another fine example of how the not-for-profit community can partner to achieve positive results for the Hudson River Valley. The continued support of our friends at the Dyson Foundation has been the key to unlocking the door to realize opportunities in the past and now, once again, going forward. The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce is very proud to be part of this partnership that will protect the environment, maximize our recreational assets and provide opportunity for the creation of new businesses, which in turn means new jobs. A win for everyone!" said Charles North, president and CEO of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Walkway as Gateway to Success is an important initiative to enhance the positive economic development potential of the Walkway Over the Hudson. I am very pleased that the Dyson Foundation has made a grant to allow Scenic Hudson to take the lead in bringing together the support and expertise of stakeholders from throughout the mid-Hudson Valley. There is a tremendous opportunity for 'smart growth' that will complement the experience of the million visitors who have been to the Walkway," said Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, executive director of Walkway Over the Hudson.

Grant builds on collaborative history

The ambitious initiative to turn the Poughkeepsie-Highland railroad bridge into the world's longest elevated pedestrian span was led by the grassroots Walkway Over the Hudson and the Dyson Foundation with support from New York State, U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey and others. In addition to strongly supporting their efforts, Scenic Hudson joined in a unique partnership with state and municipal governments, the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association and local businesses and residents to create the Walkway Loop Trail. Connecting the Walkway and Mid-Hudson Bridge, the 4.5-mile trail also provides easy access to area parks, historic destinations, restaurants, marinas and other points of interest along the Poughkeepsie and Lloyd waterfronts. The vision was to provide Walkway visitors with an array of scenic and cultural destinations, in the process promoting recreational and business activity along shorelines and downtowns on both sides of the Hudson.