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Historic Railroad Bridge in New York State Becomes Part of National Trails System


A National Recreation Trail? The historic Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge becomes just that on Oct 2.

Is an old railroad bridge a hiking trail? Come October 2 and that could be a new national park trivia question now that the Poughkeepsie-Highland railroad bridge in New York State has been designated a National Recreation Trail by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The “Walkway Over the Hudson” project on the Hudson River turned an historic railroad bridge that stretched more than a mile into a scenic biking and pedestrian pathway. Now it will become part of a national network of scenic, historic, and recreation trails.

“The Hudson River Valley is one of America’s most scenic geographic corridors, and this project will allow thousands of people to enjoy its beauty,” Secretary Salazar said. “I encourage all New Yorkers and visitors to New York to hike or bike the bridge when the trail opens.”

The trail, which is scheduled to open October 2, will transform the cantilever railroad bridge into a linear park and trailway. It will provide public access to the Hudson River's scenic landscape for pedestrians, hikers, joggers, bicyclists, and people with disabilities as well as connect to an extensive network of rail-trails, parks and communities on both sides of the river.

“The project’s use of a noted historic structure for public recreation will make it an integral part of the National Trails System and provide an excellent opportunity to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the valley,” said the secretary.

The National Trails System, created by law in 1968, provides for outdoor recreation needs, promotes the enjoyment, appreciation, and preservation of open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources, and encourages public access and citizen involvement. The system consists of 11 national scenic trails, 19 national historic trails, and almost 2,000 national recreation trails, with a total length of more than 63,000 miles.


Are federal funds going to keep up maintenance on the bridge? It will probably need a coat of paint now and then to keep it from rusting away.

To Some Guy, it is not likely that any federal funds will go into maintenance. Generally, federal funds for transportation projects go only to construction, and the states must maintain it.

To Kurt, it might be worth mentioning Congressman Maurice Hinchey rather than, or at least in addtion to, Salazar. Mr. Hinchey is one of the strongest advocates of the National Park System and Service in the Congress. He has been on both the National Parks subcommittee for authorizing legislation, and is now on the Interior subcommittee of Appropriations, which has funding jurisdiction over parks. Few Members of Congress from New York would seek national park committee assignments, but Hinchey has, and has stuck with it.

And, most everyone sees Hinchey as the guy who spent years saving this bridge, and seeking funding at several levels to make this project happen. And, he hung in there as project after project for the 400th Anniversary crashed and burned, Hinchey's insistence kept this project on line, when other important projects, such as for Governors Island in New York Harbor, had no local advocates with the skill and persistence of Hinchey. Hinchey has been seeking ways to link historic and natural resources up and down New York State, from linkages such as Recreation Trails and greenways, to networks of people and advocates. It is no easy task linking the west bank with the east bank of the Hudson, who need to pull together to protect and enjoy this magnificent river. Hinchey reminds me of the kind congressional advocates for National Parks that used to fill the U.S. Congress, but sadly do not anymore.

Without Hinchey, Salazar would have had nothing to celebrate.

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