by: Greg Maker, Hudson Valley Reporter, link to original post
More opportunities to walk, run and bike are now available in Dutchess County with the Dutchess Rail Trail now officially open to the public.
County Executive Marcus Molinaro hosted a soft opening for trail on Thursday as county employees ceremoniously removed a barricade on the Rail Trail bridge over Route 55, Wappinger Creek and Old Manchester Road. Walkers, runners and bicycle enthusiasts dressed in their gear followed Molinaro down the trail for the first official walk.
“Today is an historic moment and one step closer to a very long path to bring the Dutchess Rail Trail to completion,” Molinaro said. “This effort began a long time ago thanks to a number of visionaries creating a beautiful linear park. This will be an attraction throughout the county.”
The final piece of the puzzle was a 743-foot bridge that was constructed in late July over Route 55 by the border of LaGrange and the Town of Poughkeepsie. The bridge connected the trail, which runs for 13 miles from the Hopewell Depot in East Fishkill to the Walkway Over The Hudson in the City of Poughkeepsie. The trail is built upon the abandoned Maybrook Line of the defunct Central New England Railway.
Molinaro said that with 2.4 million people from 42 countries visiting the Walkway Over the Hudson, they will now have an opportunity to see even more of Dutchess County by walking on the Rail Trail.
“The benefits of it are so reaching,” Molinaro said. “This really is a jewel for Dutchess County. This is an attraction to visitors, employers and tourists alike, As other governments are closing parks, we’re opening one today.”
Mary Kay Vrba, executive director of Dutchess County Tourism, said that she is hoping that the Rail Trail increases tourism in Dutchess County. She said that visitors to the county spent $475 million in 2012, an increase of 2 percent from 2011. Vrba said that the Rail Trail will attract more bicyclists from groups such as Bike New York and Hudson Valley Pedal.
“They can ride on the trail without having to deal with motorized traffic,” Vrba said. “It’s a win-win for them and us. Another benefit is people who come here will stay overnight, eat in our restaurants, and go to other venues.The outdoors is one of the things that we highlight and promote all the time.”
Rob Rolison, chair of the Dutchess County Legislature, who said he is a railroad enthusiast, agreed with Vrba that a benefit of the trail is that it will draw people to Dutchess County. He said that the Rail Trail will showcase areas of the county that people don’t normally see including both rural and urban areas.
“Dutchess County is an outdoor type of county and this addition really enhances our quality of life,” Rolison said. “People will spend money here and help with our county budget. As a government official I look at it as more than just a chance to walk, bike and run on it. It’s going to bring in tax dollars and keep Dutchess County running.”
Rolison and Molinaro both gave credit to former County Executive Bill Steinhaus whose administration spearheaded the effort to create the Rail Trail.
There are still portions of the trail that need to be completed. The county will hold another ceremony on Nov. 16 when the construction is finished to mark the official grand opening..