Poughkeepsie… Today, County Executive William R. Steinhaus hosted five chief elected local officials in the Executive Office to kickoff the planning design phase of the 11.2-mile Dutchess Rail Trail. Invited to the County Executive’s presentation were: Town of Poughkeepsie Supervisor Joe Davis, City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Nancy Cozean, Town of LaGrange Supervisor George Wade, Town of Wappinger Supervisor Joe Ruggierio, and East Fishkill Supervisor Peter Idema.
According to County Executive Steinhaus, “We are in the embryo stage of a potential social phenomenon for Dutchess County. The construction of this rail trail will put a new 11.2-mile linear park within minutes of the majority of the county population. In addition to the inevitable social, recreational, and health aspects of trail use, we see this as an opportunity for collaboration among municipalities, schools, businesses, organizations and all county residents.” He added, “That is why I invited these local leaders here today, to solicit their participation, insight, support and partnership for this historic and exciting new county initiative which will run through their five communities from the City of Poughkeepsie to Hopewell Junction.”
There is no question the Dutchess Rail Trail will be one of the most significant recreation amenities for the families of Dutchess in our history. Along with our Harlem Valley Rail Trail in the Towns of Amenia and NorthEast in the eastern part of Dutchess, we will have two spectacular locations.
Steinhaus said, “There are many accomplishments I am proud of in my 14 years as County Executive, but the Dutchess Rail Trail has the potential to be one of the most far-reaching and worthwhile endeavors we have ever undertaken. When county residents across the county speak to me, this is one of the most significant areas of interest to them, and I am excited about the collaborative effort with our local communities begun today that will deliver this valuable asset to local families and visitors.”
The Executive noted the Dutchess Rail Trail is expected to be a $5-6 million investment funded primarily with federal funds the county has secured in addition to county dollars. The plan is to convert more than eleven miles of the abandoned Maybrook Rail Line of the Penn Central Railroad to a paved bikeway/walkway with access in the City of Poughkeepsie and the towns of Poughkeepsie, LaGrange, Wappinger and East Fishkill. Existing structures carrying the proposed Rail Trail will be rehabilitated as necessary to safely carry bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The Rail Trail will follow the same path of the $33 million Central Dutchess Utility Corridor Waterline, which is currently being constructed by Dutchess County. It is hoped construction of the trail can begin in the fall of 2006, after the waterline is expected to be complete. Initially, the county goal is to open the trail in segments as they are built. The estimated timeframe for completion is the summer of 2007.
Clough, Harbour and Associates (CHA), a full service landscape, architecture, engineering and planning firm, nationally recognized for their excellence in Greenway and Trail Services has been retained by the county and participated in the presentation today along with the County Executive and the County Departments of Planning and Public Works.
According to Scott Lewendon, Project Manager for CHA, “Mr. Steinhaus has directed us to create a comprehensive review of all sectors of the county throughout the design, construction, implementation and eventual use of the trail.” He continued, “This is the first meeting in a massive and ongoing outreach to ensure all stakeholders can provide input and feedback.” A website will be available for all county residents to stay abreast of the progress and add their comments as well.
The response to the meeting was overwhelmingly positive and supportive:
Pete Idema, East Fishkill Supervisor… “It’s great to see five municipal organizations led by the county, working together to expedite the construction of this wonderful recreational resource.”
Joseph Ruggiero, Town of Wappinger Supervisor… “The county Rail Trail will prove to be a great asset to our community. The Rail Trail system is not only a park for our people, but a symbol of how we are all linked together in this great county.”
George Wade, Town of LaGrange Supervisor… “Speaking for the residents of LaGrange, this is a great project and a great asset to our county and the towns it will go through.”
Joseph Davis, Town of Poughkeepsie Supervisor... “All I can say is, Wow! This is a true partnership among the towns, the city and the county. I see a very strong community outreach which will yield community involvement for the entire project.”
Nancy Cozean, City of Poughkeepsie Mayor… “This is a very exciting, but also important project linking hikers, bikers, residents and visitors to the many different experiences Dutchess County provides from urban to suburban settings.
The Executive said, “Our next steps are to brief the County Legislature and also begin our local outreach with ‘town hall meeting’ type discussions so our residents can tell us what is important to them as we advance the design process.”