Poughkeepsie… In just two weeks since its official opening, Phase II of the Dutchess Rail Trail has welcomed thousands of residents and visitors who have come to the newly opened trail phase to walk, run, rollerblade, bike and more. Comments from users have been overwhelmingly positive, although many users have found they are out on the trail far longer than they originally anticipated because they meet up with friends or get chatting with other trail users.
Construction of the Dutchess Rail Trail has been a top priority of County Executive Steinhaus following the success of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in the eastern portion of the county. Phase II is a 2.4 mile section of the Dutchess Rail Trail that stretches from Morgan Lake south to Overocker Road in the Town of Poughkeepsie. The Dutchess Rail Trail will be a 12 mile multi-use linear county “park” that will run through the middle of the County along the former Maybrook Rail corridor including the towns of Poughkeepsie, LaGrange, Wappinger and East Fishkill. Phase I of the Dutchess Rail Trail, which was opened in 2007, is located in East Fishkill and extends between Route 376 and Lake Walton Road.
An early morning visit to Phase II will generally find the Overocker Road Trail Head parking lot filled with vehicles sporting bike racks. Clarence Browne, a Town of Poughkeepsie resident who lives near Marist College, has already been out on trail several times since the official opening on July 9th and even recently purchased a new bike at local bike shop in the Town of Wappinger for the specific purpose of riding along the Dutchess Rail Trail. When asked to share his thoughts about the Dutchess Rail Trail, Mr. Browne enthusiastically responded, “Love it! It is the best thing that has happened in Dutchess County in years.” He also commented that one of the things he enjoys the most being out on trail is how friendly people are on it. “People smile as you go by or even stop to talk. You don’t find that too often and it is really refreshing to see the sense of community that is so evident out here on the trail.”
County Executive Steinhaus knows exactly what Mr. Browne is talking about. The County Executive makes frequent stops at Phase II of the Dutchess Rail Trail early in the morning before arriving at the County Office Building or later in the evening to get feedback from trail users. He finds himself often spending a great deal of time chatting with residents and visitors. “My wife has quickly learned to tack an extra hour or so on to whatever time I tell her I plan to be home because she knows I’m at the trail talking with residents,” chuckled Steinhaus. “But in all seriousness, it is so gratifying to see so many people out enjoying the Dutchess Rail Trail and taking the opportunity to get to know their neighbors and other trail users.”
Based on observations while walking the trail, the Dutchess Rail Trail is attracting users with a wide variety of fitness styles and athletic pursuits. Solitary walkers kept a brisk pace, while several others walked along in small social groups combining their exercise regime with some light conversation. One man glided by on rollerblades. A number of other people sported cameras around their necks for some nature photos, including a couple from Arizona who was getting a tour of the trail from their son, a Town of Poughkeepsie resident. Another couple took advantage of the more than 30 spaces of convenient parking at Love Road to access the trail for bike ride after having a quick bite to eat at a nearby restaurant in the Route 44 Plaza. Also evident were bicyclists of all skill levels from leisurely riders who appeared to be enjoying the scenery to the more serious riders who were taking advantage of the flat, paved surface that allows for a smooth, quick intense ride. Even bicycle newbies were getting the chance to enjoy the Dutchess Rail Trail. One family was out using the trail as a place to teach the basics of riding without training wheels to their youngest son.
The Dutchess Rail Trail has been hailed a true community park from its inception. Residents were invited to participate in informational design meetings hosted by County Executive Steinhaus in the communities along the trail. Hundreds of residents attended these meeting to share input about the trail’s creation. Town of LaGrange resident Frank Sforza participated in those informational meetings and was thrilled to see the project become a reality. “The Dutchess Rail Trail is a brilliant use of what would have otherwise been wasted land,” Mr. Sforza said.
Sforza is an avid railroad buff and has enjoyed learning the history of the rail lines that the Dutchess Rail Trail now travels over. “It was very smart to build the Central Dutchess Water Line along this corridor and then plan out the rail trail to run over it. This is great for the quality of life here in the county, offering both fitness and recreation. The County really did a great job with this, it was money well spent.” The Dutchess Rail Trail is being built along the former Maybrook rail line. In 1998, County Executive Steinhaus initiated efforts to construct a 13 mile pipeline from Poughkeepsie to Hopewell Junction, along the former rail corridor. In 2007, the Central Dutchess Water Transmission Line went online with the capacity of delivering up to 10,000 gallons of clean, reliable water to one of the fast growing areas of the county on a daily basis. County Executive Steinhaus also envisioned the development of a recreational linear park over the water line once construction was completed. That vision has led to the development of the Dutchess Rail Trail.
The County Executive said, “I’ve met people who not only visit the Dutchess Rail Trail several times a week but those who actually use the trail 2 to 3 times per day. My favorite was a dad with his 3 ½ year old son on his bike with training wheels. The little boy rode the entire 4.8 mile round trip from Morgan Lake and he was still smiling at the end of his trip.”
Residents and visitors are encouraged to come out and experience the Dutchess Rail Trail for themselves, whether it as railroad history buffs, fitness enthusiasts, nature photographers, social butterflies or someone who simply wants to take a relaxing stroll.
For more information on the Dutchess Rail Trail, visit http://www.dutchessny.gov/.