Poughkeepsie… To remember a man who devoted his career to public service, Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus dedicated the Dutchess Rail Trail Trailhead at Morgan Lake in Poughkeepsie to the late Michael P. Murphy, former Dutchess County Commissioner of Public Works. Joined by several members of the Murphy family including Mr. Murphy’s mother, wife and siblings, County Executive Steinhaus unveiled a memorial plaque recognizing Mr. Murphy’s contributions to the development of the Dutchess Rail Trail and the legacy he has left throughout Dutchess County.
“Knowing Mike’s highest priority and greatest love was his family, it is no wonder he worked so hard on this last project to implement the wonderful Dutchess Rail Trail Park. A trail where families now, and for years to come, can spend time together in an outdoor setting creating memories that will last a lifetime,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
Officials from towns and villages across Dutchess County attended representing the City of Poughkeepsie, the Town of Poughkeepsie, Village of Millbrook, Town of Washington as well as several others.
Michael P. Murphy began his career in Dutchess County Government in 1979, serving as Assistant to County Executive Lucille Pattison until 1988. He also served as Mayor of the Village of Millbrook from 1983 to 1988. He then went on to work for the City of Poughkeepsie, first as Commissioner of Public Works then as City Administrator. From 1999 until 2003, he was the Village Manager of Port Chester in Westchester County. His final public service role was serving as part of the Steinhaus’ administration when he was asked by County Executive Steinhaus to come back to Dutchess County as Commissioner of Public Works in 2003. He served as Public Works Commissioner until his retirement in May, 2007.
As the County Commissioner of Public Works, Mr. Murphy led the five DPW divisions including Buildings, Highway, Engineering, Parks, and the County Airport. He implemented major improvements to Dutchess County Parks System under County Executive Steinhaus’ Comprehensive Parks Plan including the acquisition of Quiet Cove Riverfront Park, extensions to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, and a 10 year extension of Hudson Valley Renegades agreement to use Dutchess Stadium. He was instrumental in advancing the Eastern Dutchess Government Center project in Millbrook. He oversaw the completion of the Dutchess County Highway Complex Master Plan as well as the design and initiation of the Dutchess County Emergency Operations Center on Creek Road in Poughkeepsie.
One of his final projects was the development of the Dutchess Rail Trail, 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. Together with County Executive Steinhaus, Mr. Murphy participated in public outreach meetings in each of the four trail communities to get input and feedback from residents about what they hoped to see with the Dutchess Rail Trail. Hundreds of residents participated in those outreach meetings.
Currently two phases of the Dutchess Rail Trail are completed and open. Phase I of the Dutchess Rail Trail, which opened in the fall of 2007, is located in East Fishkill and extends 1.7 miles between Route 376 and Lake Walton Road. Phase II opened in July, 2009 and is a 2.4 mile section from Morgan Lake to Overocker Road in Poughkeepsie.
Work is currently underway on Phase III of the Dutchess Rail Trail, which will add more than 6 additional miles through LaGrange and Wappinger, connecting with the original Phase I section in East Fishkill. Phase III is slated to be open for use in late fall 2010.
The response to the Dutchess Rail Trail has been overwhelmingly positive, with thousands of residents and visitors utilizing the trail as a place to get some exercise, enjoy the great outdoors and gather together with friends, family and neighbors. “Mike would have been proud to see his hard work and planning become a reality and I know he would have taken great pleasure in seeing the happy faces of kids on their bikes and rollerblades, the moms pushing baby strollers and the seniors strolling along hand and hand,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
The plaque identifying the location as the Michael P. Murphy Trailhead is located at the start of the Dutchess Rail Trail at Morgan Lake off of Creek Road, right at the City of Poughkeepsie municipal line. The plaque is mounted on stone that was originally part of the former Maybrook line that the Dutchess Rail Trail now goes over. The stone helped to support a railroad bridge over the nearby Fallkill Creek.