Walking Over the Hudson: Lofty Valley Views Where Trains Once Rumbled

By Julie Besonen, The New York Times

The longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world, Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, rises 212 feet above the river and is easily reached by a glass enclosed, 21-story waterfront elevator in Poughkeepsie. On any given day — barring high winds, thunderstorms and lightning — power-walkers, dog-walkers, bicyclists, runners, parents pushing strollers, couples holding hands and people with limited mobility navigate the flat mile and a quarter crossing.

Below are barges, boats and rowers plying the mighty Hudson. Above are open horizons as well as the occasional falcon, eagle and cormorant. It’s a pastoral Thomas Cole-style landscape come to life. There is often a cool, hang-onto-your-hat breeze and virtually no traffic noise from the Mid-Hudson Bridge, which is within sight.

For hardier walkers, on the opposite shore is Franny Reese State Park, with almost three miles of hiking trails, in Highland, N.Y. Those with more modest ambitions can aim for the flagpole mounted midpoint over the river.

“Spring is really amazing because it’s a vivid, lime-green canopy on both sides, apple trees, dogwoods and magnolias in bloom,” said Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, the executive director of Walkway Over the Hudson, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and enhancing the park and surrounding trail systems.

This country cousin to the High Line in Manhattan was originally completed in 1888 as a double-track cantilever railroad bridge, a technological marvel at the time. But as the trucking industry accelerated, commercial railroads declined. So did the bridge. A catastrophic fire in 1974 ended its reign.

For decades, the iron and steel behemoth was a charred eyesore, its nonworking lights and falling timbers a menace. Calls to dismantle it were quelled when an environmental study estimated a price tag of $54 million to do so, Ms. Waldstein-Hart said.

“The cost to safely remove it was staggering, more than the cost to repurpose it into a pedestrian bridge,” she said. “This huge iron structure could not just fall into the river.”

In 1992, a groundswell had formed to restore the bridge for car-free use. A combination of public and private funding totaling $38 million paid for the paved 24-foot wide walkway that opened in 2009. The elevator opened in 2014 and is a 10-minute walk from the Poughkeepsie train station.

Another route to the walkway is through downtown Poughkeepsie, a riverfront city whose Victorian houses and Main Street facades with ornate cornices speak of its prosperous past as a manufacturing center. Empty storefronts illustrate its current economic struggles, though there is a fair amount of construction to arouse optimism. The walkway and beautified waterfront are seen as catalysts for change.

A highlight of going into town is Mill House Brewing Company, at 289 Mill Street, open daily except Tuesday. The rustic, sprawling space specializes in local spirits and brawny bar food such as fried pickle chips, ale-battered cod and chips, sensational burgers and house-made sausages. Its outstanding 14 craft beers can be sampled through flights of five for $15. Knowledgeable bartenders are silver-tongued when describing nuances of grapefruit, hops, malt, resin and vanilla.

Those with cars may park in a lot near the bridge entrance ($5 for four hours) and expand this Hudson Valley excursion to nearby Hyde Park, where they will find the Culinary Institute of America, the Vanderbilt Mansion and Springwood, which includes the estate and presidential library of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Otherwise, the majestic walkway and poking around Poughkeepsie are plenty for a day.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/nyregion/walkway-over-the-hudson-state-park-poughkeepsie-day-trip.html?_r=0.