by Todd Bender
Dutchess Tourism kicked off National Travel Rally Day at their annual Awards of Distinction breakfast at the Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park on Tuesday, May 9, and the Towns of Pawling and Dover were recipients of an honor.
The awards are presented in seven categories: Hospitality, History, Family Entertainment, Culinary Arts, and Outdoors. The Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community (HVATC), a partnership between the towns of Dover and Pawling, received the award in the Outdoors category beating out the Staatsburgh Historic Site and the Interlaken Campground. The presentation was co-hosted by Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro and President/CEO of Dutchess Tourism, Inc., Mary Kay Vrba, who is also a former employee of the Town of Pawling, having served in the recreation department.
Of the honor bestowed upon the HVATC, Vrba said, “Dutchess County is rich in outdoor activities from kayaking and biking, to hiking. The HVATC is an example of what happens when communities come together to highlight the natural and scenic beauty of an area.” The Hudson Valley tourism expert continued by saying “hikers come for a day or overnight trip, and once they see all Dutchess has to offer, they return to visit other attractions in Dutchess.”
On hand to accept the award were Pawling Town Supervisor David Kelly and Stancy DuHamel, Co-Chair of the HVATC. Upon receiving the award, Pawling Town Supervisor David Kelly, who was instrumental in getting the HVATC designation – one of only a handful among the length of the trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine – said, “I am honored to accept this honor on behalf of the HVATC board. This noteworthy designation has increased tourism throughout the Harlem Valley, drawing many visitors from urban areas via Metro- North. It has increased the number of trail maintainers who steward this National Park Service treasure.”
The HVATC partnership, which started taking shape in 2013 and resulted in the 2014 designation, received substantial support from many officials, groups, and levels of government, including Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro. According to the long-time elected official, Dutchess County has reaped many benefits from tourism. He told those in attendance that Dutchess tourism is a tremendous asset that, in 2015, brought in more than half a billion dollars to the Dutchess economy. Without the tourism presence, the average homeowner’s taxes would be an additional $500 annually to make up for lost tourism dollars.
National Travel Rally Day is a part of National Travel and Tourism Week, a yearly celebration established by a Congressional order in 1983 to acknowledge the powerful contribution tourism makes to the national economy. According to Dutchess Tourism, more than 4.5 million people visit Dutchess County each year. Tourism is New York State’s fourth largest industry and employs nearly 10,000 people within Dutchess County alone.