You’ve heard about the Walkway Over the Hudson and perhaps have taken a walk or run there at some point since its opening in 2009, but you may not know the history behind the walking bridge.
The bridge started out as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, which transported freight and passenger trains across the northeast beginning in the late 19th century. A fire damaged the bridge in 1974, and restoration efforts began sixteen years later. Eventually, the Walkway Over the Hudson organization formed and partnered with the Dyson Foundation to turn the site into a public park.
Now, more than 500,000 people visit each year from far and wide to walk on the 1.28 mile-long bridge that stretches from Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County to Highland, in Ulster County. Visitors love the exercise they can get and the safety the Walkway provides. “It’s not isolated, so you don’t get that feeling of being scared as a female runner if you are alone,” said Annamarie James, a resident of Peekskill. “It’s a good place to exercise,” said Paul Frankel of Pleasant Valley. “I lost 15 pounds when I used to come here every day.”
Staff of the Walkway Over the Hudson organization enjoyed the park as visitors before working there. “I used to walk with my son before I got involved,” said Nicole Stanton, the development assistant for the organization. “Getting to see the beauty of the Hudson Valley and the uniqueness of having this big span to walk across make the Walkway stand out.” Director of Program and Visitor Services Theresa Sanchez added: “I always brought my family here, I love it here. It’s a free park that always has interesting stuff going on.”
The Walkway has hosted charity walks, runs, and marches for other nonprofit organizations in the area, and more recently hosted the historic March For Our Lives against gun violence. Upcoming events include the STARWALK, where astronomy fans and others can gaze at the stars while receiving guided commentary from astronomy experts. Movies have also been showcased at the Walkway thanks to a partnership with the Jode Millman Foundation, and this year’s selections include “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther.”
Also something to look forward to is the grand opening of the Walkway welcome center, a visitor center that is on schedule to open sometime in June. It will be located on the Highland side of the Walkway and will include open and covered seating, an area for food concessions, administrative offices and public restrooms. A similar center on the Dutchess County side is set to begin construction shortly after the opening of the first visitor’s center. Parking is available on both sides of the bridge. Visiting the Walkway, open from 7:00 a.m. to sunset, is free throughout the year except during special events. For Walkway news, events, access information, history, and more, visit Walkway.org online.