Bringing Tourism to Pawling

Left to Right: Lauri Taylor, Reid McGrath, James Schmitt, Mary Kay Vrba, Jennifer Cocozza, and John Burweger met to discuss tourism in Pawling in late October.

On Monday, October 29, officials from the Town and Village of Pawling attended a forum aimed at improving area tourism. Hosted by representatives from Dutchess County Tourism and the Dutchess County Planning Department, the meeting was designed to identify and improve areas and events that will draw visitors to Pawling.

Held at Town Hall, the session was part of an ongoing initiative to help facilitate an increase in tourism in the region. “We’re trying to look at the future of tourism in Dutchess County,” said Mary Kay Vrba, President of Dutchess County Tourism. “We want to talk to towns and villages and get their input.” This process began earlier this year with a visitor profile study, which will help to identify the demographics of tourists visiting the Dutchess area. “We want to see if there is a shift in the type of visitor that we have in the county,” added Vrba.

An estimated 4.5 million people visit Dutchess County every year. Last year, visitors spent an estimated $601 million, with the industry showing more than 3% growth. In addition, tourism in Dutchess County also generated more than 11,000 jobs. Among the most popular attractions in the county are the home of Franklin Roosevelt in Hyde Park, the Walkway Over the Hudson, and the Culinary Institute of America.

Vrba was joined by Jennifer Cocozza, Deputy Commissioner of the Dutchess County Department of Planning, as she sought input from several local officials in attendance. Also present at the meeting were Village Trustees John Burweger and Lauri Taylor, Town Supervisor James Schmitt, and area real estate salesman Reid McGrath.

While examining Pawling’s role in county tourism, Vrba and Cocozza compiled a list of the most prevalent features that bring tourism to the area. Attendants cited Daryl’s House Club and the proximity to the Appalachian Trail as two of Pawling’s main attractions. Also mentioned were the easy access to the Metro North train station, the areas parks, restaurants within the town and village, and the availability of lodging at the Pawling House and the newly opened Station Inn. The new pedestrian walkway initiative will be adding new sidewalks and bike paths throughout Pawling, which will help to improve the walkability of the community.

Geographically, Pawling represents a hub between Poughkeepsie and Danbury, and officials believe that the area could possibly benefit from more hotels in the area. Further discussion explored the thriving rentals of houses on Quaker Hill using Airbnb, with certain homes being rented for as much as $4,000 a weekend. The idea of expanding the usage of ride services such as Lyft and Uber in Pawling were also discussed as a means of improving transportation for tourists in the area.

When addressing the needs of Pawling tourism, officials and attendants discussed several areas for improvement. Specifically, the need for an expanded selection of restaurants was addressed, as well as more attractions to bring younger visitors and families to Pawling. To this end, ideas such as a small bowling alley, arcade, and camping facilities near the Appalachian Trail were mentioned.