On Friday, June 29, 2018, numerous state and local officials gathered with many partners from the business and nonprofit communities of the Hudson Valley for the long-awaited opening of the $5.4 million Ulster Welcome Center at the western gateway to Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park. The multipurpose facility is part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 initiative, a multi-year commitment of $900 million in private and public funding through 2020.
“The Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park is one the state’s great treasures, offering sweeping views of the majestic Hudson River and beyond,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who was represented at the event by NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “The new Ulster Welcome Center will be the gateway for the thousands of visitors arriving at the western end of the Walkway, and will serve as a major focal point of the Empire State Trail. I encourage everyone to visit this park and experience this unique and unrivaled view for themselves.”
The 3,500-square-foot visitor center and plaza in the Town of Lloyd features:
The new facility includes many of the latest energy efficient measures, including LED lighting, insulated building shells, and modern heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment, powered by solar panels.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “The new welcome center builds on the Walkway’s legacy as the Great Connector. By offering a venue for events and programs, for dining and relaxing, the Ulster Welcome Center will encourage visitors to stay longer and explore more of what the Walkway and the Empire State Trail have to offer. I’m grateful to Governor Cuomo and all of our partners for continuing to enhance and improve this one-of-a-kind park.”
Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, Executive Director, Walkway Over the Hudson nonprofit organization, said, “Today represents another important milestone in the short but illustrious history of the Walkway Over the Hudson. This beautifully designed and constructed welcome center and entrance was envisioned from the time the Walkway opened in 2009. It is exciting and gratifying to see the Ulster Welcome Center come to fruition. We are grateful to the many donors and supporters who have helped us contribute substantial funds to this and other important park improvements.”
Senator George Amedore said, “The Walkway Over the Hudson attracts residents and visitors from near and far to enjoy the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley. This new state-of-the-art, energy efficient Welcome Center and event space will help to further enhance the enjoyment and experience of everyone who visits the Walkway, and will help to build on our efforts to increase tourism and economic growth throughout the region.”
Senator Sue Serino said, “The Walkway Over the Hudson is a world-class attraction that is enjoyed by thousands of tourists and locals each year. This welcome center is a great addition that will bolster opportunities for visitors and enhance the Walkway’s reputation as a premier destination here in the Hudson Valley. Today, we cut the ribbon on this welcome center just in time for the beautiful summer season and we hope residents and tourists alike enjoy all that it has to offer.”
Assemblymember Didi Barrett said, “The Walkway Over the Hudson is the gateway to many of our region’s world-renowned natural, cultural and agricultural treasures and the new welcome center will only add to the bridge’s already record-breaking appeal. As a longtime advocate for our region’s tourism economy, I thank the Governor and Commissioner Rose Harvey for their continuing investment in our beautiful and historic Hudson Valley.”
Mike Hein, Ulster County Executive, said, “In 2016, the Walkway Over the Hudson and Ulster County’s Hudson Valley Rail Trail were inducted into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. From the Walkway, residents and visitors alike can enjoy beautiful trails leading to the hamlet of Highland, Franny Reese State Park, Highland Landing, and soon, a major connection to New Paltz, Rosendale and beyond. Our area has breathtaking four-season destinations and welcoming visitors to Ulster County and the entire Hudson Valley is critical to growing our billion-dollar plus tourism economy. This new welcome center will undoubtedly be a valuable amenity and we are grateful for Governor Cuomo’s commitment.”
Paul Hansut, Supervisor of the Town of Lloyd, said, “We are proud that our Hudson Valley Rail Trail is the link that connects the Walkway to the rest of the Ulster County rail trail system and the western portion of the Empire State Trail. The new Ulster Welcome Center provides important enhancements to the visitor experience. We are pleased to continue to partner with the Walkway and NYS Parks system on rail trail improvements and popular public events such as the July 4th Fireworks Spectacular.”
Mike Oates, Chair of the Walkway Over the Hudson Board of Directors and President and CEO of HVEDC, said, “Like the original 1889 Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge that was a crucial link connecting raw materials from the western part of the country to manufacturing in the east, the Walkway Over the Hudson of today is a modern and equally crucial economic and tourism link, connecting the communities of Ulster County to those along New York State’s Empire State Trail. With nearly 600,000 visitors annually, the Walkway remains an important economic and tourism engine for New York State, the Hudson Valley and local businesses on either side of the bridge. The Ulster Welcome Center will benefit all who visit the Walkway.”
John Storyk, Chair of the Walkway’s Amenities Committee and Founding Partner of Walters-Storyk Design Group, said, “It has been an honor to work with our local, regional and New York State officials, along with Meyer Construction Corporation and Saratoga Associates, to bring the Ulster Welcome Center from design to completion. So many people have contributed countless hours of time, creative effort and hard work into creating a building and landscape that is inviting and engaging for Walkway visitors. We are pleased to open this facility to the public for their enjoyment and comfort, and look forward to completion of the Dutchess Welcome Center.”
Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park stands 212 feet above the river’s surface and is more than 6,700 feet (1.28 miles) long, making it the longest, elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. The park attracts nearly 600,000 visitors annually, providing access to the Hudson River’s breathtaking landscape for pedestrians, hikers, joggers, bicyclists, and people with disabilities. The Walkway is open daily from 7 a.m. to sunset.
Next spring, a second welcome center, the Dutchess Welcome Center on the eastern approach of the Walkway, is slated to open in time for the Walkway’s 10th anniversary celebration in 2019. Both projects are part of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to enhance and increase access to outdoor recreation. The Governor’s NY Parks 2020 initiative is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding through 2020.
The project complements Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail initiative, a planned 750-mile bicycle and walking path linking new and existing regional trails from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo. The Walkway is a major link in the Empire State Trail, connecting the Hudson Valley Rail Trail with the Dutchess Rail Trail. The Town of Lloyd and Ulster County are extending the Hudson Valley Rail Trail another two miles further west. This project, which is currently under construction and will be completed by this fall, will result in the trail terminating on Route 299. The state plans to break ground this fall another 2 miles of trail along Route 299 to New Paltz along with an additional two miles of on-road improvements to link to pathway to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in downtown New Paltz. In addition, new Empire State Trail way-finding signage has been installed on the Walkway.
To complete the Empire Trail by 2020, approximately 350 miles of new/improved trails will be built. Ultimately, 70 percent of the 750-mile trail will be off road.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by 71 million people annually. A recent study found that New York State Parks generates $5 billion in park and visitor spending, which supports nearly 54,000 jobs.