Walkway Over the Hudson Officially Opens
This weekend marks the opening celebration of the Walkway over the Hudson, a 1.25-mile “linear park” for pedestrians, the longest walkway bridge in the world. The occasion is the culmination of nearly two decades of effort on the part of visionary community activists, led by board chairman Fred Schaeffer, so it calls for a great deal of fanfare—masses of fireworks and other light displays; a performance piece featuring scores of enormous puppets; live music, plenty to eat. But the best part starts once the ruckus settles down: Forevermore we have free access to a place that is still, quiet, and traffic-free; an astonishing perch from which to connect with the river as never before. By all accounts, it’s different up there.
The historic Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, an engineering marvel in its day, was completed in 1881 and, at the time, was the longest bridge in the world, spanning over 6000 feet. Closed after a track fire in 1974, it remained abandoned until a grass-roots restoration effort began in 1992 with the founding of Walkway Over the Hudson. A Dyson Foundation grant finally paved the way for the Walkway opening this year, as a signature event of the Hudson-Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration.
The spectacle begins on Friday with a River of Light Promenade at 7 p.m. followed by the 1,000 Points of Light Lantern Release, a light exhibition on the nearby Mid-Hudson Bridge, an illuminated fire boat on the river, and at about 8 p.m. fireworks between the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Mid-Hudson Bridge. On the east side of the river, the best view, organizers say, is from Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, where there will be live music from 5 - 8 p.m. On the west side, Oakes Road in Highland offers the greatest visibility. At this point no one has access to the brdige itself.
Festivities resuming on Saturday morning include a Marist College Crew recreation of the famed Poughkeepsie Regatta between Roger’s Point and the Mid-Hudson Bridge, much official ribbon cutting on each side, then a ceremonial tying of a knot in the center to symbolize the joining of Poughkeepsie with the town of Lloyd. At 1:30 p.m. there will be a grand puppet procession and celebration across the Hudson River by community volunteers. Only officials, performers and volunteers are allowed on the bridge at this time, however, public viewing will be available from the shoreline and Waryas Park.
At 2:30 pm Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome will do a flyover and finally, at 3 p.m. the bridge opens to the general public: Access is via Parker Avenue in Poughkeepsie and Haviland Road in Highland. The celebration continues into the night and the next day. For details visit the Walkway website.