|Walkway Over Hudson Will Boost Tourism Say Experts|
|Written by June Lamba-Lutwama, Hudson Valley Business Journal|
Walkway Over the Hudson and Dutchess County Tourism held a Hudson Valley trails and economic workshop Tuesday aimed at raising awareness of the economic possibilities of the pending 7000-foot pedestrian bridge targeted for completion in September 2009, in time for the quadricentennial celebrations.
According to Fred Schaeffer, president of the non-profit Walk Over the Hudson, the workshop was organized to find ways of making the most of the project as a source of income for individual businesses and the area as a whole. " The Walkway Over the Hudson is creating what will be the world’s longest pedestrian bridge and will connect with trails on both sides of the river. We think it’s going to be an economic road to this area and that people will come from all over to visit and to enjoy the network that we have. So we invited a lot of tourist businesses to come to this meeting so that they can learn how to make the most of the walkway project when it opens this October," he said.
One of the keynote speakers , David Lindahl, a principal of Morton Trails, a sport and recreation trail systems consulting firm, said trails are now the most valued amenity for home buyers citing a study that showed that more people are retiring into rural and semi- metropolitan areas.
"Trails are now the most valued amenity that people consider when they buy a house , they are not just sort of a side piece but something that has become a part of people’s daily lives. They are valuing it for whether they are going out for run in the afternoon after work or simply vacations that are built around being around being able to mount bike or run or ski. So the economic benefits are very real, with about a 20,000 dollar premium for houses and lots that are proximate to a well designed trail system," he said.
The Walkway project estimated to cost $35 million, according to the Walkway website is expected to bring in 14 to 15 million dollars a year, said Rob Camoin, another guest speaker and principal at Camoin Associates, the firm which was hired to do a feasibility study and assessment of the project.
"The direct economic impact, that is additional spending from visitors, is estimated to be approximately 14 to 15 million dollars per year. These expenditures will result in a total of $21 million dollars of new economic activity regionally and statewide. That money that comes in from spending by visitors on goods and services that they wouldn’t have otherwise spent in Dutchess or Ulster county and it also includes the money that businesses take in ,"he said, adding that construction of the bridge would create 258 new jobs.
Camoin also added that the cost of the bridge, which spans the Hudson River and connects the City of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County with the Town of Lloyd in Ulster County had gone up from 24 million dollars a year ago when the feasibility study was done, a hike Walkway attributes to increases in the prices of steel, concrete and fuel.
The workshop attracted a cross section of people in the tourism industry from Dutchess and Ulster counties and surrounding areas, according to Director of Dutchess Tourism, Mary Kay Vrba.
"There is a variety of people here, we have people from bed and breakfasts, hotels, art galleries, government, historic sites, restaurants, the trail users themselves and those that are responsible for the trails," she said.