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Walkway Over the Hudson values of a source of community pride

ALBANY, NY - April 16, 2014 - Nearly five years after it first opened, the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park is proving to be a valued and important source of community pride and a destination for out-of-town visitors. From its storied past and modern day adaptation to its easy access and unique vantages, the positive impact of the park is resonating with local and non-local visitors.

A visitor study issued by the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks program, and funded through a grant from the Dyson Foundation,  finds the Walkway to be a valued cultural and recreational asset for local residents, easily accessible to families and people of all ages; and a unique tourist destination. In addition to seeking data on park visitors, the project sought to capture reactions and connections of visitors though short interviews. 

“This study not only underscores the value of Walkway as a popular destination and economic driver, but also as a transformative source of community and regional pride,” said Erik Kulleseid, executive director of the Alliance. Visitors connect with the Walkway’s history, particularly its adaptation from a rail bridge to a park. They also take great pride in the park’s success with genuine excitement and optimism.

“The Walkway Over the Hudson is truly a gift that never stops giving,” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Always a popular destination, this study confirms that first time and frequent visitors alike are awed by the beauty the longest pedestrian bridge in the world provides access to, year-round, in the magnificent Hudson Valley. I am so pleased that the Walkway is contributing to a transformation of its surrounding community. Governor Cuomo’s continued investment in the state park system is enacting similar evolvement around the state.”

The study, based on a survey and interviews conducted over three days in September, 2012 by the Public Spaces Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and completed by volunteers of the Walkway’s Ambassador program found that a third of the visitors were on the bridge for the first time. Nearly all the rest came frequently, either several times a week (26 percent) or several times a month (40 percent).

“The OSI project has illuminated our understanding of the park’s dramatic impact on the Hudson Valley and NY State,” said Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, executive director of Walkway Over the Hudson. “From this study we have learned that people from the region and around the world come to appreciate the natural beauty, culture, and history that is in such abundance at Walkway State Historic Park. We are grateful to OSI, the Alliance for NYS Parks, and the Dyson Foundation for providing this important tool we will use as we seek to improve the park in so many ways.”

Another key finding of the study is the appeal of the Walkway had with visitors of all ages. With ample width and easy grade the park is uniquely accessible for a broad range of visitors. However, there is a distinct appeal to older individuals, with adults 61 and older comprising 41 percent of survey respondents. 

In addition to identifying statistical data of park-goers, the report captures individual visitor feelings and attitudes toward the Walkway. Interviews with patrons reveal a sense of pride and excitement in connection with the park, with one local respondent favorably comparing the Walkway to world-class destinations and another expressing shock over the bridge’s proven popularity.

“It’s wonderful to be able to document how visitors connect with this park,” said Kulleseid. “With this study we are able to better understand and appreciate the Walkway and the positive impact it is having within the community. The combined findings of this research point to continued public investment in state parks, particularly the Walkway.”  

According to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, state parks face a capital backlog totaling approximately $1 billion. “Thankfully, over the past three years, through a renewed commitment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature, more than $320 million has been allocated for state park improvements,” said Kulleseid. “Continued investment in state parks ensures that state parks can continue to offer high quality, affordable, family friendly recreation for local and out-of-town visitors.”

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