The Queen City’s rebirth has begun. This includes transforming the old Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge into the longest pedestrian footbridge in the world, and revitalizing a five-block area of downtown through the Middle Main Initiative, an effort I have continued to support.
For the Poughkeepsie comeback to truly take off, we need to capitalize on our existing community investments, including the Walkway-Gateway Zoning District and the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail. Our next logical step should include connecting College Hill Park with the 13-mile rail trail, a policy consistent with a safer, cleaner, stronger city. We have already begun discussions on expanding the redevelopment opportunities along the rail trail, including connecting the trail and park.
Integrating the city park into the existing rail trail will have two effects: it will increase foot traffic to one of the most visually appealing areas of the Queen City, keeping people circulating throughout Poughkeepsie after they exit the Walkway Over the Hudson. It will also open up areas on the city’s north side to walkers and bikers, re-linking our neighborhoods and the general public and restoring the grandeur of Poughkeepsie’s highest point.
Like the city which claims it, College Hill Park’s history is a story of promise, decline and resurgence. Owned first by a school then a hotel, the property was purchased in 1892 by W.W. Smith of Smith Brothers Cough Drops. Smith then donated the land to the City of Poughkeepsie to be used as a public park. A trolley which traveled up North Clinton Street made the park more accessible. Today the open space’s impressive Greek-style pavilion looks out to the Catskills, Highlands, Berkshires and Taconic ranges.
It is bordered by Morgan Lake, a 19-acre urban fishery, and adjacent to College Hill Golf Course, a terrific nine-hole golf course. Though it fell on hard times, upkeep and maintenance have been greatly improved recently through local government efforts, programs such as the Environmental Justice Community Impact Grant, and successful beatification projects like the Clarence Lown Memorial Rock Garden. The park’s comeback is worth showcasing.
Open space within the city limits is a part of Poughkeepsie’s unique character that must be preserved and cultivated. College Hill Park would be a major addition to the Dutchess Rail Trail’s 13 miles of walkable and bikeable scenery. My time as chairman of the county Legislature has taught me that the only way to turn good ideas into reality is through effective cooperation and consensus-building. We’ve already seen some tremendous projects aimed at rehabilitating College Hill Park as an open space for all city residents. Now it’s time to work together to complete its linkage to the rail trail in order to connect all city neighborhoods and showcase the Queen City’s unique character to our visitors.