“A lot of Highland was developed around the railroad industry, so there are many old coal factories, industrial buildings that are now vacant and underutilized. If properly zoned and marketed, the Highland Gateway to the Walkway could extend the success and patronage of the Walkway to various shops, museums, restaurants, cultural institutions. It’s all there; it just needs some visioning and energy to make it happen.”
Anzevino pointed out that the Walkway was more successful than had been anticipated in a very short time. “It has had more than one million visitors since it opened, $24 million in directly related sales, 383 annual jobs created and $9.4 million in annual wages.”
People are coming up with just their bikes or walking shoes, but after a certain time, they hit Route 9W. Anzevino pointed to a slideshow of other areas that were similar in their post-industrial state and showed how they improved their hamlets and revitalized them via zoning, marketing and planning. He also focused on New York City’s High Line Park and how successful that has become, with properties within a few square blocks of it having their values increase by 103 percent.
“In the 1960s, when the trains were dying out, we started developing around the automobile more and more,” said Anzevino. “Now we realize that communities that are more walkable and bikable have greater property values and tax bases, and people want to live there and open businesses there.”
Planner Ted Fink helped to divide those in attendance into various groups to brainstorm what they would like to see to improve the immediate Gateway and other zones like the 9W corridor and Vineyard Avenue. There was no shortage of ideas pouring forth. Some of these included planting more trees along Route 9W; having sculpture art and “pocket parks” throughout the hamlet and 9W; considering mixed-use zoning along Route 9W to make it a more sustainable, livable zone rather than a high-speed, strip-mall-style zone; having murals on buildings to create a greater artistic and aesthetic value; and turning some of the abandoned buildings into hands-on types of businesses like an interactive train museum or a glass-blowing shop.
Others focused on ways to ensure that visitors could get beyond the Walkway and thought about asking Ulster County Area Transit to run a Walkway/Gateway community loop that could take people from the Walkway to the surrounding communities and hamlets to eat, shop, walk and enjoy what they had to offer.
Another Lloyd resident brought up the idea of having a Visitors’ Center for people to stop and get information on what Highland and the surrounding communities have to offer.
“People come here for the Walkway, but we want them to stay longer, go into Lloyd and Poughkeepsie, get on these interconnected rail trails, visit all of our region’s wineries and farmstands and nature preserves and historic sites and museums. That’s part of the branding and marketing we’re working towards with your input and cooperation,” said Fink.
One example of this joint branding effort was the July 4 fireworks celebration launched from a barge in the Hudson River that was jointly sponsored by the City of Poughkeepsie, the Walkway and the Town of Lloyd. “Think how much more we could do — but that’s a perfect example,” said Anzevino.