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Walkway – 2013 RT champion ceremony

Fred Schaeffer Rails to Trails Conservancy Doppelt Family 2013 Rail-Trail Champion

[fgallery id=4 w=710 h=532 bg=ffffff t=0 title=”2013 RT champ”]

  During the period 1993 to 2004,the Dutchess rail trail and the Walkway seemed to fade into a wishful dream by a small handful of visonaries.Unknown to the public at this time,a rift in the Walkway OTH organization had developed between Bill Sepe, and those who had realized to make it happen would require very serious money from the government, and also corporation with.These “rebels” within the organization were led by Fred Schaeffer.In 2004 he became the chairman-of-the-board. Bill Sepe may have had the initial concept -dream, but Fred Schaeffer had the practical business plan. He had been awarded the 2009 Businessman of The Year by the local chamber of commerce for his leadership of the Walkway organization and his work on making the Walkway a reality.Fred also had a vetted interest as well. Like myself, and many other cyclists in the area, he would like to be able to one day ride across that bridge. (yes ‘Virginia’,in spite of the name,cycling is allowed on the Walkway)

east gate close up of metal artwork depicting the activitities on the Walkway

  When Fred first approached people about converting the old rusting hulk RR bridge spaning the Hudson between Poughkeepsie and Highland,into a ‘Walkway over the Hudson’ pedestrian bridge,they thought it was a wacky idea.They did not think it would atract that many people and be a major area tourist attraction generating increased revenue for the area.Fred not detered perservered.Fred began taking people onto the pre-Walkway RR bridge for private tours.Once up on the bridge and people saw the awesome view,they became a believer in Fred’s vision.One person of note that did not ‘get it’ was the director of economic development for Dutchess county.In the local paper,near the opening of the Walkway in October of 2009,quoted him as saying in regards to the Walkway “I don’t get it’.Fred would prove him,and others who did not share his vision,wrong.

  I had signed up for some time ago to upload photos of the area rail trails and to post comments and is a subset of the Rails to Trails conservancy.I therefore get ocasional e mails from RTC.A recent email from RTC informed me that Fred Schaeffer will be honored as 2013 Rail Trail champion for his efforts in making the Walkway a reality,Saturday,May 18 at 1 PM.There was a RSVP invite link.I electronicaly RSVP’d my intent on being at the ceremony.The ceremony would take place,as per the email, at the Walkway Over The Hudson state park east entrance on Parker Ave..I took the latter to be a literal statement refering to the main entrance,with parking lot,to the linear state park and historic site.

  I had planed on ariving at the east end of the Walkway about 1 hour early.This would give me time to have lunch and to take some pre-ceremony pictures.An Aids ‘walkathon’ was just ending when I arrived at the Walkway.The ‘walkathon’ people wore red T shirts.This proved to be a tad confusing as the Walkway ‘ambasadors’ wore red vests.The east end of the Walkway was awash in a sea of red.I walked to the very east end to take some pictures of the link-connector trail construction progress,or lack thereof.The construction crews these days seem to have ‘bankers hours’,9:00 AM to 3:00 PM Mo. to Fri.,and so there was no activity.I had realized it was near the time of the ceremony and had yet seen anyone official at the main entrance,such as someone with a RTC shirt,nor did I see the honoree,Fred Schaeffer.I began to walk westward and near the historic info kiosk,I saw a bespectled fellow with a RTC T shirt.I then had confirmation I had the date and time of the event correct just not the precise location.He had indicated the award ceremony would be at the east gate – pavilion area.

  At the east pavilion area there was a group of people gathering.A microphone and portable amplified loudspeaker was set up for the proceedings.The volume of the loudspeaker was set too low at first and I did not get the name of that person with the glasses and RTC T shirt who gave some opening remarks and had explained,during RTC’s 25th aniversary,25 people
were honored for their work on a particular RT or support of rail trails on a federal level in the case of one honoree,the former federal transportation secretary,Ray Lahood.After this initial 25,one person per year would be honored.This year Fred Schaeffer would be added to this list of RTC Rail-Trail champions.Bill Keating,former Walkway board member during Fred Scaeffer’s administration,talked a bit about the early days and how Fred made it all possible in spite of those that did not think it was posible.The presentation of the award was made and the deputy Dutchess county executive,Wiliam O’Neil took over the proceedings.He read a proclamation by the county exectutive,Marcus Molinaro,that today is Fred Schaeffer day.Mary O’connor,from RTC HQ in Washington DC,presented a check to the Walkway organization.
It was then the honoree’s turn at the microphone.He told of the early years and of how he got people to believe in the Walkway project by taking them for walking tours of the pre-Walkway RR bridge.He had also said that,as per his vision the,Walkway would be the link to the other trails on the old Maybrook line ROW.Indeed,just 1/4 mile to the east,the last piece of this trailway system was being built.Then Fred,the proud Grandparent held up a photo he took of his grandchildren,who were in attendance,riding their bicycles on the Walkway,or as they call it ‘Grandpa’s bridge’.

 Fred Schaeffer,in a role he is familiar with,led the group on a walking tour of ‘Grandpa’s bridge’ – AKA the Walkway, after the ceremony. Of course this is now a much safer,and less nerve racking,walk than the old RR bridge was in the pre-Walkway days.



buld it … and they will come 

over 2 million and counting …

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