Dutchess Tourism is committed to continuing to learn about ways we can make our destination more accessible. By communicating with local attractions, towns and businesses we can keep the conversation moving forward, and make Dutchess County inclusive for individuals with special needs and their families.
The Walkway Over the Hudson is one of Dutchess County's most trafficked destinations, which made us excited to hear about their latest initiative to make the Walkway more accessible. We chatted with Theresa Sanchez to learn more!
My name is Theresa Sanchez and I’m the Director of Programs and Visitor Services for the Friends of the Walkway nonprofit organization. I lead the volunteer Ambassador program, summer youth employment program, and our operations in the park. I also work with grantors to help bring funds and improvements to the park and coordinate the great community events like Walkway at Night, Sunrise Stroll, and our Walkway Talks lecture series that are enjoyed by thousands of people every year.
Part of our mission is to make sure that every person, regardless of limitations, has access to enjoy the Walkway. We learned through research that many people are afraid of heights, have a mobility challenge, or are simply uncomfortable walking the distance required to see our sweeping views. To assist these guests, we secured an 11-passenger, wheelchair accessible electric tram to help them across the bridge. The tram also supports special events and private tours when not making its regularly scheduled trips.
We like to say the tram is in “soft launch” mode right now. Guests can currently access a ride between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. A one-way trip takes about 25 minutes with stops at the Dutchess Welcome Center in Poughkeepsie, the elevator overlook, center overlook by the flagpole, and the Ulster Welcome Center in Highland. We hope to expand these hours shortly, and begin offering special tram tours to senior centers, veteran’s groups, and other organizations in the community.
We’re proud that the Walkway is one of the most accessible destinations in New York State, being mostly flat and entirely paved, not requiring any stairs, and now featuring our electric tram. Going the extra mile to ensure everyone can access your business or attraction is important, because a community isn’t truly inclusive unless it includes everybody.
Later this summer, we’ll host a grand opening for the East Gate Plaza in Poughkeepsie. Right now, Walkway users can take advantage of our newest space that has created an expanded pathway, more seating and shade, and a natural gathering place for our guests. Soon we’ll open the Walkway Friends Pavilion for visitors to buy snacks, sundries, and souvenirs and add audio/visual equipment to the space to host tours and events. We’re also excited to get back to hosting community events like Walkway at Night and our Walkway Talks lecture series, offering Ambassador-led tours, and hosting our signature Starry Starry Night celebration in the fall. We also invite local golfers to join us on Monday, July 19 for our first ever golf tournament! Registration is now open at walkway.org/golf.