Highland has a new railway station and it will be open for business this Friday, Aug. 24. Although it looks like a railway station, it’s really the former freight house for the George W. Pratt & Son lumberyard, which opened in 1889. That was the same year in which the Poughkeepsie/Highland railroad bridge opened, which has now been converted into a state park: the Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest elevated pedestrian walkway in the world.
“The building angles around the curvature of the tracks” that now serve pedestrians as the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, explained Ethan Jackman, who is restoring the building to resemble a passenger station. “So the trains had a railroad siding that they could pull off onto and unload their lumber.”
The renovated facility will be renting out electric scooters for those who want to enjoy the Rail Trail and the Walkway but may have a disability or injury or lack the stamina to walk the entire 1.2-mile length of the Walkway. The approximately 3,500-square-foot building is located alongside the Rail Trail and the approach to the Walkway at 8 Linwood Avenue, placing it in the epicenter of Rail Trail and Walkway non-vehicular traffic.
Jackman used to run the Vintage Village, consisting of several historic buildings that he and his company restored from the old lumberyard, including a wooden water wheel, a Victorian garden and more. Although it closed in 2009 due to the downturn in the economy, he said that he wasn’t “looking to start another business.” But after being away at his second home in Canada for some time, when he returned to Highland he was struck by “how much activity there is on this trail. It’s amazing. There can be 50 people walking, biking every half-hour. It’s a wonderful thing to see.”
He also heard from people who were elderly or had physical challenges who “would love to experience the beautiful views of the Walkway, but don’t have the ability or physical condition to do so.” Thus the electric scooter rental idea was born.
Beginning Labor Day weekend, Walkway Scooters Bicycles Inc. will be open seven days a week from morning until dusk to provide electric scooters for those who would welcome a more restful travel along the Walkway and Rail Trail. Jackman said that the business will stay open through October, and then upon reopening in the spring of 2013, will be adding “bike rentals and possibly other things like a refreshment stand.”
The site lends itself to much beauty as well as historical interest. Jackman pointed out that the lumberyard operated for 104 years, with Williams Lumber buying it for the last two years before abandoning it. “There’s a lot of history here,” he said, pointing to the original Highland passenger station diagonally across the other side of the tracks from his building, which “was often used by F. D. Roosevelt, especially when he was traveling to visit his mistress in New Jersey,” he added. “But sadly, it was torn down.” There is a picture of the original Highland passenger station in Jackman’s book Highland and the Town of Lloyd, published by Arcadia.
Jackman is the first to say that he believes that Highland is a gold mine just ready to be tapped into, with its access to the river via the Bob Shepard Highland Landing Park, now undergoing construction for a new bulkhead, boat-launch and dock, as well as the hundreds of thousands of people who are being brought to Highland because of the Walkway Over the Hudson and its link to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail. “There have been several meetings held about how to establish businesses that tie in with the Walkway. In my opinion, we don’t need more meetings or discussions; we just need more entrepreneurs,” he said.
He added that he is retired, but when he saw “so many opportunities for new enterprises in Highland and one staring me directly in the face, I couldn’t turn it down. And I think this business will only help to strengthen Lloyd and hopefully lead to many more Walkway-related businesses and the regeneration of our historic hamlet.”
To inquire about scooter rentals, call 691-4633 or stop by and visit via Rail Trail or vehicle, as Jackman has parking and a shortcut from the Rail Trail to the Village at 8 Linwood Avenue, just off Tillson and Vineyard Avenues.