“When Walkway Over the Hudson opened in 2009, we knew that it would attract a lot of people, but we had no idea how wildly successful it would be,” says Jeffrey Anzevino, director of land use advocacy for Scenic Hudson. “But at the time, everyone was focused on converting the abandoned bridge into a park, and there really was not a coordinated effort to figure out how to make sure that the people who come to use the park know what else there is to do in Poughkeepsie and Highland.”
Now that the Walkway is assured of visitors — some 700,000 individuals last year, according to Anzevino — there is a concerted effort being made to bring those coming to the Walkway into the local towns to eat, shop and support local businesses. “We want to make sure that people don’t just walk back and forth [on the Walkway], get in their cars and go home,” he says.
So a strategy has been developed to “brand” the entire region surrounding the Walkway as a recognizable destination.
“We know that most people spend between an hour and two hours on the Walkway, and based on people signing into the Walkway guest book, we know that many of the visitors come from at least 50 miles away,” says Anzevino, adding that all 50 states and many other countries, too, are represented in the guest books. “Those visitors who are spending an hour or two or three to get here, and another hour or two on the Walkway, will want to know what else there is for them to do in the area once they’re here.”
And of course, our economy will benefit if those visitors spend their tourist dollars in our communities.
Scenic Hudson — which according to Anzevino invested $1 million in the development of Walkway Over the Hudson — is involved in the branding project not only to protect their investment, he says, but because they believe in the value of environmental and economic development organizations, municipalities, counties, businesses and other organizations cooperating on a program designed to boost the economy based on tourism, history and recreation.
So they gathered a large group of stakeholders from the region and with the help of a grant from the Dyson Corporation, a committee was put together and consulting firm Vox, Inc. was hired to develop a brand, logo, tagline and strategic communications plan.
“Through a series of focus groups held in New York City and up on the Walkway, involving people that either planned a trip to the Hudson Valley or were here, we identified the things that people found instrumental in drawing them here,” says Anzevino. “These things were: the Hudson River, the food culture we have here in the farm-to-table movement, history, trails and recreation, quaint villages and urban places.”
It was decided to brand the region as the “Greater Walkway Region” with the tagline, “360 Degrees of Discovery.”
The Greater Walkway Region is a fairly condensed area, says Anzevino, covering most of the City of Poughkeepsie and much of Highland, along with some of the town of Lloyd. The designation does not include the National Park sites in Hyde Park, for example, or extend as far down as Marlboro, he says. “It’s intended to identify a place that people can walk to or bike to easily from the Walkway.”
The first phase of the project has been the design of a series of three types of signs.
Regional Gateway signs are intended to orient visitors to the area. The signs will be located in places where visitors to Poughkeepsie and Highland first arrive: Metro North’s Poughkeepsie station, the Walkway elevator, Walkway entrances, Rail Trails, Highland Landing Park and Shadows Marina. There will be eight signs in Poughkeepsie and five in Highland. The signs are six feet by four feet in size and prominently feature the Greater Walkway Region map.