Highland Landing Park; gondola project still in the works

Matt Smith stands in front of the new steel bulkhead and tour boat dock at Highland Landing Park on the Hudson River. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Matt Smith stands in front of the new steel bulkhead and tour boat dock at Highland Landing Park on the Hudson River. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The bundle of pilings that fell over recently on the side of the dock at Bob Shepard Highland Landing Park in Highland has yet to be brought upright, but that won’t affect the park’s opening in late spring or early summer, said Matt Smith, president of the Highland Landing Park Association that manages and develops the site. One of the two 60-foot-long bundles of pilings — known as “dolphins” — that were embedded into the river floor last year has fallen over and is now leaning against the other. A possible cause, said Smith, is its installation at insufficient depth in solid enough ground to hold the dolphin securely in place. Whatever the reason, Smith said he’s sure the situation will be resolved soon by the contractor, Gary Arold of Kingston. “He’s a very reputable guy and I know he’ll do the right thing.”

The bigger ships use the “dolphins” to dock because they can lay up against the pilings and be in a little deeper water, Smith said. But even a tourist ship like the Rip Van Winkle — currently in the planning stages to operate in Highland later this year — will still be able to dock at Highland Landing.


“There are some ships we’re expecting toward fall that would need to tie up to [the dolphins] if they’re going to dock at our place, but most of the boats on the Hudson can dock right up against the existing bulkhead,” Smith said. “So the piling bundle being tipped over doesn’t put us out of the tourism business.”

And even if big cranes have to come in to repair the pilings and they damage the landscape a little bit, said Smith, “we’ll just have to fix it.”


Opening for the season

The docks that were out for the winter will go back in at the end of the month and there are some improvements planned for the boat launch that opened last summer. “We need to put down a little more heavy ballast stone around the base and sides of the ramp because it’s settled for a year,” Smith said. “And we hope to have the canoe and kayak launch ramp open this spring along with the regular power boat launch ramp.”

The boat launch was “fairly heavily used” last year, Smith said, attracting a lot of people to town. “We have the only public boat launch ramp for a 32-mile stretch up the river between Kingston and Newburgh, and ours is free.”

What they’re not interested in, Smith said, is having a ship just tie up there to use the landing as their base of operations. “Then people would come down in their cars, get on the ship and leave. We want people to visit the Walkway and the restaurants and all the other things the town has to offer.”