Greenways come in all shapes and sizes from rail trails to river corridors to comprehensive systems encompassing whole landscapes like the Hudson River valley landscape.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway was established by the State to do it all from developing traditional trails to facilitating the development of a regional strategy for preserving the scenic, natural, historic, cultural and recreational resources of the Valley while encouraging compatible economic development initiatives.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway geographic area from Saratoga and Washington counties in the north to the city of New York includes 321 municipalities in 14 counties. The Greenway also serves as the management entity for the congressionally designated Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. Much of what is called “Tech Valley” is within the Greenway.
Now more than ever Hudson Valley communities are approaching a consensus surrounding the issues of intermunicipal cooperation and the need to take proactive steps to balance growth and development with preservation of natural and cultural resources. Over 80% of the communities within the designated Greenway area have passed resolutions in support of being a part of the formation of a voluntary regional compact.
The Greenway legislation establishes a “bottom-up” approach that facilitates grassroots cooperation among municipalities through a self-determined course of action. The Greenway Compact process strikes a balance between regional coordination and the traditional local land use control powers that New York State communities enjoy. While participation in the Greenway Compact is voluntary, it provides the mechanism for communities to share common values, and serves as the conduit for dialogue not only between local governments, but also between local, county and state governments.
In order to implement the Compact, the Greenway provides technical assistance and grants to encourage municipalities to make regional connections through projects that reinforce the 5 Greenway Criteria of Natural and Cultural Resource Protection; Heritage and Environmental Education; Regional Planning; Economic Development; and Public Access.
Dutchess County developed the first model Greenway Compact in 2000, which serves as the benchmark for compact planning. Dutchess County’s Compact, Greenway Connections, has translated into numerous intermunicipal partnerships and projects, and has served as a guide for the coordination of county and local government priorities. All of the communities in Dutchess have adopted the Compact and more than half have undertaken Greenway-related revisions of comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances. See if your Greenway community is participating in this planning program.
Complementing its regional planning focus, the Greenway was also established to create a Greenway Trail System that runs along both sides of the Hudson River from the Capital District to New York City. This diverse network of trails links important cultural and historic sites, parks, open spaces and community “downtowns” and also provides public access to the Hudson River. The Greenway Trail includes over 250 miles of designated Riverside Trails.
In addition to the land trail system, the Greenway also works to further develop an innovative Hudson River Greenway Water Trail. Water trails are recreational waterways that contain access points, campsites, and day use sites. The Greenway Water Trail program seeks to designate canoe/kayak access points at least every ten miles on each bank of the Hudson River. Stretching from Saratoga County to Manhattan, the 256 mile long Greenway Water Trail today includes 91 public access sites.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway is also the management entity for the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. Designated by Congress in 1996, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area [HRVNHA] was created to recognize the importance of the significant historic, cultural and natural resources of the Hudson River Valley to the nation. A National Heritage Area is a region designated by the United States Congress in which residents, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governments join together to preserve and promote their heritage, culture, and natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.
The primary themes of the HRVNHA are Freedom and Dignity, Nature and Culture and Corridor of Commerce. Currently, some of the HRVNHA heritage programs include Revolutionary War Trails; trails through the landscapes painted by the artists of the Hudson River School; and sites interpreting technological and industrial innovation such as steamboats, foundries, mills and lighthouses. Over 90 “Heritage Sites” are affiliated partners of the HRVNHA. These sites include State Historic Sites, National Historic Landmarks, National Park Service sites and many not-for-profit managed sites. For more information about the National Heritage Area visit www.hudsonrivervalley.com.
To promote awareness and enjoyment of the resources of the Hudson River Valley, the Greenway with the HRVNHA sponsor an array of events and programs each year including:
The Hudson River Valley Ramble annually highlights the scenic, natural, cultural and historic resources that earned the region its designation as a National Heritage Area. The event series, listed on www.hudsonrivervalley.com/ramble, offers more than 200 guided outdoor experiences which allow for exploration of the vast riches of the National Heritage Area.
The Great Champlain-Hudson Paddle. The Great Hudson River Paddle is a 14 day event celebrating the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail, the improvement of public access to the Hudson River, and the diversity and heritage of the riverside communities of the Hudson River Valley. The celebration includes an 194 mile paddle from Ft. Edward to Manhattan and a series of festivals showcasing local cultural demonstrations, kayaking skills, information booths, and natural resource programs. www.hudsongreenway.state.ny.us/ghrp.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway and National Heritage Area provide an awesome opportunity to recognize the unique values of the great River and its landscape including that portion that was the focus of the internationally known Hudson River School of Art in the 19th century and make these values a greater part of the communities and lives of the people lucky enough to reside therein.