A visit to the Hudson Valley is wonderful at any time, but a trip this year promises to be even more exciting than usual. In addition to the region's vaunted tourism mainstays -- stunning parks, outstanding museums and historic sites, and, of course, the breathtaking Hudson River itself -- there will be dozens of special events, exhibits and performances commemorating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage of discovery on the river that bears his name.
Already underway and running throughout 2009, the festivities are wide-ranging and far-reaching, stretching from Manhattan to the Hudson's source in the Adirondack Mountains. Many celebrate the valley's Dutch culture and heritage. (Hudson's voyage was financed by the Dutch, who soon sent colonists to settle on the river's fertile shores.) Some focus on the region's first inhabitants, Native Americans, and the 19th-century paintings inspired by the valley's landscapes, which gave birth to America's first art movement -- the Hudson River School. There are festivals devoted to all things edible, from oysters and crabs to ginseng, which grows wild in Hudson Valley forests. Communities are hosting displays of historic cars and boats, re-enactments of pivotal Revolutionary War battles, a circus extravaganza and plenty of concerts, parades and fireworks. The Quadricentennial Web site features a complete calendar of activities. Hats off to Tara Sullivan, Executive Director of the NYS Quadricentennial, and incidentally my spouse, and to Joan Davidson, Chair of the Quadricentennial Commission.
Two events really stand out. For the Inaugural Hudson River Days, June 5 to 13, hundreds of watercraft -- from motorboats and naval vessels to a replica of Henry Hudson's Half Moon -- will join a flotilla sailing from New York Harbor to Albany, retracing Hudson's upriver route. Shoreline celebrations will welcome the ships when they anchor each evening. (Scenic Hudson, the organization I lead, is hosting one in the City of Beacon on Saturday, June 7; I hope to see you there.) On Saturday, October 3, the festivities will focus above the river, at the grand opening of Walkway Over the Hudson State Park, a magnificent transformation of the 120-year-old Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge into the world's tallest and longest pedestrian span, which will link more than 25 miles of trails. (You can read more about the bridge and efforts to create the park in my previous blog.)
Walkway Over the Hudson will provide an excellent Quadricentennial legacy. So will Saving the Land That Matters Most. Launched by Scenic Hudson in 2007 to commemorate Henry Hudson's voyage, it seeks to protect 65,000 acres throughout the Hudson Valley deemed by New York State to be of the highest scenic, agricultural and ecological significance. The goals of our campaign, the most ambitious land-preservation initiative in the region's history, are three-fold: To halt a rising tide of sprawling suburban development, provide new places for people to connect with and be inspired by the valley's natural beauty and guarantee a sustainable economic future for the region based in part on tourism and recreation. The lands we protect -- iconic vistas, working farms, habitat-rich wetlands and other great open spaces -- also will help mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
Photo: View of the Hudson River from Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park, N.Y. Also visible are the Catskill Mountains on the horizon, as well as Shaupeneak Ridge and other lands preserved by Scenic Hudson.
Saving the Land That Matters Most is a multi-year initiative requiring the collaboration of land trusts, all levels of government and individuals. So far, 16 other land-preservation organizations are partnered with us. Together we've already protected 3,100 acres, conserving breathtaking views from some of the valley's most popular and important historic sites -- including the homes of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and renowned painter Frederic Edwin Church -- as well as unspoiled forests, Hudson River shoreline little changed since Henry Hudson sailed past it and 1,000 acres of farmland containing some of the nation's richest soils.
One of the highlights of celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage in 1909 was the dedication of the Palisades Interstate Park, a joint effort by philanthropists and the legislatures of New York and New Jersey to stop quarrymen from destroying the awesome curtain of rock that hugs a dozen miles of the Hudson River's western shore running northward from the George Washington Bridge. Success took years and the surmounting of myriad obstacles. Saving the Land That Matters Most is no less challenging and just as critical. We owe it to future generations to permanently protect one of America's true natural and historic treasures.
Photo: The Hudson River at Sunrise, as seen from the Black Creek Forest Preserve, a Scenic Hudson park in Esopus, N.Y.
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