Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park
Created to ferry rail cars across the Hudson, this man-made peninsula now connects people to the river’s power and majesty.
The new kayak pavilion at Long Dock Parkphoto: Robert Rodriguez, Jr.
After nearly a year of construction, Long Dock Park reopened to the public on July 9, 2011.
A critical 19th-century transportation link between New England and points west, Long Dock once contained a rail ferry terminal, warehouses and other buildings. More recently, it was home to an oil terminal, salt-storage facility and junkyard. All traces of its commercial and industrial past have been removed to create an exciting riverfront destination boasting a kayak pavilion and beach for launching boats, rehabilitated wetlands and meadows that attract wildlife, and the restored, historic Red Barn, now Scenic Hudson’s River Center for arts and environmental-education activities.
One of the most popular attractions in the park, at Long Dock’s tip, is Beacon Point Project, a shoreline installation by renowned artist George Trakas. The work projects out over the river (at high tide, water actually flows through it), making this a perfect place to fish, sunbathe and admire magnificent vistas of Newburgh Bay and the Hudson Highlands.
A historic barn at Long Dock Park has been transformed into the Scenic Hudson River Center, offering arts and environmental education programs.photo: Robert Rodriguez, Jr.
Long Dock Park: Tour Notes
Starting at the top of Long Dock Road, overlooking the site
Scenic Hudson’s goal for Long Dock Park was to create an exciting addition to Beacon’s vibrant waterfront zone that includes Dia:Beacon, the Beacon Sloop Club, the Beacon-Newburgh Ferry and Metro-North Station, the city’s Riverfront Park, the Klara Sauer Trail and the Beacon Institute.
Scenic Hudson has faced rough weather and the challenges of creating features that make the park a nationally recognized example of sustainable landscape design. You’ll notice that grass still needs to grow in and some finishing touches require a bit more time to complete.
The 16 acres of parkland used to be under the Hudson River.
In the early 19th century, the shoreline was located approximately where the railroad tracks are now. In the mid-1800s, the state encouraged property owners to fill in areas for ferry landings and other commercial activities.
The shape of Long Dock Park is a result of this filling in and the need for trains to make a wide turn on their way to being loaded onto massive ferries to be shipped across the river. Imagine a train coming up from New York City and the sweeping bend it would need to make…that is the shape of Long Dock. For a brief time—before the opening of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge—Long Dock’s rail ferry was a vital transportation link between New England and points west.
The river continued to be filled in here up to the mid-20th century. After that, Long Dock served a variety of uses. Its southern portion was a storage site for salt and sand. A major oil storage facility was located in the middle, while a junkyard surrounded the red barn. Anything was accepted for fill without regulation—including industrial waste. As a result, when Scenic Hudson purchased the property it was considered a brownfield, containing high levels of certain metals such as arsenic, lead and selenium.
Scenic Hudson remediated all public park areas through a process approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The worst contamination was removed to depths ranging from four to eight feet and replaced with clean fill. Any of the less polluted soils that remain were buried beneath two feet of clean fill.
The property to the south had been filled with concrete slabs from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge when it was re-decked several decades ago. We removed tons of unusable slabs while salvaging many to create parking spaces and a patio area near the kayak pavilion.
Scenic Hudson’s River Center, the red barn
This structure was built in the 1860s for manufacturing and storing Slug Shot, an insecticide once popular with gardeners around the world. When Scenic Hudson acquired the property, the community encouraged us to keep the building for its historic presence in the community. Scenic Hudson stabilized the barn and has renovated it as a “green building.” We’ve transformed it into a community center, with the award-winning organization Mill Street Loft as its tenant, offering arts education programming. Scenic Hudson also will utilize the building for environmental-education programs and other activities.
We kept as much of the original structure as possible, including the exposed post and beams throughout the building and the exposed ceiling on the ground floor.
We are on track to have the finished River Center receive a Gold rating according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design—or LEED—rating system, which is the standard for sustainable construction used by developers and municipalities nationwide.
Among the River Center’s “green” features:
- The walls are formaldehyde-free, forest-certified plywood finished with a no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) finish.
- The floors are rubber.
- The building is highly insulated to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter using less energy than a standard building.
- The heating/cooling system includes a highly efficient heat pump and uses ambient air temperature to heat and cool the structure. The building also has an attic fan to utilize cool river air rather than air conditioning when possible.
- Occupancy sensors turn lights off when rooms are not occupied.
- The deck framing is made of Timbersil—yellow pine boards impregnated with glass—which prevents the wood cells from being consumed by fungus and bugs. The decking is made of cumaru, a sustainably harvested wood from Peru certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
- The building consists of three main public areas—on the ground-floor space for exhibitions and gatherings, and upstairs two classrooms. Doors on sliders throughout the building allow for the adjustment of space according to specific programming needs.
There also is an office for Mill Street Loft as well as studio space for a local artist, Rick Price, who serves as the building’s caretaker.
City-owned property was historically fenced off from the Long Dock park property. This barrier now has been removed. The area to the west that remains fenced in has not been remediated. Its cleanup was to be undertaken in conjunction with a planned hotel/conference center. When the economy collapsed in fall 2008, the developers lost their construction loan. They now are working to secure financing to move ahead with the project.
Invasive species remediation
Invasive species abhor a vacuum and flourish in disturbed habitats such as brownfields. Extensive work has been undertaken at Long Dock Park to remove them. In some areas, we had to resort to herbicides to get rid of especially aggressive species such as Japanese Knotweed, Mugwort, Phragmites (Common Reed) and Garlic Mustard. Elsewhere plants have been eradicated by hand.
We hope that the long-term, multi-layer approach we are taking will keep invasives at bay and encourage native species we are planting to re-establish themselves. Opportunities will be available for volunteers to help monitor the plantings.
As noted earlier, the parking spaces were created from reused slabs from the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. Handicapped accessible spaces were created with “ecopavers” that allow for better drainage and less surface run-off.
The “rain gardens” or “water quality basins” provide a “green” method of filtering surface water run-off. They will be filled with native wetland plants that thrive on nutrients from the run-off while removing pollutants that otherwise would reach the river.
The berms along the parking area prevent people from driving into the park and also limit the visibility of cars from the rest of the park and from the river.
The kayak pavilion
This site once was filled with trees struggling to grow amongst castaway bridge pavers and overrun poison ivy. The area was cleared, new gravel was laid down and regraded into the bay area, and a kayak pavilion was built.
The pavilion’s wood decking also is framed with “Timbersil” and clad with cumaru, which will age to a silky gray patina.
We are proud to announce that Mountain Tops in Beacon will be the local kayak concession operating out of the pavilion. They will run tours and offer kayaks for rent. There also are 45 spaces that people can rent to store their own kayak or canoe. Scenic Hudson instituted a lottery to fill these spaces. Information about this can be found on our website.
Areas surrounding the kayak pavilion were created to be handicapped accessible.
There is NO swimming allowed at this site or anywhere in the park. This is a former industrial site and there are unknown objects beneath the surface. In addition, tides, currents and boats make swimming hazardous.
Just as buildings have LEED certification standards, the American Society of Landscape Architects, U.S. Botantical Gardens and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center have partnered to create a pilot program for sustainable landscapes. This program is called the Sustainable Sites Initiative, or simply SITES. Long Dock Park is a SITES pilot-program participant—one of only 150 across the country. SITES evaluates how sustainably a landscape is built and managed. Sustainable practices examined include brownfield remediation, managing stormwater on site, using native plantings and the innovative re-use of materials found on site. Scenic Hudson integrates such features into all of our parks and preserves.
Peter J. Sharp Park and George Trakas sculpture to be added to DIA:Beacon’s permanent collection
This park within a park was named for entrepreneur Peter Jay Sharp, an avid supporter of the arts. Generous support for its creation was provided by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation.
The park contains George Trakas’s environmental sculpture, Beacon Point Project. It is made of steel and wood decks, pathways and stairways that lead to the water. It makes the dramatic point—located at the tip of Long Dock Beacon—accessible to the public. The work’s stepped forms interact with tides, river currents and waves, creating the sounds of cascading water while providing stunning views of the Hudson Highlands. The work also includes a terraced angling deck and a new boardwalk popular for fishing and crabbing.
The paths and hills
The paths throughout the park are stabilized stone dust. They connect with the Klara Sauer Trail, named after Scenic Hudson’s former executive director, which leads to Denning’s Point State Park, home of the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries. The shape of the paths is meant to evoke the historical use of the landscape—the flow and curvature of the train tacks that once traversed this area and led out to the point.
The park was designed with benches, paths and berms to create smaller, more intimate “rooms” within the larger 16-acre landscape. The berms also create visual interest and will mitigate flooding.
Environmental Learning Area
This space with its incredible river views and wetland overlook will be used to gather school groups and host small events. From here, we can access the Hudson River, introduce lessons or performances, share topics about the estuary and watershed area, or take a moment to enjoy the view.
After extensive removal of trash, debris and invasive plant species, we have reconstructed and rehabilitated the tidal wetland areas on the Long Dock Park property.
Special soils have been brought in to adjust with tidal fluctuations. In the fall, these areas will be planted with native wetland plant species. Tidal wetland areas are fragile habitats. We ask visitors to assist us in protecting them by leaving them intact and undisturbed.
Scenic Hudson is looking for volunteers to help maintain the mark, as well as businesses or individuals to provide financing toward its ongoing stewardship. If you’re interested in either of these opportunities, stop by the Scenic Hudson table (located by the kayak pavilion) to sign up to receive additional information.