Located 15 miles from Tupper Lake in upstate New York, John Dillon Park (www.paulsmiths.edu/johndillonpark/) is a fully accessible Adirondack wilderness facility. This purpose-built camp, which is the result of a partnership between International Paper and Paul Smith’s College, was designed from the ground up to be wheelchair-accessible. The vision of International Paper’s former CEO, John Dillion, the namesake park is the first facility of its kind. And the goal of is creators is simple – to make the natural landscape of the Adirondacks accessible to wheelchair-users and slow walkers. And, they did an excellent job.
Camping Adirondack Style
Located about two miles off the main road, John Dillon Park offers campers a chance to get away from the crowds and camp in an accessible Adirondack lean-to. Accessible parking is located near the Welcome Center, which features barrier-free access and plenty of room to maneuver a wheelchair or scooter inside. There’s also an accessible flush toilet (the only one in camp), and a refrigerator for medication storage. After campers register, they set-off to one of the nine accessible lean-tos on the property.
The only lean-to you can drive to — Bear Cub — is located near the Welcome Center. The others are built in pairs along an accessible trail; with the farthest ones being about 2.5 miles from the Welcome Center. A golf cart is available to help folks transport their gear, so don’t hesitate to ask if you need some assistance.
The lean-tos are open on one side, and they are all either ramped or built to an appropriate wheelchair-transfer height. They are equipped with a fold-down bed, a fire ring, an accessible picnic table and a food locker. Accessible composting toilets and potable water are also located at each lean-to site. Additionally, there’s one large accessible tent site, which is located about .04 mile from the Welcome Center. And if you happen to have a power wheelchair that needs a charge, a solar powered battery charger can be wheeled to your site upon request.
And with over three miles of accessible trails at John Dillon Park, there’s no shortage of places to explore. Add in an accessible fishing and kayak dock, and an accessible pontoon boat, and you have all the ingredients for a full fledged Adirondack adventure.
The Fine Print
There is no charge to use John Dillon Park, but it’s only open to people with disabilities and their companions. Proof of disability, such as a America the Beautiful Access Pass or a doctor’s note, is required at registration.
The maximum stay at John Dillon Park is five nights. Reservations are recommended, although walk-ins can be sometimes be accommodated on a space available basis. The park is open from late May through early September. For more information call (518) 265-2399 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations can also be made online at ipjohndillonpark.checkfront.com/reserve/.