The International Paper Company was once the largest single landowner within the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park. In 1995 they were interested in transferring approximately 275,000 acres to the state of New York in the form of a conservation easement. In the process, there were 14 lake properties that were considered important to protect from development.

A group of respected conservationists, International Paper employees, representatives from the DEC, and individuals representing the surrounding communities was formed. These conservationists, employees, representatives, and locals would meet several times to decide the best course of action for these properties. From the meetings with those groups of individuals came the ideas to create an area and facility to derive a wilderness experience. They were particularly interested in the Grampus Lake location, primarily due to its proximity to the road and the Town of Long Lake.

In 1998 there was a lawsuit filed against the State of New York, for not providing enough access to wilderness areas; in 2001 the plaintiffs won. This set in motion many programs to increase, and continue offering, accommodations and opportunities for individuals with functional differences. Meanwhile, Tim Barnet, the President of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and member of the lakes committee, was on vacation in the former Soviet Union and fell off a horse. Tim incurred a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed, becoming a wheelchair user. This combination of events led to the plan to make the park a place for people with functional differences.

It would be several years later in 2003 that John Dillon would announce his retirement from the International Paper Company. John had worked his way up to CEO and President of the International Paper Company; under his leadership and guidance John made many changes to improve International Paper Company. Thus, the International Paper Company sought to dedicate something in his honor. This location, on Grampus Lake and Handsome Pond as well as the idea for the park was a perfect fit.

Since the location was chosen before it was decided to be accessible, it is much more remote than it otherwise would be. Typically, when creating opportunities for people with functional differences the location is chosen based on what is easier to get to.

“They don’t put the accessible fishing docks where the fish are.”


This is what makes International Paper John Dillon Park the truly remote wilderness experience that it is, and what makes International Paper John Dillion Park unique among other accessible outdoor opportunities.