When I began to formulate a plan to get more people with disabilities to the park my first thought of how we could measure our progress. This is when I came up with the “happy camper initiative“. So the next step was to define a happy camper. There are three main criteria that I thought of, someone who knows what to expect, has a fun and memorable time, and makes reservations for future seasons.

As I continue to reach out to the people who have already been to the park, I realized a whole other set of criteria. Over the past 13 years, many people have come to love everything that John Dillon Park is. It is definitely not for everyone. Generally, it’s people who already love the Adirondacks, and who already have had many outdoor adventures in its wilderness. Once someone catches that fever, it never leaves you. Sometimes life throws different things at us that change our ability to do the things that we love. I am on a mission to seek out those who will appreciate this the most. I also want to introduce new people to the park, but I think one of the best ways to do that is to explain the passion and joy that people experience already. The spirit of the happy camper.

…nature open to us up to beauty and wonder, and it also can be a healing experience, leading to self-awareness and spiritual insight…-James A. Swan “Nature As Teacher And Healer”

The happiest campers that enjoy coming to the park year after year, sometimes multiple times during the summer. They experience this level of healing and spiritual insight due to the beauty and wonder that is John Dillon Park.

For people with disabilities, this experience of healing and spiritual insight can be more difficult to get. Whether your disability is mobility impairment, visual impairment, or mental health challenges. John Dillon Park offers an experience much different from what you might find at a state campground. Many of these are accessible but they are often crowded and definitely not in the wilderness. The amenities and services at John Dillon Park are unique so that people with disabilities can be comfortable and safe in the woods. As I continue to interact with our happiest campers, I am filled with optimism that we can continue to gain new happy campers with disabilities. One of the best ways to describe the wonder and beauty that is John Dillon Park, is to let the happiest campers express the many ways that JDP can offer an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world.