International Paper (NYSE: IP), Paul Smith's College and the State of New York today celebrated the grand opening of International Paper John Dillon Park. The 200-acre wilderness park, which is expressly designed for people with disabilities, is named after retired IP chairman and PSC alumnus John T. Dillon.
The park will be maintained by the College's faculty, staff and students and is located within a working forest owned by International Paper. That land, which includes Grampus Lake and Handsome Pond, is protected by a 15,800- acre conservation easement donated by International Paper to the state and will remain undeveloped for generations to come.
The park itself is open only to people with disabilities and their families, friends and caregivers. The $3 million project melds John Dillon's long-standing desire to make the Adirondacks' beauty more accessible with Paul Smith's commitment to hands-on learning.
While many parks offer accessible restrooms and walkways, rarely are remote wilderness areas available to those with disabilities. Dillon Park's design enables people with disabilities to fully experience and enjoy the wilderness, with specially designed lean-tos, more than three miles of trails and other features. Custom-made, solar-powered battery rechargers are available for users of motorized wheelchairs, and a specially customized pontoon boat is on hand to ferry visitors around Grampus Lake. For those who want to take out their own canoes or kayaks, the docks are adapted for that as well.
Dillon, who was raised in the Adirondacks, has long supported such accessibility. "I'm incredibly honored to be here celebrating the opening of this unique park," he said. "The recreational and outdoor experiences I've had during my years living and working in the Adirondacks have had a major impact on my life. To me, the opportunity to make those types of experiences available to everyone is very exciting. I'm proud to have my name associated with a project that so perfectly illustrates the compatibility of working forests, educational pursuits and wilderness recreation."
Paul Smith's College plans to incorporate Dillon Park into its academic offerings, which include programs in Recreation, Adventure Travel and Ecotourism; Outdoor Recreation; Forest Recreation; Forestry; and Fisheries and Wildlife Science. Four students are expected to live and work at the park annually as they handle its day-to-day management, but as many as 100 students every school year are expected to use Dillon Park as a real-world training ground.
"I'm excited that the College will play a role in this spectacular place," said Dr. John Mills, president of Paul Smith's College. "It's rewarding to be able to help people with disabilities explore the natural beauty of the Adirondacks. And our students will benefit greatly, too, as they take the lessons they've learned about recreation and resource management and put them to use in the field."
With the experience they gain, Paul Smith's students will be at the forefront of understanding how to cater to the changing needs of an aging population. Disabilities affect a wide, and growing, segment of society; today, there are 54 million Americans with disabilities, according to the National Organization on Disability, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. Dillon Park is an ideal place to forge that commitment, said Michael R. Deland, the group's president.
"The opportunity to engage in outdoor recreation independently, yet in the company of friends and family, has long been a dream for many of us with disabilities," Deland said. "This is an opportunity that too long, for too many, has been denied. International Paper and Paul Smith's College are not only providing a chance for many more to experience the joy of recreation, but also are setting an example that I hope will serve as a model nationwide."
New York State's Task Force on Accessibility, through the Department of Environmental Conservation and other state agencies, seeks to expand outdoor recreational opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the state. "The Department applauds both International Paper and Paul Smith's College for working together to provide this access in an Adirondack wilderness setting," said NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan. "International Paper's generous gift will provide unique recreational opportunities while protecting the forest for future generations. International Paper's agreement with Paul Smith's College to use this site for environmental education will also ensure that our future environmental stewards learn about the importance of providing access while also protecting our land, waters and sensitive ecosystems."
International Paper John Dillon Park was dedicated in October 2005. The site is outside the Town of Long Lake. Thanks to the generosity of many donors, including the International Paper Foundation, more than half of the needed funding has been committed to construct the adaptive facilities within the park and establish an endowment through Paul Smith's College to fund its management.
Paul Smith's College, named one of America's Hottest Colleges for 2006 by the Newsweek/Kaplan College Guide, is located in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York on the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake. It encompasses 14,200 acres of forests, streams, lakes and mountains that are available for students to explore, study and enjoy. The College offers both bachelor's and associate degree programs which focus on experiential learning in a variety of majors including biology; fish and wildlife sciences; natural resources; environmental science; forestry; surveying; recreation, adventure travel and ecotourism; culinary arts and hospitality management; liberal arts; and business. For more information or to schedule a campus tour, visit http://www.paulsmiths.edu.
International Paper was founded in the Adirondacks and has contributed to the region for more than 100 years. Headquartered in the United States, International Paper has been a leader in the forest products industry since 1898. The company is currently transforming its operations to focus on its global uncoated papers and packaging businesses, which operate and serve customers in the U.S., Europe, South America and Asia. These businesses are complemented by an extensive North American merchant distribution system. International Paper is committed to environmental, economic and social sustainability, and has a long-standing policy of using no wood from endangered forests.
International Paper Company