About the

Adirondack Nature Festival
for People with Disabilities

The origins and planning committee for the Festival.

Family with child with a disability on an Adirondack nature walk.

About the Adirondack Nature Festival for People with Disabilities

A collective of dedicated volunteers, generous donors, and a caring community.

From the initial concept, the Festival has been a partnership of community members throughout the Adirondack region.

From the Festival Founder

We are nature.
We just need to remember who we are.

Seven years ago, I became a Certified Nature Therapy Guide. Developing a personal nature sensory practice was a requirement. While I have always loved being in nature hiking, skiing or gardening, it was Forest Bathing which brought me into a much more intimate relationship with nature. Using my senses made me more mindful. I found a new sense of inspiration, support and community in nature. Introducing others to the wellness practice of Forest Bathing, I witnessed again and again their healing and was touched deeply by their shared experiences.

Nature is for Everyone.

Disabilities are not always apparent. Traumatic experiences can leave us with less obvious disabilities such as social anxiety and the challenges of dealing with being triggered in what can be the most inopportune settings or with people we love. In the last few years I have come to realize that these are my disabilities, and that as I age, a mild injury that would have healed quickly can take months or more to heal. This is the human journey, and we all will experience temporary or ongoing disabilities during our lifetime.

Adirondack Lake with rock and tree on the side.
Jason Thurston in his motorized wheelchair.
Jason Thurston

In 2022, I felt compelled to explore how to make nature’s healing benefits more accessible to other people with disabilities, particularly those with mobility issues. Jason Thurston hosted our first pilot accessible Forest Bathing walk at John Dillon Park. The feedback we gathered, combined with the input from the team at Tri-Lakes Center for Independent Living on our second pilot, was invaluable. They gave me the confidence to lead accessible nature sensory programs for veterans with Homeward Bound Adirondacks, which has been so meaningful.

Along the way, I realized how challenging access to nature is for many people with disabilities. The idea of this festival started to develop. Last summer I shared it over lunch with my friend, website developer, and the founder of Accessible Adirondack Tourism, Nick Friedman. His enthusiastic response gave the project the wings it needed. We have gathered a team of talented and experienced people to refine the vision and plan this event. And the enthusiasm throughout the Adirondack region keeps growing.

I am honored to introduce our team. We donate our time to bring this important new event to life!

We welcome you to the first Adirondack Nature Festival for People with Disabilities!

Thank you for your support.


Helene Gibbens, Founder

Planning Committee Members

  • Helene Gibbens, Adirondack Riverwalking
  • Nick Friedman, Accessible Adirondack Tourism
    and Adirondack Website Design
  • Scott van Laer, Paul Smiths VIC
  • Norman Karp, SSA Benefits Planner and Advisor, Advanced ADA Trainer, and Assistive Technology Specialist
  • Bill Miller, Executive Director of Tri-Lakes Center for Independent Living
  • James “Jimmer” Hayes, Adaptive Ski Instructor, Gore Mountain
  • Glenn Mc Clure, Professor, Paul Smiths College
  • Rachel Karp, Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Micaela Hall, Adirondack Experience
  • Jason Thurston, Outreach Coordinator, International Paper-John Dillon Park