Joan Payne

Joan Payne

Photo by Julia Cadbury

          Joan married into the Adirondacks when she wed Inlet Police Chief Dick Payne, a fifth-generation Adirondacker. They brought together one family with eight children, living in the house where Dick was raised in Inlet.

          Joan is best known for a grassroots interpretive program she co-founded with her friend, Susan Beck, in 1978. The Adirondack Discovery story begins at a meeting. The town of Inlet was looking for ways to increase tourism. The regional tourism expert said, “Inlet will never amount to anything unless it has an Enchanted Forest” (a 1950s theme park in nearby Old Forge). Sue leaned over to Joan and said, “We have an enchanted forest. Why don’t we show it to people?”

Joan Payne

Linen postcard images courtesy of Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library

          David H. Gibson, executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, said of Joan: “From the first moment, Joan had a vision of what could and would excite people about the Adirondacks. Her vision was to harness the passion and talents of Adirondack people and Adirondack experts on every imaginable topic, and recruit them to provide their knowledge free of charge to a receptive audience...She correctly assessed that if people did not understand the special qualities of their region and their park, its protection and stewardship would be short-lived. She saw how little was being done and set out to change it. In so doing, she indirectly ignited a generation of enlightened Park supporters.”

Both Sue and Joan realized that the success of their organization came about because they were not experts. They were mothers who could see what average, untrained people would be interested in learning about the Adirondacks.

          Eventually, they expanded the kinds and numbers of programs and the towns in which they were held. For the centennial of the Adirondack Park in 1992, Discovery held 100 events in 10 towns around the Park.

When you are alone in nature, with no distractions
You gain an understanding of the universe,
Of your creator and of your relationship to everything around you
You know that you are part of something unfathomable
something that encompasses the immense and the minute
Some say this makes them feel small
To me it has always seemed an amazing thing
to be a part of something so grand
with laws that always work the same
no matter who or what attempts to question them
Gravity, for instance, is gravity for you, for me or for Newton’s apple
Einstein put the physical world in perspective 
by pointing out that all matter is, after all, energy
The way people process this accounts for so many views
on existence, creation and the Creator
From the beginning, my own inner voice said: You are a part of all this.
The one who created all of this created you and will always
protect and keep you in His/Her care as long as you remember -
you and the stars and the seas and all people are one
As long as you remember how you came to be.

I learned it on my own, from the wind and the sunshine,
from the rain and the snow and the sleet.
I learned that the world God had made was good.
That small still voice had known it all along
Later, I learned it all again in Sunday school.

--- Joan Payne

Joan Payne