Yesterday, Ijams Nature Center released its Master Plan for modernizing the beloved 318 acre nature center.
“To serve the greater Knoxville area’s growing population and needs, Ijams has developed a Master Plan to modernize facilities, improve access and safety for all people, and create new facilities to support increased usage – all while working within existing developed footprints to limit impact on natural areas.”
Parking lot improvements are underway now. Work on the Island Home Ave. corridor will start this summer.
A new operations building will be constructed.
A new Homesite Pavilion is planned to accommodate more events and outdoor entertaining.
The Visitor Center will benefit from significant renovations inside and out.
An elevated and accessible canopy walkway will allow all visitors to move through treetops.
Improved facilities and parking at Meads Quarry
The plan includes two other changes you need to know. Historically, parking at Ijams has been free, as has walking the trails, swimming in the quarry, using the park for photos, etc. Visiting the park will remain free, but beginning on Feb 19, parking will now cost nonmembers $5 per vehicle to park for the day. You can pay via a QR code in the parking lot or go inside the visitor’s center to do so.
“Ijams is a nonprofit nature center,” Ijams Board President Andy Oakes said. “While we have a wonderful and close working relationship with our City and County Parks, only 9% of our annual operating budget comes from government funds. Ijams relies on community support, memberships, donations, and grants to hire staff and maintain our programs, facilities, and trails.”
Membership levels also take on a change, and new perks come with that change. Everyone in the community is invited to become a member. Memberships start as low as $10 for those who financially qualify, $35 for students, $50 for military and seniors and $75 for families. These levels will give you:
Discounts on Nature Adventure Day Camps and Birthday Party Adventures
In addition to the other things to come, the second phase of the Ijams Nature Playscape play area has a new trail. Staff and volunteers have removed many invasive plants to open up the area. Six of the fourteen acres have already been cleared and are in use for the playscape, and now this will open more of that space for children and children at heart to play. They will begin planning the new elements for this natural playground extension soon.
Amber Parker, President and CEO at Ijams, tells me this is a legacy project for her and her team and the present board. “This will make Ijams sustainable for decades to come.” The project will change the scope of the services offered at Ijams and truly take it to a world-class level to be enjoyed by generations. Ross/Fowler is the landscape architect, and McCarty Holsape McCarty is the architect for the project. They expect it to take 3-5 years to complete all phases.