While the pandemic has been devastating for many area businesses and non-profit organizations, it has been a boon for others. Case in point: Ijams Nature Center. In particular, its Primal Playground over in the Mead’s Quarry area.
“The Primal Playground is an outdoor workout space that was heavily used during COVID,” Ijams’ Executive Director Amber Parker told a group of supporters at a special gathering on Sunday. “Green exercise creates a greater level of environmental stewardship. And you work out at a higher intensity level when you are outdoors.”
The Ijams Primal Playground is divided into three sections: Stone, Wood and Boulder Field. Each section provides different elements that can be used in a variety of ways. You can create your own workout or download an existing workout.
Here are some other exciting plans in the future for Ijams, Parker told the supporters:
- Grayson Subaru Preserve. This new 13.4-acre addition will become a cutting-edge free-play area for children. “Most children don’t get free-play in nature like we used to,” Parker explained. “This area will help people learn how to be in the woods comfortably. Children don’t need plastic play equipment. A tree and a rock are even better.” She said the goal is to have a space that allows parents to give their children a bit more freedom to roam, but with the oversight and safety considerations required by modern parents. Expect a ribbon-cutting in October.
- Diversity, equity and inclusion. “We are not seeing everybody in our community,” Parker said. So, this fall, with help from the University of Tennessee, Ijams will host a series of round-table meetings with people from all parts of the community. “Letting everybody in Knoxville experience nature is the goal,” she said.
- Better accessibility for people with disabilities. “Our accessibility stinks and we know it,” Parker acknowledged. “We are working on that.”
The vision of Ijams is that through direct experience with the outdoors, all people will appreciate and care for the natural world. To that end, residents and visitors can hike, bike, climb, play, swim, paddle and exercise in a 315-acre natural gem that is free and open from 8 a.m. until dusk. The visitor center, where you can purchase snacks, maps and gift items, is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. River Sports Outfitters, where you can rent bikes, kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, or enjoy a beverage in the beer garden, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
According to its latest annual report, which was for 2019, Ijams Nature Center hosted 160,000 visitors that year. They were from 50 states and 25 countries. Ijams is located just 3 miles from downtown Knoxville.
Here’s a sample of that bluegrass: