The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Ijams Nature Center honors deep roots with expansion dedication

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Ijams Girls 1923 Martha Elizabeth Mary JosephineMartha, Elizabeth, Mary, and Josephine Ijams (from left) are seen in this 1923 photo. The girls were active in scouting and became accomplished naturalists early in life. Ijams Nature Center

Help give thanks across history to founders of the South Knoxville nature center and celebrate the addition of 3 acres

Cindy Hassil is a writer for Ijams Nature Center.

KNOXVILLE When H.P. and Alice Ijams purchased 20 acres of land along the Tennessee River in 1910, they couldn’t have known their family would still be contributing to the legacy that would become the 318-acre nonprofit Ijams Nature Center more than a century later. 

Ijams Nature Center will celebrate the contributions of the Ijams family and dedicate three acres of land recently donated to the nature center by H.P. and Alice’s granddaughter, Martha Kern, at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 28. The public is invited. 

Kern said the land, bordered by the Will Skelton Greenway and Ijams’ Secret Pond Trail near the Ijams Nature Preschool, will be a place for early childhood education and nature play in honor of her mother, Josephine, and her mother’s three sisters, Mary, Martha, and Elizabeth, who were the first Ijams children to explore the property. 

“Growing up at my grandparent’s house and roaming this land was a wonderful time,” Kern said. “I developed a love for nature here that has resonated throughout my life. The Ijams family is thrilled to donate this land in honor of my mother and her sisters. Knowing that children will continue to play and learn to love nature where generations of my family did makes me very proud of the legacy we have built.” 

The dedication ceremony will take place near the Miller Building at Ijams Nature Center and will include stories of growing up as an Ijams grandchild as told by George Kern, Martha’s brother, as well as a tour of the new property led by Ijams Nature Preschoolers. 

“Land is forever, and this lovely section of forest will be open to children for years to come,” Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker said. “This generous gift illustrates the Ijams family’s strong involvement and continuing commitment to this place, and recognizes how critical nature and outdoor play is to a child’s early development. It is an honor for the nature center to protect and preserve this land, which also is a gift to Knoxville and East Tennessee.”

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