If you’ve got some great ideas about the future of Ijams Nature Center or want to know more about the nonprofit’s new Nature Preschool and other programs, make plans to attend one of Ijams’ two open houses scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 7, and Tuesday, Dec. 12, from 5-7 p.m. at the Ijams Visitor Center.


The events, which are part of the public information-gathering stage of the nature center’s new strategic planning process, will help Ijams develop comprehensive goals and objectives for the next five to seven years.


“Getting public input is critical to Ijams’ future growth,” Executive Director Amber Parker said. “Ultimately, this strategic plan will be a roadmap for Ijams Nature Center as it plans new educational efforts and determines how Ijams will meet the needs of the growing East Tennessee community.


“We must fully understand what our stakeholders—the people who love Ijams Nature Center—want and need, as well as how to accomplish new goals while continuing to preserve and maintain more than 315 acres of protected land. That information will help us create a bright future for the nature center.”


People who attend one or both of the open houses will be able to talk about all aspects of Ijams, including plans to open a new nature preschool in 2018, trail use, volunteering, membership, family and adult programs, events, recreation and rentals.


“We encourage anyone who is interested in Ijams Nature Center to come out to learn about new activities and share their thoughts about how Ijams is doing,” Parker said. “The open houses will feature a variety of information stations, so if you have a particular interest, you can visit that particular table or stop by them all!”


Ijams also is conducting a brief public survey through the end of December to gather information about how people view and use the nature center. To participate in the survey, visit www.Ijams.org and select the link on the nature center’s home page.


Ijams Nature Center is a nonprofit, 315-acre educational nature center for all ages, abilities, and walks of life. Located just three miles from downtown Knoxville, Ijams features 12 miles of hiking and mixed-use trails, a public access river dock, swimming, boating, biking, and more. The Ijams grounds and trails are open every day from 8:00 a.m. until dusk. The Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.Ijams.org or call 865-577-4717.