Rev. Bowman “Bo” Townsend will step in as the Ijams Nature Center’s interim executive director while officials search for a permanent leader.

Townsend, who spent the past 10 years as a rector at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, returned to Knoxville in June.

"I'm pleased with a lot that's happened there and glad to be a part of the smooth transition into this next phase," Townsend said.

He is the former longtime executive director of the South Knoxville nature preserve.

"Ijams does a lot in terms of education and recreational opportunities," he said.

Former Ijams Nature Center Executive Director Paul James announced his resignation on Sept. 27 after 16 years with the organization. James served as the executive director for 12 years, and spent four years as development director.

“I have been proud to be the director of Ijams as it has grown significantly over the past decade into what it is today,” James said in a Sept. 27 release. “What I am most proud of has been the development of genuine and long-lasting relationships with many Ijams' donors and community members. Their support and friendship have nurtured the growth and spirit of Ijams and ensure its continued upward trajectory.”

During James’ tenure, the nature center added more than 160 acres of protected space. Ijams currently encompasses 300 acres of urban greenspace in South Knoxville.

There was also a tragedy during James’ tenure.

Gregory P. Horan of Cumming, Ga., fell from the Navitat Canopy Adventure ropes course at Ijams Nature Center in July 2015. His neck got trapped in a safety strap when he fell, and he was found hanging by his neck. Horan died days later of a heart ailment that may have been complicated by the fall, according to an autopsy.

James’ resignation was unrelated to Horan’s death, according to an Ijams Nature Center spokesperson.