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Ijams opens new 5-acre natural playground

This isn't your average run-of-the-mill playground. The Nature Playscape is really just a bunch of rocks, logs, and mud that make imagination part of the fun.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If you want to jump in a creek, hang out in a giant bird's nest, or make your very own muddy masterpiece, Ijams Nature Center's new Nature Playscape is now open for kids of all ages.

"Times have changed and that has made it difficult for kids to be able to have the chance to go out and free play as we call it in nature, which we know is critical for their development of cognitive skills, physical skills, social skills, all of those things," said Amber Parker, Executive Director of Ijams.

The nature center worked with Grayson Subaru, the main sponsor of the project, to turn 5 acres of land into a one-of-a-kind playground.

"If you go to a regular playground that has regular playground equipment, children know exactly how to use that, right? When you go out into the woods, it changes," said Parker. "All of a sudden imagination has to come to play."

Luckily, imagination was not in short supply for the kids who visited the Nature Playscape the first day it opened to the public Monday.

Dozens of kids climbed into the giant bird's nest, climbed through tunnels and up log steps, and weren't afraid to get a little muddy.

A giant tunnel made of lots of branches was very fun to run through, right next to some natural permanent easels where kids could paint with mud.

Ijams believes no matter where a kid lives in the city, they should always have a place to freely and safely play in the dirt.

You can access the Nature Playscape by parking in the Mead's Quarry parking lot and following the signs down a trail to the new space.

It's open every day from 8 a.m. to dusk, and like all Ijams trails it is free to the public.