Ijams Nature Center Executive Director Paul James announced Tuesday he is resigning after 16 years with the organization.

James has been the executive director at Ijams for 12 years. Prior to that, he 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 press release.

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

The Ijams Board of Directors said they will begin an immediate search for a new executive director. An interim director is expected to be announced soon.

Board Chair Kim Bumpas said James told her he was ready for a new opportunity.

"It's a time for change for him and an opportunity for growth for Ijams. Anytime you have change in a nonprofit it's an opportunity," Bumpas said.

She said the board will solidify its plan for an interim director during the next couple weeks.

Ijams Nature Center
Ijams Nature Center