Pete and Linda Claussen, long-time supporters of Ijams Nature Center, have funded the nonprofit nature center’s purchase of a one-acre inholding property on Dunn Street adjacent to Mead’s Quarry.
The land, which was privately owned and offered to Ijams as a first right of refusal, is an important addition because it connects Ijams Nature Center properties and protects the inholding from future commercial development.
“The gift of land is eternal,” Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker said. “We are so grateful that Linda and Pete recognized the importance of bringing this property under the stewardship of Ijams. Their immense generosity has created a lasting legacy for Ijams and this community, and we appreciate this and all of the other ways they have supported Ijams over the years.”
Parker said plans are to remove a derelict house that sits on the land and replace it with an outdoor education pavilion that will be used for programs as well as a rental space.
“This space allows Ijams to add a much-needed outdoor classroom without disturbing any of the natural areas within the Ijams 315-acre footprint,” she said. “The property is in a shady hollow between Tharp Trace Trail and Island Home Avenue. It’s a central but quiet location, and will be the perfect setting for an outdoor shelter for summer camps, classes and family picnics.”
The Claussens became members of Ijams Nature Center in 1999. Since that time, they have been continuous supporters of the nature center. Mrs. Claussen served two terms on the Ijams board of directors and the couple has supported to the Ijams Endowment Fund and several Ijams capital campaigns.
Nature and education are central themes of the Claussens’ philanthropic endeavors. Mr. Claussen established Gulf & Ohio Railways (G&O) in 1985 and serves as chairman. G&O owns and operates four railroads in the Southeastern United States. Mr. Claussen is the founder and chairman of the Seven Islands Foundation, which donated land to help create Seven Islands State Birding Park, Tennessee’s 56th state park. He also serves on the boards of the Legacy Parks Foundation and Zoo Knoxville.
Mrs. Claussen’s love of quilting led her to take leadership roles in her local quilt guild, the Smoky Mountain Quilters of Tennessee. She was president of the American Quilt Study Group in 1999. She founded the American Quilt Defense Fund to address the 1991 Smithsonian Quilt controversy, when the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution licensed the reproduction rights of antique quilts housed in the museum, including the iconic Harriet Powers Bible Quilt, to China. In 1993, an agreement was reached that eventually ended the Smithsonian’s plan to reproduce quilts in its collection. Instead, it entered into a contract with Cabin Creek Quilters in West Virginia to design and make quilts that were sold temporarily through the Lands’ End catalog.
Through his involvement with Mrs. Claussen’s work with the American Quilt Defense Fund, Mr. Claussen later served as a member of the Smithsonian National Board, co-chairman of the Alumni Board and member and past chairman of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
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 offers hundreds of education programs annually and 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.