The group was interested in how a former industrial site, namely Ross Marble and Mead’s Quarries, could be reclaimed by nature and converted into a public use recreational hub.
I was happy to play host and tour guide. We visited all four former quarry pits, discussed the formation of the 400+ million year old limestone itself, the history of the quarrying in Knoxville and all that has been accomplished since Mead’s Quarry became part of Ijams in 2001. A lot!
From 1881 until 1978, this area was a heavily used, and no doubt loud, industrial complex. Over 30,000 cubic feet of industrial-grade limestone marketed as Tennessee Marble was being shipped by barge and railroad annually. Post 1945, the sites began producing agricultural lime with kilns being heated to 1000c. Now the location has reclaimed much of itself. Wildlife has returned.
The three-hour hike and tour included undergrad students “aiming towards a variety of environmentally-related careers, some perhaps in some sort of environmental education,” plus faculty members Dr. Doug White, Dr. Wes Dick, Dr. Sheila Lyons-Sobaski and Kim Jones.