It began simply enough. Find a way to give back to the local community that was meaningful to both the company and its employees. The result, though, is much more than anyone could have envisioned.
The CRH Americas Nature Trail at the Marcus Autism Center was developed and constructed — using CRH Americas Materials products of course — over a two-year period by CRH employees in partnership with the Marcus Autism Center, one of the largest autism centers in the U.S. and one of only three National Institutes of Health Autism Centers of Excellence. Nestled in 13-acres of mature hardwood forest in Atlanta, Georgia, the trail connects the Marcus Autism Center and a nearby elementary school to the surrounding residential community, with routes carefully selected to minimize the impact on the natural environment. It boasts an outdoor learning space, benches, wildlife viewing platforms and an amphitheater.
Many events are hosted at the site throughout the year, including an annual Community Day. During this popular event, which attracts more than 300 people, CRH Americas and their partners come together on the trail to showcase their work. Highlights have included scavenger hunts, butterfly releases, live animal demonstrations and educational exhibits. Children who attend are engaged through Community Day learning stations, which teaches them about the wildlife found on the trail.
Another large-scale community event held on-site is the annual Earth Day Celebration, which is centered on a different theme and community partner each year. CRH America’s partnership with the Atlanta Audubon Society was emphasized when one year’s focus was birds; when another year focused on forest restoration and invasive species removal, a partnership with Trees Atlanta was featured.
Since its inception, CRH employees have remained heavily invested in the project. Its wildlife team, which has grown from seven employees to more than 20, conducts monthly visits to the site and has spent thousands of volunteer hours working to remove invasive species, plant native plants, build a pollinator garden and construct a bird observation area. The team has also assisted other Atlanta-based companies, including Turner Broadcasting, Ernst & Young, and The Home Depot, with their own employee workdays at the trail.
“Partnerships are key to the success of the CRH Americas Materials Nature Trail at the Marcus Autism Center,” said Hillary Johnson, Community Relations Director at CRH Americas Materials. “By aligning with the right community partners, it’s a win for all parties involved. We have access to expertise that increases the impact of our project, our partners are able to further their respective missions, and the community gets to enjoy the result of these partnerships, which is this unique oasis surrounded by nature.”
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