Neal Pit Wildlife Habitat Celebrates New Beginning Following Tornado

Feb 27, 2024 3:45 PM ET
  • Marathon Petroleum’s Neal Pit Wildlife Habitat has reopened after a tornado destroyed the popular nature reserve in Crawford County, Illinois, in the spring of 2023.
  • Employee volunteers from Marathon Petroleum’s Robinson refinery worked with members of the community to rebuild the site, which sits on 80 acres in nearby Palestine, Illinois.
  • To celebrate, Marathon hosted a Nature Day in late 2023 and welcomed visitors back to the reserve for the first time since the tornado.

An EF-3 tornado with top wind speeds of 155 miles per hour swept across Crawford County, Illinois, in March 2023, destroying Marathon Petroleum’s Neal Pit Wildlife Habitat. A year later, the habitat, which is certified through the Wildlife Habitat Council, is welcoming visitors again.

The 80-acre site operated by Marathon’s Robinson refinery was left unrecognizable after the tornado. Refinery employees volunteered and spent months putting the popular nature reserve for local schools and members of the community back together and rebuilding the structures on the property that were destroyed.

“This is such a special spot for so many in our community and beyond, so when the tornado left it in ruins, we knew we had to work quickly to ensure its future,” said Amy Macak, General Manager at the Robinson refinery. “Although the tornado’s impacts are still being felt here, seeing our employees and neighbors continue to work together to rebuild what we lost is a truly special feeling.”

At end of 2023, the refinery hosted a Nature Day for 125 students from Washington Grade School in Robinson.

“It felt so good to see so many happy faces again,” said Emily Gullett, Administrative Assistant at the Robinson refinery. “Many of these kids, like so many of us, experienced some kind of loss last year. Being able to provide some sense of normalcy and a space for them to experience nature felt good for all of us.”

Neal Pit is one of Marathon Petroleum’s 16 certified habitats, which in total covers nearly 1,000 acres. Marathon has a nearly 30-year partnership with the Wildlife Habitat Council, whose certification program is the only voluntary sustainability standard designed for broad-based biodiversity enhancement and conservation activities on corporate landholdings.