Award-winning wildlife reserve welcomes back visitors

Community News

Catlettsburg, Kentucky, Environment, sustainability, Foundation
Local students enjoying their visit to Marathon Petroleum’s Savage Branch Wildlife Reserve in spring 2022.  

  • Following its closure in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Catlettsburg refinery’s 340-acre Savage Branch Wildlife Reserve is open again.
  • To prepare the Kentucky nature reserve for its first visitors in two years, volunteers from the Catlettsburg refinery cleared fallen trees, rebuilt flower beds, and installed animal nesting boxes.
  • Savage Branch introduces students to their natural world in a safe setting and reinforces classroom STEM lessons.

In late July, students from Ashland Independent Schools spent part of their three-day Wandering the Wild education series exploring the Savage Branch Wildlife Reserve. The summer camp connects students to science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on experiences that promote innovation and creativity. 

Savage Branch Wildlife Reserve is a 340-acre wildlife habitat in Kentucky owned and managed by the Marathon Petroleum Catlettsburg refinery. It was closed to visitors in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and welcomed back its first visitors on April 28 for Earth Day. Three schools brought a combined 125 students for a field trip to explore the reserve and learn about nature in the outdoor classroom. 

“Savage Branch provides a safe and local spot for area students to take part in STEM-related activities who otherwise might not have access,” said Catlettsburg refinery Advanced HES Environmental Professional Vernon Marcum, who also serves as a facilitator at Savage Branch. “This is a place where kids can come and experience their natural world through real life experiences. It’s for the kids. They’re the reason we do this.”

Before reopening, volunteers from the refinery’s maintenance division cleared fallen trees and debris from the walking trails; rebuilt flower beds and replenished the gravel around the upper pond. They also installed five bluebird boxes and two flying squirrel boxes, and they built a bat house.

“Our team worked really hard this spring to ready the reserve for visitors again,” said Catlettsburg Administrative Assistant Ashley Hall, who worked with Marcum to spearhead the cleanup effort. “Welcoming students back and seeing the excitement on their faces made all of our hard work to get back to this point even more worth it.” 

Savage Branch has been the recipient of multiple accolades since its 2012 opening, including the Kentucky Excel Beacon Award in 2019 for exemplary achievements in the category of education.