In community relations, sustainability, tennessee

RGI Sales Representative Angie Thurman went to a Tennessee Concrete Association mid-year meeting and walked out with a big idea. After hearing an environmental presentation about biodiversity at ready mix and concrete facilities, she learned that only two aggregate companies in the entire United States partnered with the Wildlife Habitat Council and built pollinator gardens. Pollinator gardens are designed with specific nectar- and pollen-producing plants that attract pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. She knew it would be a great opportunity for RGI, not only as an environmental project, but also to demonstrate RGI’s commitment to the environment and the community.

“I think (this project) is a great way to get the community involved,” Angie said. “The day we planted the beds, students and teachers from East Robertson High School (ERHS) and the biologists all were very involved. Community perception of quarries are often misconstrued, and this is a great way to show them we care, and that RGI places a very high value on the environment and our community. Getting schools involved reached far beyond the students to teachers and parents as well. Everyone who helped was very engaged in the project and very thankful for the opportunity. They plan to help again when we expand the bed next spring.”

Ten students from ERHS and their teachers participated in the project. They were also given commemorative T-shirts, biodiversity handouts, sack lunches and a quarry tour. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists Emily Grandstaff and Todd Shaw were on site and gave a detailed class to the students on Monarchs and other pollinators and the native plants we chose for the project.

Angie hopes this pollinator will draw some attention to the plight of this particular butterfly.

“Endangered species like lions, elephants, and porpoises grab everybody’s attention, but the decreasing population of Monarch was only very recently noticed,” she said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service disclosed that in the past few years, billions of Monarch butterflies have vanished. They are not on the endangered species list as of yet, but because of herbicides and diminishing natural habitat there has been a huge loss in the number of them. I realize that our small garden is very small, but I think any little bit can help a species that is nearing the endangered status.”

The pollinator meets the criteria to apply for a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat as well as the Wildlife Habitat Council Certification. There are plans to enter the project in their annual awards in the pollinator category.

Van Medlock, Director of Environmental Services, thoroughly enjoyed being part of the project.

“I witnessed firsthand what it means to engage with our community and give back no matter the scale, and to be appreciated,” he said. “Hats off to Angie and Johnny [Plant Manager Johnny Farley] for proposing and following through with this project. I was glad to be able to participate.”

Farley saw a great opportunity and a lot of effort go into the pollinator at his plant.

“When Angie first proposed the project to me in the spring of 2018, I knew that this was something that we could use not only to create a natural habitat for a potential endangered species, but also to provide the opportunity to join hands with the community and complete the project together,” he said. “Although it took longer to complete than expected, the Cross Plains Pollinator Project was definitely a success on all levels, and I was certainly proud to be a part of it.”

Written by Jeff Bardel, Freelance Journalist

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