We’re overjoyed to share our latest news: this spring, Better Place Forests is expanding our presence in the Midwest and opening our seventh and newest conservation memorial forest, Better Place Forests Rock River. Located within the Rock River Valley in Oregon, Illinois, this breathtaking 60-acre forest features Midwestern woodland serenity, a diverse forest ecosystem, and a captivating viewshed position on a limestone bluff above the Rock River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. Rock River Valley is a popular recreational destination and weekend getaway for Chicago residents for fishing and boating on the river and hiking in nearby state parks.
The property is a short distance from Castle Rock State Park, White Pines Forest State Park, and Lowden State Park — which features a renowned 125-foot statue of Black Hawk that towers over the Rock River. The area is forested with beloved native tree species, including red and white oak, black walnut, shagbark and bitternut hickories, basswood, red elm, hackberry, and black cherry. The forest serves as a critical piece of contiguous, undeveloped lands along this river’s corridor, providing migratory pathways and habitats for a variety of native species. Conveniently located for residents in the central Midwest, it’s only two hours away from Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison.
Aerial view of Better Place Forests Rock River
We chose this beautiful forestland because of its high conservation value and accessibility to those in Chicago and Milwaukee. Our expansion to Illinois will allow more Americans to create a meaningful legacy while also conserving and protecting natural spaces. Better Place Forests Rock River is located within Oregon, Illinois, which boasts over 11,000 acres of state parks, city parks, and conservation areas. We are happy to be amongst good company in a city that values protected outdoor spaces.
Better Place Forests Rock River is home to over eleven diverse species of trees and wildlife. Situated along a tributary of the Mississippi River, the Rock River is home to foxes, turtles, frogs, beavers, bald eagles, and 100+ species of birds that use the river as a migratory pathway. Many eagles have been spotted flying over the forest, and a rookery of herons live across the river from our property. We couldn’t be more excited to help preserve this iconic slice of the Midwest and offer families a peaceful sanctuary to reflect and remember their loved ones.
We’re lucky to have gotten to know the former caretaker of the forest, Rick. He cared for the Rock River property for 14 years before Better Place Forests acquired the forestland. “When I found out that Better Place Forests would take over the property, I was thrilled. All of those trees could have easily been cut down and turned into farmland or developed. Knowing that Better Place Forests will conserve the land and help more people connect with the natural beauty of this unique forest makes me incredibly happy,” said Rick.
A forest steward guides guests through Better Place Forests Rock River
We’re thankful to have received widespread support from the community, including Illinois State Representative Tom Demmer. Other notable supporters of Better Place Forests Rock River include:
Kerry Leigh, the Executive Director of Natural Lands Institute, comments: “Working with Better Place Forests to secure a conservation easement on a new project in Illinois has been a pleasure, as they are so committed to the health of the ecosystem and preserving the integrity of the forest in perpetuity. We look forward to our future relationship with them as one of our Heritage LandKeepers.”
Mark Herman, the Superintendent of Education at Byron Forest Preserve, says: “It’s a beautiful piece of forest and I was impressed that Better Place Forests went in and did it right. They’ve gone in and cleaned out the invasive species, they targeted the important trees that are native to the area and they're trying to restore the land to its most natural state. Better Place Forests is a new addition to land preservation within the community which gives people the opportunity to honor their relatives along with the ability to be a part of the natural world, preserving the land and keeping it from being developed and changed forever.”
We’re proud to be a part of the Oregon, Illinois community. Once the forest opens, we’ll be hiring forest stewards, arborists, and memorial ceremony team members locally. Our local forest staff is integral to our operations and the health of our forests.
Views of Rock River from the forest
This will be Better Place Forests’ seventh forest in the U.S., and second in the Midwest. Better Place Forests has been expanding at a rapid clip to help families and loved ones across the country, particularly in communities that are enthusiastic about the Better Place Forests concept.
Co-founder and CEO Sandy Gibson comments: “Rock River is a testament to the unique biodiversity, wildlife, and open spaces of the Midwest. The Oregon community – and those in nearby major cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison – are especially passionate about conserving the land. We're glad to provide families and loved ones a way to protect these open spaces, while also giving their loved ones a beautiful, meaningful way of being remembered. The combination of conservation value, community support, and accessibility make Better Place Forests Rock River the ideal location for our newest conservation memorial forest.”
Better Place Forests is also cost-friendly and affordable. In a survey of 149 Chicago metropolitan area residents aged 45+ conducted in January 2021, we found that nearly half of respondents (44%) said cost is their main concern around end-of-life planning. Our memorial forests offer an affordable alternative to traditional burial, which costs upwards of $15,000. Instead, Better Place Forests customers can have their own tree in a private and protected forest for a fraction of the cost. Pricing starts at $4,900 and is based on multiple factors — such as location, tree type and size, and the number of ash spreading ceremonies. We’re proud to offer a range of prices for any budget — at less than half the cost of a traditional burial.
Better Place Forests Rock River plans to open for online forest tours this spring, but starting today, you can put down a $95 fully-refundable deposit to reserve your memorial tree. As an early supporter, you will get advanced access to in-person tours in the summer and fall of 2021. You will also save 20% on your chosen tree, have the first pick of trees, get invitations to exclusive events, and have your name commemorated in the forest. The first memorial ceremonies are expected to be held in 2022.
Sign up today to become an early supporter of Better Place Forests Rock River. You’ll be the first to know about exclusive offers and forest updates.
Fall foliage in Better Place Forests Rock River