I’m writing this update so I can share with everyone all the things we’ve done since you showed your support and interest in Better Place Forests. From finding the land for our first forest and working with local authorities to having more than eight hundred families from the Bay Area choose to create tree memorials with us, it has been a busy six months.
Where We Started
For those that don't remember our last update, we started the year with a firm list of milestones we needed to achieve and the passion and drive to achieve them. We needed to:
- Find the perfect land for our first forest.
- Find a county in California that supported and believed in our vision to create a forest cemetery.
- Start connecting with our first customers and early supporters.
With these goals in mind, we’ve been working non-stop to bring Better Place Forests to the world.
Redwoods with a View of the Ocean
We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find a forest location that would be suitable to launch Better Place Forests. It would need to embody everything we wanted visitors to feel – peaceful, beautiful, natural, and inspiring.
In addition, it would have to be accessible for all visitors and have a pre-existing layout that would accommodate our visitors’ needs. We saw a number of properties but there was one in particular that stood out from the very start. It was a second growth redwood forest in Mendocino County that was previously used for logging. For those that don’t know about Mendocino County, it’s a largely rural area that’s known for its rugged coastline and redwoods. By reputation alone, we knew it was an area that we wanted to explore for the first Better Place forest cemetery.
When you walk into the site, you are greeted by a sloping meadow bordered by towering trees that stand over a hundred feet tall. Elevated and just a little over a mile from the Pacific Ocean, the view is breathtakingly pristine and undeveloped, with a majestic forest that continues right up to the foot of the rocky cliffs that line the coast. The first time that I stood there I felt that warm feeling you feel when you’re alone in nature and at peace. It seemed really promising.
I had never been in a redwood forest before and had never even seen a redwood in person. My mom had also never seen a redwood and asked me to send her a photo of one up close. I sent her the photo I used for the cover of this post.
One of my first discoveries in the forest was the sound. As I was walking down one of the main paths for the first time, surrounded by these massive redwoods, pines and firs, I could hear the sound of the waves and the ocean breeze rolling through the leaves. I could have sat there for hours with my thoughts.
I understood immediately why my colleague, Jamie, who originally found the property, was so taken by it.
Making Sure We Weren’t Crazy
One of the reasons we’ve been excited about Better Place Forests is that many people that we’ve spoken with about it are immediately intrigued. The concept is easy to understand because most people are delighted to imagine their favorite place in nature and how they feel when they’re standing there.
When I tell people it’s a redwood forest with a great view of the ocean, I know what that means to anyone who has experienced a peaceful setting in a natural setting surrounded by trees and looking at water. There is something naturally meditative about it which is why we think it is the perfect setting to remember your friends and family.
Since we were confident we had found the right place, it was time to start to tell people in the Bay Area.
We had decided previously that the best way to let people in the Bay Area know about Better Place Forests was with Facebook advertising. We created some informational landing pages where people could give us their email address to learn more. This way we could begin a dialogue with the people for whom we want to create and protect this forest.
We started getting signups immediately and people were very responsive about talking about why they would want to choose Better Place Forests over their alternatives. (Thank you to everyone who signed up this summer!)
Once we saw that people were interested in learning more, we created a second page where once you inquired about more information, you could make a no-commitment reservation for your family memorial and choose which option you would like.
I can’t tell you how excited we were on May 26th when the first person made a reservation for his entire family.
We have continued to offer the chance to make reservations and I couldn’t be more to proud to say that more than seven hundred families have already chosen tree memorials and joined Better Place Forests in protecting an iconic American wilderness landscape in Mendocino County forever.
Securing the Land, Taking Photos and Creating Initial Designs
Finding a suitable forest to create our first forest cemetery was a huge milestone and thankfully the owners were incredibly kind people who saw and believed in the vision behind Better Place Forests.
One of the ideas that connected us was that our plan to protect and maintain the forest forever.
The first step to realizing our vision was to create initial renderings for our landscape design and to hire a professional photographer to capture the forest over a few days. Although photos can’t capture exactly what it feels like to walk through the forest, we loved the photos that came back.
It was then time to work with our incredibly talented landscape architect to create a high-level site plan and some renderings to share some of the moments that will unfold in the forest. We wanted to capture a couple of scenes that we envision happening all the time: sitting on a bench in the meadow, visiting a family tree, and gathering in the forest for a ceremony.
This was important for us because we need to be able to communicate the scenes and emotions that go into an incredible visitor experience.
We think these renderings capture those feelings perfectly and we can’t wait to produce more.
Creating Real Family Memorials in our Design Phase
With the site determined and the initial design work underway, we wanted to offer discounted pricing to anyone who was sure that Better Place Forests was the memorial they wanted for themselves and their family. Given that this was such an important, personal decision and the forest was not yet officially open, we decided to create a special offer to anyone who wished to choose their memorial early:
- $250 deposit required with payment plans starting only when you choose your tree
- No questions asked refunds at any time
- First choice of tree in a first-come, first-served order
We sent out a series of emails explaining the offer for those who wanted to choose their memorial at the discounted price and we’ve been overwhelmed ever since.
What has been so amazing from our perspective is the feedback we receive when people have chosen their memorial. We know choosing a family memorial is a stressful decision. We didn’t quite understand just how relieved and happy people would be when they’ve chosen something that reflects their interests and values. Every time someone tells us that Better Place Forests provides the exact type of memorial they want for their family, it makes all the hard work worth it.
Next Steps for Better Place Forests
All of our efforts at Better Place Forests head office are dedicated to creating an incredible visitor experience and opening the forest. As soon as we finalize our designs, we’re going to start booking site visits so that anyone interested can join us to walk through the forest and decide whether a family tree memorial is right for them.
For those that have already put down a deposit on their tree memorial or will do so in our design phase, we will invite you to the forest before the public so you can have your first choice of tree.
In the meantime there’s a lot of work to be done and we couldn’t be more excited to roll up our sleeves and open our first forest in Mendocino County. We’ll be staying in touch much more often now so you’ll hear from us again soon!