First Memorial Forest on East Coast Is Coming to Connecticut

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A California company that aims to protect forests while inspiring people to leave a meaningful legacy for loved ones is coming to Connecticut.  

Sandy Gibson, the CEO of Better Place Forests, knows firsthand the importance of having a beautiful, memorable resting place for loved ones. Sandy’s father died unexpectedly from a stroke when he was just 10 years old and when he was 11 he lost his mother to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

"I spent the rest of my life going back to their grave and that creates a memory. It was never a place I wanted to remember them, it was never the image I want to think of when I think of my mom,” Gibson said. "Better Place Forests is a way that we can create that beautiful memory and that beautiful place for other families to choose."

According to Better Place Forests, 80 percent of baby boomers are expected to choose cremation but they’re not pre-purchasing plots in traditional cemeteries.

"Instead of graves and tombstones, your final resting place is to have your ashes mixed with local soil and placed beneath a family tree,” Gibson said. "By choosing that family tree, you are helping to permanently protect and purchase that land forever."

That's something Connecticut residents will soon be able to do in Falls Village at the first Better Place Forest on the east coast. While there will be visitor hours open to the public, it’s generally a private space for families with loved ones at the memorial forest.

“Part of our mission is to not just buy and conserve the land, but to maintain and restore it. To make sure that it stays a healthy and beautiful forest,” Gibson said.

"It has received a lot of support from the town's people and I think it's wonderful,” Susan Kelsey, the previous land owner, said.

That's something very important to her. Kelsey, a resident of Falls Village, has served on the local inland wetlands conservation commission for nearly 40 years. After handing the 130 acres over to Better Place Forest, Susan was able to pick out a tree with her sister.

"There is something very magical about going out and picking your tree where you know that part of you is going to become part of that whole ecosystem in the future. So you do live on,” Kelsey said. “I truly feel that the protection of this property represents the culmination of my life’s work and that is my ultimate gift to Falls Village.”

The Better Place Forest in Falls Village is set to open in the spring of 2021. To learn more, you can visit

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