Our mission at Better Place Forests is to inspire everyone to leave a meaningful legacy for the planet and the people they love. 

For years, families have found solace in the natural places we are working to protect. They are often planning ahead for themselves or grieving the loss of a loved one. When we consider adding anything to the landscape, we approach it with the goal of featuring and working with nature in a way that supports people facing a loss. We work closely with our Forest Management team, local foresters, and biological resources experts to implement best practices in each design.

In our Flagstaff forest, we've partnered with the Arizona Nurses Association (AzNA), the oldest and largest organization serving and advocating for Arizona nurses, to pay homage to nurses and healthcare professionals across the state who lost their lives during the pandemic. It will be called “The Arizona Nurses Association Memorial,” and it will serve as a place for the community to visit, reflect, and remember.

The plans for the memorial were announced at a dedication ceremony on May 14 at its future site. Nurses representing associations from across the state including the Native American Nurses Association, the Black Nurses Association of Greater Phoenix, the Philippine Nurses Association of Arizona, and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, and the Arizona Indian Nurses Association joined leaders from AzNA and Better Place Forests for the event. 

During the ceremony, the names of 35 nurses who had lost their lives in the last year were read aloud. The names of healthcare heroes who lost their lives during the pandemic will be inscribed on the memorial structure. The ceremony also included opening and closing prayers led by Charlotte Fafard, Commissioned Pastor of Lower Santan Presbyterian Chapel and Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, a tribute from the Arizona Nurse Honor Guard, remarks from AzNA leadership and board members, and a shared moment of silence. 

We were honored to host this and event, and we're looking forward to the continued partnership with AzNA. “With a memorial in this protected landscape, we can ensure the legacy and memory of our state’s nurses is preserved for generations to come,” says Dawna Cato, AzNA CEO.

A memorial that takes inspiration from service and integrates with nature

As part of the event, the renderings for the future memorial were unveiled. The design took inspiration from the quaking aspens that grow throughout the forest and the following anonymous poem:

When you fear darkness,

And the only light is from lightning,

I'll be with you holding your head in my arms,

And when you lost your soul to your work,

As they take it away,

I'll hold your body before you fall,

And kiss the wounds that are visible and invisible.

As I make you comfortable.

When you lost all hope,

Remember, I will capture your heart.

Author unknown

The aspen groves are among the most striking features of our Flagstaff forest. We have some of the largest aspen specimens and aspen stands in the general region due to the amount of moisture we get from snowpack, allowing moisture to linger and extend moisture availability. Where most tree leaves are attached by round petioles, aspen petioles are flat and perpendicular to the leaf shape, giving them their quivering nature. With the slightest breeze, the forest comes alive with their shivering, shimmering, quaking leaves. The groves themselves share a root system, and aspen networks are among some of the oldest and largest organisms on earth.

Our approach to the design is based on simplicity of form and mechanics, making visible the beauty of the invisible forces around us, and creating a place for reflection, rest, meditation, and reverence. The result will be a field of dancing souls reaching towards the sky, rooted in the landscape and community. 

The size of the memorial is a light footprint within the forest yet designed to be able to work with hundreds of names inscribed upon it. It includes a bench as a place of rest that looks out onto the meadow.

Our aim is to ensure optimal health for the trees in the immediate vicinity of the memorial as well as the health of the meadow ecology directly adjacent. As we select materials for each piece, we will fine tune qualities such as light reflectance levels, sonic texture, and consider wildlife habitat and passage. Our goal is to create a peaceful coexistence that celebrates and supports the environment and the wildlife within it.

We look forward to the development of this memorial and continued work with the wider community in Arizona.