This summer, Better Place Forests is expanding our presence on the West Coast and opening not one, but two, conservation memorial forests to protect and conserve the iconic Sierra Nevada region –– Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway and Better Place Forests Western Sierra. This means that those who purchase a memorial tree with Better Place Forests in California can now choose between four different forests in the state, a total of 324 protected acres. There are nine Better Place Forests locations around the country.
You may now reserve a memorial tree in the beautiful Sierra Nevada region, a natural landscape that is truly spectacular. From the snow-capped peaks and towering pines to the deep alpine lakes and fresh mountain air, there’s an undeniable sense of wonder and connection to something much bigger than ourselves. Below we’ve shared with you some information about both beautiful forests coming soon.
A rare mountain meadow forest: Introducing Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway
Located just 45 minutes from Yosemite National Park and near the Don Pedro reservoir, Better Place Yosemite Gateway is a peaceful 172-acre conservation memorial forest that offers picturesque views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Chosen for its unique conservation value and accessibility for visitors from Southern California to the Bay Area and Central California, this forest features a “mountain meadow” ecosystem, a rare and critical part of the broader Sierra Mountain ecosystem that protects the health and resiliency of the area’s rivers and biodiversity. Mountain meadows makeup only 2% of the Sierra Nevada landscape and are critical to support the mountain wildlife species we know and love. Choosing a tree in Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway helps protect a migratory pathway for black bears, mule deer, and black-tailed jackrabbits.
Wildflowers bloom along the forest floor in Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway
Upon exploring the forest, visitors take in views of its two large woodland meadows, lined with giant, stately trees and home to a large and colorful variety of wildflowers. You will also hear the serene sounds of Bean Creek, which flows through the property and joins the Merced River – the same river that runs through Yosemite National Park.
Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway has a long history of responsible forest stewardship, which shows in its rare mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees –– ponderosa pines and black oaks, incense cedars, and Douglas firs. Among the trees are Sierra wildlife, like Columbia black-tailed deer, jackrabbits, or even the occasional Black bear. Woodpeckers (there are a variety of them here!), owls, and hummingbirds are often seen, too!
The history of this forest reminds us of the deep-rooted nature of family, starting with the Gordon family, who had homesteaded the land starting in the 1860s. Not only did they live off the land itself, they planted the apple, pear, and plum orchard to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Those trees are still there for us to enjoy today, and are a unique feature of the meadows in Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway.
We had the privilege of meeting Dawn L., a longtime community member and steward of the area. Dawn and her late husband, Jim, are California natives and share a deep love for Yosemite and the surrounding communities. She reserved a black oak for her future memorial tree, having been drawn to this particular tree her whole life. Black oaks are known for being providers of the forest: from butterflies to wildlife collecting acorns, they are an integral part of the forest community.
Dawn admires the trees within Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway
She comments: "Being in nature has always felt like home for me, especially this area near Yosemite. My husband, Jim, was a volunteer with the Mariposa Fire Department for 12 years and we both have valued being community members here. Jim was always passionate about art and seeing the beauty in life. He created amazing paintings of Yosemite, taught art at Columbia College for many years as well as locally here at Greeley Hill. To know that Better Place Forests will help protect this land that we love so much for future generations is inspiring. It brings me a great sense of relief and joy to know that we can have a tree as part of a bigger legacy of sustainability and protecting open spaces."
Rich with community and steeped in history: Better Place Forests Western Sierra
Accessible for residents in Sacramento, Reno, and the Bay Area, Better Place Forests Western Sierra is nestled in the quaint town of Pollock Pines, just one hour from South Lake Tahoe and one mile from the historic Pony Express. This open forestland is a welcoming and accessible 48-acre conservation memorial forest that features a bounty of gentle giant trees – including towering pines and Douglas firs – that make you feel instantly at home in a classic Sierra forest. Families and their loved ones who reserve memorial trees in Better Place Forests Western Sierra help to protect the rich history and ecological biodiversity of this open space.
Better Place Forests Western Sierra is as rich in its natural beauty as it is in its unique cultural history and community. Better Place Forests Western Sierra features the old El Dorado Irrigation Canal that runs along the northeastern border of the property that once provided a reliable water source for miners in Pollock Pines during the Gold Rush era of the 1850s – 1860s. Many of the gentle giant trees in this forest also grew up during this era, including the much-loved ponderosa pines, sugar pines, incense cedars, and Douglas firs. This forestland also tends to a wide array of wildlife, from songbirds and owls to black-tailed deer and gray foxes.
A path runs through the heart of Better Place Forests Western Sierra
Better Place Forests Western Sierra is a wonderful memorial forest for those who want to ensure their families and loved ones have memorable experiences nearby. Because of its proximity to Lake Tahoe, visitors can enjoy an abundance of year-round outdoor recreation, including summer activities on the lake, winter snow sports, and plenty of walking and hiking trails in the area. It’s located just off of Highway 50, the gateway to vast areas of the massive Eldorado National Forest along with Desolation Wilderness, one of the most popular wilderness backpacking destinations in the U.S.
The region surrounding the property is steeped in California history. The forest is 15 minutes from Placerville, a historic California “gold rush” town named after the placer gold deposits found in its river beds and hills in the late 1840s. It’s also just one mile from Pony Express National Historic Trail, the relay system that people on horseback used to deliver mail and news between California and Missouri during that time.
We’ve been thankful to receive such widespread community support for this forest, including Elena Delacy, executive director with the American River Conservancy.
She comments: “As committed land stewards in El Dorado County for over 31 years, we believe it’s more important than ever to work with willing private landowners to preserve land and ensure our watersheds are protected for future generations. Through our conversations...with the team at Better Place Forests, we see their organization as an innovative approach to conserving forests. Upon the purchase of the property, Better Place Forests will… ensure this property is never developed. Professional foresters are employed to maintain the forest to ensure it remains healthy and safe for visitors.”
Then there was former property owner Cecil Wetsel, who comes from three generations in the timber industry and was recognized as Agriculturalist of the Year at the California State Fair. Cecil sustainably stewarded the land for over 20 years.
He comments: “I’ve always had the philosophy that if you own a piece of property, you ought to be thinking about who will own it 500 years into the future. So the idea is to have a limited impact and not cause any harm to property. It's important to help maintain the health and beauty of the forest and the soil by thinking about the future. We’ve taken that philosophy into how we’ve cared for the property, and we greatly appreciate that Better Place Forests will continue that work.”
Giving Californians an alternative option that protects the Earth
Better Place Forests is also transparently priced. In a survey of 300 California residents aged 45+ conducted in March 2021, we found that nearly half of respondents (42%) 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 and a custom memorial service for a fraction of the cost. Pricing starts at $4,900 for early supporters who place a deposit before the forest officially opens 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.
A family walks through the forest to attend a memorial ceremony
Co-founder and CEO Sandy Gibson comments: “California is where Better Place Forests first started, and I am glad to continue preserving forestland here. Countless people have found wonder, awe, and inspiration in the Sierra Nevada. I'm honored to help more people feel forever connected to this special area and make the protection and conservation of the Sierra part of their legacies while giving their loved ones a memorable, beautiful place to visit for many generations to come.”
Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway and Better Place Forests Western Sierra both plan to open for online forest tours later this summer, 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 for both forests.
Sign up today to become an early supporter. You’ll be the first to know about exclusive offers and forest updates.
The view from a lone black oak tree in Better Place Forests Yosemite Gateway