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It Begins! Details From Our Architecture Kickoff Meeting In Mendocino

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Better Place Forests creates and maintains conservation memorial forests for people who choose cremation and don’t want their ashes to end up in a traditional cemetery.

Last Monday was a milestone day for Better Place Forests as we had our architecture kickoff meeting on site in Mendocino.

The Better Place Forests design team altogether for the first time in the meadow area of our Mendocino forest.

While we have been in contact with the entire team before, it was the first time we had the opportunity to walk the land in a group and discuss our visions for how to create an absolutely spectacular visitor experience.

Across the board this was a hugely successful day.

Click here to see many more photos and videos of the day on Facebook.

There were a few goals to this meeting:

  • Introduce everyone on the team to one another
  • Walk the forest together to discuss specific design considerations
  • Gather information on tree density, accessibility and forest maintenance
  • Have a design conversation regarding aesthetics

Each of the goals deserves its own post and we’ll try to share as much of the design process as we can. In the meantime, here are the high-level highlights from each part of the day.

Meeting the Team

As mentioned above, while we had all spoken given that the team was organized by David Fletcher of Fletcher Studio, it was important to us that we could all meet in person.

Better Place Forests is a very personal project and we want to make sure we communicate as best we can the thoughts and emotions that went into creating it as well as the vision for the forest and the visitor experience.


The team gathering near the entrance to go through the plan for the day and what everyone wants to accomplish.

Fletcher Studio – Landscape Architects

One of the main reasons we chose to work with Fletcher Studio was the passion that David Fletcher showed for both Better Place Forests and Mendocino. As the project lead, Fletcher Studio will be leading the design efforts to create a peaceful, natural outdoor space for the memorials and remembrance of families.

Min | Day – Architects

We couldn’t be happier to work with E.B. Min from Min | Day. This was the first time E.B. was able to walk the grounds with us and she was as impressed as we were on our initial visit. Min | Day will be designing all of the physical structures including the visitor center.

North Coast Resource Management – Arborists

Talking with Justin of NCRM was one of the highlights of my day given the knowledge he had about the trees on site, proper forestry techniques, and how we can manage the ongoing health of this second-growth redwood forest.

Justin will be our point person to catalogue all the trees on the property, clear the underbrush, add additional trails and manage the ongoing health of the forest.

(On a side note, I would also like to thank our surveyors Susan and Daniel for their help so far. We were incredibly impressed with the work done so far and we’re looking forward to creating some amazing maps with you!)

Walking the Forest Together

I’ve walked the forest before and Jamie in particular has spent a significant amount of time on-site. But it was a very different experience to walk the forest with the people who will actually be designing and overseeing the landscaping.


The design team walking through one of the most beautiful areas on the property – a clearing surrounded by tall redwoods.

Together we identified locations (such as the redwood-dense clearing above) that we felt could be used to enhance a particular part of the visitor experience. The clearing above, given it is about halfway through the forest on a pathway that loops back to the entrance, could make a perfect contemplative rest area for people who want to spend longer amounts of time in the forest.

We also walked through all of the existing pathways and discussed what the typical visit to the forest will entail.


The design team discussing what should greet the visitor in the meadow entrance.
Some important takeaways were that we agreed on some key pathway routes and some specific areas (that natural clearing with all the redwoods among others) that we felt would be focal points for visiting the forest.

Some of our initial assessments were also confirmed that the forest, with its previously created pathways, view of the ocean, natural open spaces and overall health means that creating our vision for Better Place Forests will be fairly straightforward.

Gather Information on Tree Density & Forest Management

While there were many highlights of this first on-site with the entire team, I was particularly excited to meet and have a conversation with Justin from NCRM who is the arborist on the design team.


Some amazing lighting on one of the primary pathways.

Being the arborist means that Justin will be the main point person when it comes to cataloguing the trees in the forest, determining tree, forest and soil health, among many other things.

Some key things that I found interesting were:

  • the people who logged the forest a century ago apparently had very good forest management practices
  • there are even more redwoods on the property than we had initially thought
  • the soil of a redwood forest is fairly acidic and, assuming average rainfall, will dissolve ashes into the soil in about 2 years

The next step with Justin is to determine the initial areas we will masticate (clear the underbrush) to a) make the job easier for the surveyors and Justin to map the property and b) catalogue and GPS-locate all of the trees in the forest.

Another great thing that Justin suggested is that there is potential to plant a number of additional redwoods on the site.


Here is a baby redwood. This particular redwood is located in the meadow and is about tall enough to assume it will survive.

Have a Design Conversation Regarding Aesthetics

While the landscape and building architecture has been discussed via email and phone calls prior to this meeting, we set aside a few hours after walking the site to sit down and discuss the following:

  • the location of key structures like washrooms, parking, and the visitor center
  • the design of the entrance to the forest and how we imagine a perfect visit to the forest
  • the best way to make sure visitors have the necessary information to find their tree
  • the broad design guidelines when it comes to memorial markers

An overhead view of the design working session where we were discussing potential locations for key forest features.

I was impressed at how thoughtful and structured the design considerations were given this was the kickoff meeting. The next steps will be to convene again in San Francisco within the next 2 weeks to discuss the progress the architects make in the meantime.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve had the kickoff meeting, everything is going to move forward very quickly according to the project plan proposed and agreed to in December. There will be ongoing discussion regarding the design of structures and memorial markers, mastication of specific locations in the forest to help with survey work, and of course, the landscape architecture of the forest.

We’ll try to share everything we can with you as we hope it’s as exciting to you as it is to us!


Brad, Jamie and Sandy (from left) of Better Place Forests standing in the meadow near the entrance to the forest.

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