A Beautiful Place to Spend Eternity: Cremated Individuals Can Rest in San Bernardino National Forest

"They want to choose a place they think is beautiful, and often they love the idea of leaving a legacy of conservation."

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More people are turning away from traditional funerals, and since the pandemic began, there has been a rising demand for alternative burial options.

Now, a new alternative to the cemetery might be spending eternity under a tree in the San Bernardino National Forest.

"They're looking to choose a beautiful place, to know that's where they will spend their forever," said Sandy Gibson, co-founder and CEO of Better Place Forests.

The San Francisco based start-up company has created a different kind of cemetery.

"They love the idea of cedar, they love the idea of the mountains," Gibson said. "They love just the smell of being in nature like this."

Set in the San Bernardino mountains, "Better Place Forests Lake Arrowhead" is Southern California's first conservation memorial forest, and just the tenth in the nation.

"'Better Place Forests' is the first sustainable alternative to the traditional funeral and cemetery industry," Gibson explained.

Forest burials allow people who choose cremation to reserve a protected tree, to return their ashes to the earth.

"They want to choose a place they think is beautiful, and often they love the idea of leaving a legacy of conservation," Gibson said.

According to their website, prices range from about $6,000 to more than $13,000, not including the cremation.

The founders, Gibson and Peter Jorris, say conserving ecosystems in the state of California is important to preventing wildfires, and providing a resting place for those who choose cremation protects the local land and wildlife.

"We need to keep everything that's still natural in the natural environment," Jorris said.

And the burials are still a careful and deliberate process.

"We remove some of the soil from beneath the tree," Gibson explained, and then "carefully separate it so we can mix in the soil with the ashes."

"Underneath every tree there is a memorial marker, and that memorial marker is a permanent marker that indicates who chose that tree and why they chose that tree," Gibson said.

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