One hundred and twelve acres of undeveloped Scandia woodlands will soon be preserved forever as what may be Minnesota’s first-ever “conservation memorial forest.”

The Scandia City Council last week granted a conditional use permit to Better Place Forests to install and operate the memorial forest on land between Big Marine Lake and Fish Lake, north of Lakamaga Trail.

Council member Patti Ray expressed enthusiasm for the project because of its plan to preserve the forest and “keep Scandia’s spaces open.”

“I’m excited to see them come to our community,” Ray said.

The memorial forest, which operates somewhat like a cemetery, promises to ensure that the tract of land would stay forested and undeveloped permanently.

Instead of selling traditional burial plots and gravestones, the company dedicates trees within the forest with small memorial markers and accepts cremated remains to be mixed with the soils beneath the dedicated trees.

Improvements to the site would be limited to a 1,500 square foot welcome center with bathrooms and 20 parking spaces.

Better Place Forests is a start-up company based out of San Francisco. The land is currently owned by Janice Riermann.

The company has already launched a webpage at

Other business:

• The city office will be getting a minor upgrade should funding through the federal CARES Act be received. The council approved a plan to apply for grant funding to install a walk-up service window in the Scandia Community Center building entryway. The window would allow city staff to safely interact with the public while limiting the possibility of exposure to coronavirus. A doorbell/intercom system to alert city staff to members of the public needing assistance is also being considered.

• The council approved a plan and $1,880 budget for an Early Migrating Bird habitat project to be installed by Scandia resident and 4-H member Olivia Nienaber. The project includes planting native trees and bushes that have winter-retaining fruit and early-spring blooms. Plantings would be done at the Erickson Ballfield and Hay Lake Park. The council also approved $500 for the purchase of a water trailer to be used by city staff and volunteer groups in maintaining the plantings. 

The next Scandia City Council meeting will be held July 21 at 7 p.m.

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