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U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Living Memorials Project

The Sterling Forest Project believes that healing the forest will help people to heal.  Here, children from Sierra Leone who have been injured by the war work to restore the forest by planting White Pines.
The Sterling Forest Project believes that healing the forest will help people to heal. Here, children from Sierra Leone who have been injured by the war work to restore the forest by planting White Pines.
Children having a quiet moment at Arrow Lake.
Children having a quiet moment at Arrow Lake.

Sterling Forest Project


The plan at Sterling Forest is to integrate the restoration and planting and maintenance of the memorial forest lands with on-going pediatric and family breavement and conservation volunteer programs.

Reason site was selected

Arrow Lake is the gateway to the newly preserved 18,000 acre Sterling Forest on the New Jersey-New York border. It is an ongoing restoration project, an area that represents the New York City region’s closest non-fragmented forest landscape. White pines are being planted in the understory of dying hemlocks.

Events planned for site

Small bereavement groups are the focus of this project, but broad public access is possible via the nearby Appalachian Trail. The groups are brought to the site via an innovative partnership between the Walt Disney Company, Cavalry Hospital, and the Orange County Land Trust. After 9-11, a partnership with the New York City Fired Department developed to bring new family bereavement and support groups to these healing grounds. They held a September 7 ceremony “Common Ground is Sacred Ground” to unveil a one ton healing totem pole that was carved by the Lummi master carvers from a sister forest 3,000 miles away in Bellingham, Washington and driven across the country with blessings from other indian nations along the way. This year (Sept 03) we have a much larger response than expected for this year's memorial event. There are over 106 family members, including 27 children have responded that they will participate in memorial tree planting this year. We have 25 volunteers participating. This will be an official memorial with the New York City Fire Department. Families only, no politicians, no press or general public. A family picnic will follow. Fire Department Chaplain will bless newly planted trees. Local volunteers will assist in preparing site and future maintenance. We are following original DEC plan using white pines, some lakeside rhodos, then wildflowers

Do you believe your memorial is a sacred place?

The memorial at Arrow Lake is a place of sanctuary, beautiful light, quiet and private reflection for families and children. It is a sacred place near a waterfall and lake marked with a spectacular totem pole, a gift of the deeply spiritual Lummi Indian people and our sister forest in the Pacific Northwest. Like all forests the memorial site is filled with the chaos of trees fallen by disease, sudden death from lightening or heavy snows and other causes. But the forest is filled with rebirth, new life and hope - the essence of a sacred landscape.
  • Sponsored by Orange County Land Trust; USDA Forest Service
  • Site maintained by Orange County Land Trust
  • Project website contact
  • Project email contact
  • Address Arrow Lake, Sterling Forest State Park
  • City, State, ZIP Tuxedo, New York  10979
  • County Orange
  • Dedication Sep. 11, 2002
  • Status Dedicated/Existing and permanent
  • Artwork yes
  • Public access yes
  • Public events yes
  • Sq. Foot 
  • Acreage 80 acres within a 20,000 acre forest
  • Number & Species of Trees more than 1,000: White Pines are already being planted. Their proposal also lists options of: Red spruce, White spruce, Norway spruce, Northern white cedar, Eastern red cedar, and Red pine.
  • This project is best described as a Forest, Brownfield or Restoration
  • This project is unique because of the Site Use, Site Maintenance
  • Project Sponsors and Participants
  • Is the community involved? yes
  • Project was initiated by Non-Profit
  • Land is owned by Private
  • Type of participants Staff and Volunteers
  • Number of people involved more than 100
  • Percent of those involved who are volunteers 75% to 99%
  • Are people expected to stay involved? yes
  • For more information contact  ,

Memorial Updates

How has the memorial changed?

The site continues to be reserved for healing purposes.

Describe the events onsite


What is growing on the site?

  • Hemlock ( Tsuga spp.)
  • white pines (Pinus spp.)

What are you most proud of and what are your hopes for the future of the site?

Paul Dolan, site organizer, is most proud that when 9/11 happened, there was a space w/ clean air, fresh water, and could be taken advantage of so quickly. Future plans are to expand protection zone around the memorial site, create a bereavement center and family support center. They would also like to work with Veterans' groups and adapt facilities and access for people in wheelchairs.

Do you believe that this is a sacred space?

Paul continues to see the site as sacred.