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Planting trees connects Connecticut Saints to Sacred Grove

Church members plant more than 200 trees in Fairfield County to commemorate First Vision bicentennial

About two dozen members of the Fairfield Connecticut Stake jump on a grassy field for a drone shot of their tree-planting efforts.

Members of the Fairfield Connecticut Stake jump for a drone shot of their tree-planting efforts on Oct. 15, 2022. Seven wards in the stake planted more than 200 trees around Fairfield County, Connecticut, to commemorate the 200 years that have passed since Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

Allan Broadbent


Planting trees connects Connecticut Saints to Sacred Grove

Church members plant more than 200 trees in Fairfield County to commemorate First Vision bicentennial

About two dozen members of the Fairfield Connecticut Stake jump on a grassy field for a drone shot of their tree-planting efforts.

Members of the Fairfield Connecticut Stake jump for a drone shot of their tree-planting efforts on Oct. 15, 2022. Seven wards in the stake planted more than 200 trees around Fairfield County, Connecticut, to commemorate the 200 years that have passed since Joseph Smith’s First Vision.

Allan Broadbent

After two years from having the initial idea and many months of working closely with town park departments and tree wardens, members of the Fairfield Connecticut Stake donated and planted 258 trees in public areas throughout Fairfield County, Connecticut, on Oct. 15.

“While we were delayed by the onset of the global pandemic in March 2020, we [were] delighted to now move forward to commemorate the bicentennial of the First Vision — a sacred event in the history of our Church and the world,” said Fairfield Stake President Todd Herget. 

Both the number of the trees and the trees themselves are symbolic of the 1820 event. While planning in 2020, the stake aimed for 200 trees — one for each year that had passed since the First Vision — and selected trees that were native to the area where the vision occurred. These various native species included sugar maple, northern red oak, hop hornbeam, white oak and dogwood.  

The trees were also appropriate for the specific area of planting in Connecticut and intended as a gift to the community. The members of the stake also see them as a reminder of God’s love for and communication with His children.

The trees will “create quiet, sacred groves that will provide shade and quiet spaces for the benefit of all who live within our communities,” President Herget said.

Fairfield Connecticut Stake President Todd Herget and his wife Nancy Herget organize trees at the Trumbull Ward pavilion

Fairfield Connecticut Stake President Todd Herget and his wife Nancy Herget organize trees at the Trumbull Ward pavilion before heading out to plant them with other stake members around Fairfield County, Connecticut, on Oct. 15, 2022.

Todd Herget

The planning

The stake has seven congregations covering 17 towns in southern Fairfield country. Allan Broadbent, a landscape architect in the Darien Ward, suggested planting trees during a stake council meeting in 2019. Liaisons from each ward were called, and they began to work with town officials to identify locations for the trees.

“We were looking primarily at parks, senior centers, cemeteries, public spaces, schools and those sorts of things,” Broadbent said.

But the project became indefinitely delayed as the pandemic unfolded. In 2022, President Herget brought the idea back to the stake council. New people had to be called in each ward — and the boundaries of the stake had changed in the meantime. 

“What is so amazing about this process is that by the time it got to 2022, it was a different set of parameters. It included new wards whose cities were desperate for trees in their urban centers,” Broadbent said.

The trees were sourced from a nursery in upstate New York, not far from Palmyra, where the First Vision occurred, which became another connection to the Sacred Grove.

The stake also found new ways to involve the wards’ Primary children and young men and young women, with a website of activities and information about the First Vision and Joseph Smith. 

Heidi Ashton, who worked on the project for several months at the stake level, created the website and helped with organization. As the youth worked on the activities on the website in the months leading up to October, they learned more about Joseph Smith and the Sacred Grove finishing with an ice cream social to celebrate.

Broadbent said that as the ward members worked with their cities and towns to plan for the tree-planting, they also shared the reasons why the activity was so important to them.

“It became a beautiful way to knit members and their testimony of the restored gospel with city leaders who didn’t know much about the Church,” Broadbent said.

Allan Broadbent and children plant a tree in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Allan Broadbent works with his children and their friends from Primary in the Darien Ward to plant a tree in Fairfield County, Connecticut, on Oct. 15, 2022.

Provided by Allan Broadbent

The planting

Ashton said 450 members of the stake registered to help on the day of the planting — including 138 Primary children, who were full of joy and excitement to be involved. 

On Oct. 15, they met at different chapels in the morning to hear a special message about the day’s significance, before heading to plant in areas the towns had identified as needing new trees. Each ward had at least 30 trees to plant within their boundaries. 

Lindsey Reyes is a junior in high school who helped plant trees with her family and her ward. 

“It was a really cool experience because I had never planted trees before,” she said. ”I expected it to be hard, but it wasn’t hard because everyone was there to help each other out.”

She described having a calm feeling as she worked, because she remembered how there were trees all over the Sacred Grove. 

One of the places where she planted new trees was at a senior living facility. She said she hopes the new trees will lift others’ view and have a calming effect.

Lindsey Reyes digs a hole for a new tree on the grounds of a senior living center in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Lindsey Reyes digs a hole for a new tree on the grounds of a senior living center in Fairfield County, Connecticut, on Oct. 15, 2022. Her stake planted more than 200 trees in their community.

Heidi Ashton

“I think it will remind them that there are good people out there that want to spread beauty in the world. Without the trees there, it would look plain,” Lindsey said. “It’s a good message to let them know that our Church cares for others.”

Broadbent said working together with families, with the other members of the ward and with the community is a cherished memory. 

“These are the kinds of things we can do as members to connect the dots between our communities and our congregations. It was hugely successful and memorable for the stake to have this opportunity,” he said.

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