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Hill Cumorah site 'makeover' is almost complete

Hill Cumorah plantings
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
provided photo
Volunteers recently planted thousands of tree seeds at the site of the former Hill Cumorah pageant in the Manchester-Palmyra area.

An effort to return the site of the annual Hill Cumorah pageant to its natural state is almost complete.

The site in the Manchester-Palmyra area was the location for a major festival for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than 80 years. Thousands of people flocked to that event, and several hundred individuals took part in the pageant, which included the re-enactment of scenes from the Book of Mormon.

But in 2018, it was announced that event would be wrapping up, as organizers took into account the commitment the event required, and the evolving focus of the Mormon Church.

There has been a two-year process to return the site of the pageant to a more natural state, including the planting of thousands of tree seeds last Friday, with the help of more than 50 volunteer missionaries.

The church’s Historic Sites Manager, Ben Pykles noted that almost a century ago, Mormon missionaries planted about 70,000 tree saplings, but a lot of those trees were cut down over the last 80 years as that pageant grew larger.

“And so with the discontinuation of the pageant, we’re now using missionaries again to come and scatter thousands of tree seeds on the hill and those will grow up into the next generation of hardwood, old growth forest on the Hill Cumorah,” said Pykles.

Pykles said there has also been an effort to remove about two dozen pageant-related buildings at that location.

“So all those buildings have been removed, hundreds of thousands of feet of asphalt parking lot and pavement and trails have been removed and a new network of trails has been established that allows visitors to experience the hill in a reverential contemplative manner, much like Joseph Smith would have experienced it in the 1820s,” Pykles said.

The Hill Cumorah location is an important part of the Mormon Church’s history. Members of that faith believe an angel appeared to church founder Joseph Smith on that site.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.