Central Park is set to house two colorful obelisks as a memorial to two of the teenagers who died during the Saugus High School shooting in November 2019, following unanimous approval Tuesday from the Santa Clarita City Council.
Council members approved the construction of two 11-foot obelisks — with murals on each side made from tiny mosaic tiles — to memorialize Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Michael Blackwell. The memorials will be surrounded by seating areas and shaded by existing tree canopies to create an area for intimate reflection, according to the design plans.
“Yes, the (obelisks) are representative of the children but they represent more than that,” said Bryan Muehlberger, father of Gracie. He and Frank Blackwell, father of Dominic, thanked the city for working with the victims’ families. “They represent what they did in this community; they bring the community together in a unique way.”
The obelisks, designed by the families, include colors and graphics that represent the two students, such as angel wings for Gracie and Spongebob Squarepants for Dominic. The city designed the surrounding area, which includes the landscape and seating area. As desired by the families, the entire memorial will be near the entrance of the park where the community congregated in the days following the tragic incident.
Not everyone agreed with the design of the obelisks, however. Resident Steve Petzold said that while he was not against having a memorial, he said the “color scheme and design will stick out like a sore thumb for the people driving in the park,” adding that the location and size are not appropriate.
Obelisks designs by Joseph and Sons Mosaics and as approved by the families of the victims, include colors and themes that represent Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Michael Blackwell, the two students who died during the Saugus High School shooting in November 2019. | Photo: Courtesy of the City of Santa Clarita.
While Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste voted in favor of the memorial, saying she understood “the horror and grief of losing children,” she also agreed with Petzold. She said parks are for recreation and “not a place and reflection of sadness.”
The total cost for landscaping and grading the area totals $96,000, and the city will use around $40,000 to complete the work, as the remaining amount has been offered via pro bono work and contributions from various local agencies and businesses, according to city officials. The families have agreed to pay for the design, construction and installation of the obelisks, while the city would be responsible for the surrounding site construction.
Maintenance of the memorial, including the obelisks has not yet been determined but is expected to become the responsibility of the city, according to City Manager Ken Striplin.
If something were to happen to the obelisks, such as major damage from significant weather, Councilman Cameron Smyth said he felt confident that “there will be no shortage of volunteers that are going to want to ensure that that that whole area, and the obelisks specifically are maintained and cleaned.”