St. Francis Dam disaster remembered

Photo by George R. Watson
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Exactly one year ago, on the anniversary of the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster in San Francisquito Canyon, Congress passed the St. Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial Act, agreeing to create a national memorial and monument to recognize the lives lost.

As the 440 acres that make up the area are owned by the U.S. Forest Service, it’s now the task of the St. Francis Dam Community Collaborative, a public entity, to work together to develop plans to create this memorial.

“We want to make it a place for people to come, not only just for the memorial, but for other reasons, as well,” said Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, vice president of the St. Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to raise money to help build the memorial.

Erskine-Hellrigel and Alan Pollack, president of the foundation, have a vision for the memorial, which goes beyond a monument and includes a visitor center, memorial plaza, recreating the 205-foot “tombstone” left behind by the collapse of the dam, a memorial wall for all the victims, as well as a memorial for the unknown victims, among other things.

“When the act was passed, Congress did not appropriate any money, so we’re hoping to be able to raise funds for the Forest Service to build the memorial,” Pollack said.

Now, the collaborative has to develop a plan for the memorial, which will then be approved by Congress in the next two years.

Anyone interested in helping the foundation collaborative develop the plans for the memorial are welcome to join them at their next meeting, scheduled 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday at The Centre, located at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway.

The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society’s annual lecture and bus tour originally scheduled for Saturday has been rescheduled to June 6 due to rain and potential flooding of the site.

Though the event is currently sold out, organizers are expected to be creating a waiting list for those interested in attending, as they may expand the event to include a second bus.

For more information, visit or call 661-254-1275.

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