City Council to discuss Central Park name change request honoring SHS shooting victims

Residents stand around the memorial set up at the Central Park flag pole at the Saugus Strong Vigil Sunday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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Santa Clarita City Council members agreed Tuesday to discuss in August how to help honor the lives lost during the Saugus High School shooting following a request that Central Park’s name be appended. 

On Nov. 14, a 16-year-old boy opened fire on campus and fatally shot two students, Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Michael Blackwell, and then turned the weapon on himself. Three other students were injured as a result. 

Parents of Muehlberger and Blackwell spoke during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, urging them to consider agendizing a discussion about their request to change the park’s name to “Central Park – In Memoriam of Gracie Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell.” 

“Tragedy of a specific event, you do these things based upon the impact they’ve had on society and/or the impact it made on a community. In this case, these two young children have had a greater impact on this community than anything that is coming for them,” Bryan Muehlberger, Gracie’s father, said Tuesday. 

The families have started a petition, renamecentralpark.com, to garner support for the name change and ask the city for approval. More than 7,300 signatures of the 7,500 requested had been submitted as of Tuesday. 

Council members said they previously met with the families to hear more about their requests but have also noted that other members of the community are not in support of appending the park’s name. 

“I mentioned to them very frankly, and trying to be as respectful as I could, that trying to name Central Park would be a divisive issue for our community,” said Councilwoman Marsha McLean. 

Ideas such as placing a memorial near the Youth Grove at Central Park or offering another city park for the naming have been offered to the families but they have expressed their preference for appending Central Park’s name, according to McLean. 

“With every movement or change comes resistance. There will always be people that don’t like change, but the city of Santa Clarita must not stand still, it must continue to evolve and change,” said Bryan. 

Central Park is a special place, the families have said, as it served as the reunification center for children to safely evacuate from the school on Nov. 14, as well as welcomed thousands of people to gather for a vigil honoring the shooting victims. 

“I did not want to have Gracie and Dominic, and their parents have to deal with that. I’m not in favor of renaming Central Park, either, but I do think that we do owe it to them,” said McLean.  

Her fellow council members mirrored sentiments of needing to honor them and support the families but said the form in which would be done would have to be discussed. 

The discussion is expected to return for the Aug. 25 meeting.

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