Home » Latest News

Help the USFS Design the Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial

On: February 3, 2021


Designation of the St. Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial

The Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial was designated on March 12, 2019, by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, Sec. 1111, authorizing the establishment of a Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial. This legislation was signed exactly 91 years after the Saint Francis Dam failure. The resulting flow of water caused by the breach was so powerful that it cost the lives of over 400 victims and impacted downstream communities for 52 miles until it emptied into the Pacific Ocean. This tragic event constitutes the second-greatest disaster in the history of California. 

In accordance with the Act, the Secretary of Agriculture may establish a memorial at the Saint Francis Dam site in the county of Los Angeles, California, for the purpose of honoring the victims of the Saint Francis Dam disaster of March 12, 1928. The Memorial is intended to honor the victims and memorialize the history of the Saint Francis Dam Disaster, at the site of the Dam collapse, and would be the first national memorial managed by the Forest Service.

The Memorial would be created to conserve and enhance the cultural, archaeological, historical, watershed, educational, and recreational resources of the dam disaster site.  The Act charges the Forest Service with developing recommendations related to the planning, design, construction, and long-term management of the Memorial; the proposed boundaries of the Memorial; a visitor center and educational facilities at the Memorial; and ensuring public access to the Memorial. 

Developing the Design of the Memorial

image of tombstone of st. francis dam

The Act provided no additional funding to the Forest Service for the development, construction, or long-term management of the Memorial, and it would likely be primarily funded through private donations and contributions from individual donors, foundations, and corporations. 

In response to the Act’s recommendations for the memorial, the Forest Service is following a similar planning and design process as those developed by the National Park Service, and other state and local governments.  The Forest Service would like to open the development of the memorial design to the public, and other interested parties, such as amateur and professional designers, college or high school students, state, city, and other federal agencies, historical societies, etc.  Those who choose to participate have an opportunity to influence and/or design the Country’s newest National Memorial, and the second one ever to be designated in California.

Mission Statement

The Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial should serve to honor the victims of the Saint Francis Dam Disaster. It will also be important that in developing the Memorial we conserve and enhance the cultural, archaeological, and historical components of the Saint Francis Dam Disaster.

The Memorial should provide the public and visitors with an opportunity to learn about the dam failure and its historic role in the development of Los Angeles. The Memorial, and the intrinsic resources and values which encompass the area and led to the Monument designation, will be highlighted and showcased for all to experience and enjoy.

image of tombstone of st. francis dam

Memorial Design Concept Guidelines

Due to the lack of appropriated funding stipulated in the Act, the Forest Service is having to reimagine to some degree the traditional approach for developing Memorials and their designs and is seeking ideas and concepts from you the Public, that recognizes this limitation.

As stated, this outreach effort is for ideas and design concepts for the Memorial. While a constraint and a challenge from traditional approaches, the Forest Service would like to present this unique opportunity. One that “opens the box” as it relates to Memorial designs that will pass the test of time in our ever-changing society. A design that could allow for the potential adoption of a combination or mix of proposals and designs, and one that may explore new mediums, designs, and technological advancements and approaches.

The United States Forest Service (USFS) is pleased to announce a competition to secure design concepts for a memorial to honor the victims and memorialize the history of the Saint Francis Dam Disaster. The sponsor of the competition is the Angeles National Forest, in cooperation with the St Francis Dam National Memorial Foundation (SFDMF).

This document presents the intentions and mission of the memorial, and also outlines the competition rules, and provides information on how to submit memorial design ideas and concepts for consideration.

On February 1, 2021, opportunities to submit ideas and design concepts will begin and will remain open for 90 days, closing on April 31, 2021. Once closed, the memorial design submittals will be analyzed by the Competition jury.

The jury members will be 11 individuals composed of U.S Forest Service employees, St Francis Dam National Memorial Foundation members, family members of the disaster victims, and significant stakeholder entities (i.e. LADWP, SCE, Santa Clarita City Council, etc.).


The St Francis Dam National Memorial Foundation (SFDMF) is organized exclusively for charitable purposes as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization under 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code. The group’s mission is organized exclusively for charitable purposes, specifically to raise the funds necessary to establish and support a memorial that recognizes and honors the victims and history of the Saint Francis Dam Disaster. Additional information can be found by contacting the St Francis Dam National Memorial Foundation (SFDMF).


image of tombstone of st. francis dam

The purpose of the Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Memorial is to recognize and honor those who perished during the failure of the Saint Francis Dam, resulting in the second greatest loss of life in California history, and marking one of the most significant engineering disasters in our nation’s history. Up to the present, this disaster has not been accorded the recognition it rightly deserves, especially when examined against other significant disasters and losses of life in our nation’s history.

Through the years, community members of each local community impacted by the disaster have worked independently to correct this, by erecting their own local museums, monuments, and memorials dedicated to the dam disaster, leading tours of the dam site and the impacted communities and towns, and by gathering at the dam site on the anniversary of the collapse to honor those who perished.

The designation of the Saint Francis Dam disaster as a National Memorial provides an opportunity to consider these existing memorializing efforts, along with considering new approaches that capture the full breadth of the disaster, in developing a memorial that enhances or unites with these prior local and community based memorializing efforts.

This effort is not about those of us involved in establishing the memorial, rather it is about honoring those who perished, and the families and communities affected by this tragic event. Memorials, traditionally, can take the form of a monument with a plaque, but they can also take on other forms. Memorials represent and generate a multitude of different emotions, memories, symbols, and meanings for individuals whether or not they have a direct connection with the disaster.



  • The competition is open to the general public. 
  • Competitors must be 18 years of age.
  • Competitors may enter the competition as an individual or as a member of a collaborative team.
  • Jury members or their families are not eligible to compete.


The jury for the competition will consist of the following individuals (if any jury member cannot participate, additional members of the Saint Francis Dam collaborative will be asked to take their place):

  • Angeles National Forest, Forest Supervisor
  • Los Angeles Gateway Ranger District, District Ranger
  • Fillmore City Council member
  • LADWP Representative
  • SCE Representative
  • Santa Clarita City Council Member
  • St Francis Dam National Memorial Foundation member
  • Tribal Tataviam Representative
  • Santa Paula Representative
  • Two randomly selected members of the Saint Francis Dam collaborative

1. In agreeing to serve on the jury, all jurors have attested that they have read the competition rules and that they agree to be bound by them.
2. The selection of the winning design(s) will be made by the jury through an anonymous voting process.
3. The jury votes will determine the top three contest submissions.
4. In the case of a tie, the Regional Forest Supervisor will be asked to provide the tie-breaking vote.


Any questions from participants can be directed to Aaron Ash, Deputy District Ranger, Los Angeles Gateway Ranger District
Aaron Ash
Deputy District Ranger
Forest Service
Angeles National Forest,
Los Angeles Gateway District
p: 626-574-5372


  • The contest begins on February 1, 2021.
  • All memorial design submittals must be received no later than April 31, 2021
  • Announcement of winners will occur in the Summer of 2021.
  • The winner(s) will be notified by email, and announcements will be made via ANF news release(s), FS websites, social media, etc.
  • The winning designs will also be acknowledged in the Historical Monument Plan, currently being developed


Submittals shall be submitted in electronic format and submitted by email to (SM.FS.anf_lagd@usda.gov). (entries should not exceed a maximum file size of 10MB).
Angeles National Forest Land Management Plan (LMP) desired conditions for the area or ”Place” can be found here, keyword search: Santa Clara Canyon.
A new administrative change recently amended to the ANF LMP also provides additional information on this place or Special Interest Area.

Each submittal may include one or all of the following:

  • Project Information: Include a design concept statement or idea
  • Plans and Drawings: Include site plan, sections, details, and/or diagrams as needed to explain the project’s design merits
  • Renderings: Views showing any major elevations, other views, images, photographs, or details describing special features. Graphics should contribute to supporting the mission statement.

Publications and Announcement of Results

The USFS and SFDMF shall have the right to publish, display, reproduce, or otherwise publicize all design submissions. The authors of the designs will be fully identified in all such publications or displays.

Ownership and use of Designs

The USFS and SFDMF will retain the ownership and right to use all submitted designs, ideas, or concepts.

The Top 3 Selected Design Proposals – Monetary Awards will be awarded by the SFDMF.

Minimum Prizes for winning proposals will comprise of:
1st Prize – $700.00
2nd Prize – $200.00
3rd Prize – $100.00

All efforts will be made to give credit and acknowledgment to any participant(s) whose concept or idea is implemented into the final Memorial. The USFS will make all efforts to ensure that persons or individuals are identified and recognized at the location of the memorial (i.e. signage, inscription, etc.).

Pages: 1 2 3 4