“Let me tell you first hand that this type of damage has occurred due to their hiking club and push for the monument…The degradation is a direct result of their bus tours through our private property. They publicly boast about the thefts and criminal trespass. They remove our signs and taunt us.”

By Marjorie Haun

Kamala Harris, one of the most radical left-wing members of the U.S. Senate, is sponsoring a “monument” bill that will drive Mya Raggio’s family off the lands they’ve possessed since before California became a state. The main group pushing for the “Saint Francis Dam Disaster National Monument,” purportedly to preserve historical artifacts, has no personal connection to the lands in question, or the disaster which occurred in 1928. And according to Mya, the group itself is causing ongoing destruction of artifacts and sites through its promotion of hiking and bus tours into the area, which often trespass onto her private property.

California Historical Society Photo

Although Kamala Harris’ “Saint Francis Disaster National Memorial Act” is portrayed as attempt to memorialize the dam failure that killed 500 people, it is in fact a land grab bill that will create yet another federally-run tourist attraction, dramatically degrading related antiquities and profoundly impacting the private properties adjacent to it. Mya says,  “I’ve attempted to get companies in to work our own claims. This bill would make all the money, time and effort that even I have put into my family legacy null and void.”

Raggio property adjacent to the proposed monument, photo credit Mya Raggio

Mya, a descendant of the first settlers to the area where Kamala Harris wants to place a new national monument, summed up her concerns in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, saying:

My name is Mya Loui Raggio. I am the daughter of Louis John Raggio who is a 92 yr old WWII VET and, most likely, the last living survivor of the St. Francis dam disaster who Actually lived IN THAT CANYON ON THAT ROAD.

My family owned and still owns, to this day, the properties adjoining a proposed monument site. These are private, deeded, titled and patented flagstone quarries. We lived directly below our flagstone quarries on a ranch that stood on acreage a few miles below. We still own THAT land as well.

My Father (Papa) is the last living primary heir to our lands in San Francisquito Canyon, Saugus, California. My family has owned these lands (and more that have already been egregiously taken from us) since before California was even a state. My maternal grandmother’s family came here with the ranchos. To the best of my knowledge, my father’s grandmother and her family (name of Sotelo) have occupied, worked and owned our lands since the 1700’s.

The group fostering the bills (S.1926 in the Senate and HR2156 in the House) has no ties to landowners in the canyon, and no ties to the dam disaster In the canyon itself. I DO. My family does. The bill states the group wishes to protect the place from theft of artifacts, graffiti and more. Let me tell you first hand that this type of damage has occurred due to their hiking club and push for the monument. We have proof. They say it’s an abandoned road. It is not. My family is up there all the time. The degradation is a direct result of their bus tours through our private property. They publicly boast about the thefts and criminal trespass. They remove our signs and taunt us. Yet we have NEVER been contacted in regards to a bill, that if passed will bring us no other option that to, once again, rise up and protect what is ours.

The dam broke and water washed all the way to the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of monuments already. This one will bring destruction of an area we have kept quiet and safe for our families and friends…until now. Not only does the canyon burn yearly but the road is deadly. They want to bus people into our private properties creating massive liability for all involved.

So many other reasons besides personal ones why this is just not a good idea.

Land grab and monument movements begun by Obama need to be shelved. Period.

I highly oppose the bill S.1926 currently in the Senate. 
Referred to as HR2156 passed in the House.

The following screenshot provided by Mya Raggio illustrates how hikers wander far from the disaster site, sometimes onto private property to view its remnants.

Screenshot provided by Mya Raggio

The “club” mentioned by Mya is the “Community Hiking Club of Santa Clarita,” and is directed by community organizer Diane Erskine-Hellrigel who has created a 501 (C) (3) to garner donations for the group’s legislative efforts.

Leon Worden, a political science professor at UCLA and resident of Santa Clarita, has been pushing for the new monument for years. In 2015 he wrote in the Santa Clarita Valley News about Representative Steven Knight’s proposal that would “place nearly 70,000 acres above Castaic Lake into “wilderness” and declare the St. Francis Dam site in San Francisquito Canyon a national monument.”  That bill has not proceeded.

Leon Worden Facebook page

None of the groups or individuals advocating for a “protected” monument  have contacted or sought input from the Raggios or other landowners in San Franscquito Canyon. And in 2014, hiking club organizer, Erskine-Hellrigel, praised President Obama’s creation of a 342, 177 acre national monument in the Los Angeles National Forest, which was designated with little local input and without congressional oversight.

According to Mya, “The bill directly affects my family owned properties and my own claims. It would also restrict me from working our quarries, selling our flagstone (as we have historically done. Many buildings are built of it. It is the stone in Magic Mountain. That came directly off our quarry.) and working my own claims (there are 9 between three I share with certain heirs). My family property begins 1/4 mile below the ruins of the dam itself and parcels go down the road/canyon on both sides all the way to the National Forest sign, again our stone.”

The Raggio Family has provided Free Range Report with unquestionable documentation showing ownership of lands and mining patents that will be essentially nullified should a federal monument be designated.

Patent image provided by Raggio Family
Map courtesy of Mya Raggio
Raggio Family claims along San Francisquito Canyon Road
Map Source: California Historical Landmarks

Mya Raggio’s history in San Francisquito Canyon provides context how very personal the implications of a restrictive monument designation are to her and her family. She says:

From the moment we occupied our lands all the way till my grandfather Frank died was from 1848 through the 1960’s, when I was born. We farmed, grew everything imaginable, we made wine, made honey, mined our gold, had huge ranches with livestock, sold our stone, and much much more.

In the early days, my Father’s Aunt, Carlotta Monte’, and her significant other, W.C Fields, along with many other actors of the day, came for grand parties at the big ranch house.

The 7 brothers (my uncles) grew up doing the same things as we do now, however the 7 had become 6 early on as my uncle, Vincent Raggio, was shot and killed in a hunting accident in the canyon when he was a young adult. These were the years between 1900s and 1978.

As for me and my immediate family, from the time my parents married in 1948, things stayed the exact same; picnics, gold mining, flagstone quarrying, hiking, climbing trees playing in our streams and ponds, until FLPMA (Federal Lands Management and Protection Act)  was passed.

For my family, FLMPA changed everything.  My family has consistently been “put upon” by our government; a government that did not even exist when we settled our lands.


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