christmas hill park gilroy garlic festival shooting memorial
The Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting memorial located at Christmas Hill Park has weathered over years. City officials are planning on upgrading it. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
music in the park san jose

After four years of facing harsh sunlight and destruction by countless squirrels, the memorial at Christmas Hill Park for the victims of the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting is in need of repairs.

The Gilroy City Council discussed the memorial at the Sept. 11 meeting, with the plan to come back with a new design for the area that will help it withstand the elements for years to come.

The memorial, designed by Gilroy landscape architect Karen Aitken and completed in September 2019, was originally intended as a temporary quiet space for Christmas Hill Park visitors to reflect on the tragedy, located on the ranch side of the park where the shooting took place. Councilmembers informally agreed during that time that a more permanent memorial would be constructed in the near future.

But in 2020, with no plans in the works to upgrade it, the council agreed to make the memorial permanent.

The memorial, located close to the Uvas Creek trail, features a large palm tree that had three flag-laden ropes attached to it.

At the base of the palm tree are three large boulders, which symbolize the three young people who were killed: Stephen Romero, 6; Keyla Salazar, 13; and Trevor Irby, 25. 

However, the flags were recently removed due to their condition, and two of the three ropes have completely frayed and are no longer connected to the tree.

Mayor Marie Blankley said the council in 2020, when deciding to make the memorial permanent, did not consider the fact that most of the materials were not made to last long-term.

“That’s been the problem,” she said. “We want to make sure it displays the respect it was meant to display.”

City Administrator Jimmy Forbis said he’s received many phone calls over the past few months notifying him of the memorial’s battered shape.

The goal is to make it more durable through the use of hardscape while removing the ropes, which will require much less maintenance, he said.

Blankley suggested turning the memorial into a garden, with a concrete monument that identifies the victims and the date of the shooting.

Councilmember Tom Cline said the palm tree should be removed due to the difficulty of maintaining it. Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz added that if the palm tree is removed, it should be replaced with three smaller trees to represent the lives lost, as well as adding a bench.

“We understand it’s a very emotional spot,” Forbis said. “It brings back a lot of horrific memories for the community, for ourselves.” 

Conceptual plans will come back to the council at a future meeting, where the public can weigh in on the options.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


  1. One of the greatest legacies to someone passed is continuing their efforts. The paltry example of an ignored and weathered shrine is an insult but the proposal of a stronger monument demonstrates the ignorance of both of city council and Garlic Committee (thankfully now defunct). Great people were lost four years ago but the victims continue to accumulate. Many worthy causes (school programs, churches, etc.) have lost their means of financial support; generated solely by thousands of volunteers. Despite the inadequate security, the demise of the festival falls to the Garlic Committee members. Millions of dollars were squandered, the largest being default on a downtown property loan. That sad reality denied the large premium required to insure the Garlic Festival. How does a new “shooting memorial” honor the decades-long community effort that brought so much good? The Festival is gone and the memories will eventually fade, future generations will be clueless to a community jewel. The whole thing stinks, sadly it’s not garlic.

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