Coffey Park Playground: Rebuilding what was lost

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- In Coffey Park-- it's not so much a phoenix rising from the ashes as a memory being reshaped from piles of dirt. What once was and will again be the Coffey Neighborhood Park and playground.

"Are you looking forward to the park?" we asked resident Katie Gregory. "Oh yes, because I have a toddler and a seven-year-old. "

RELATED: Coffey Park residents eager to get park back as community continues rebuilding from North Bay Fires

The five-acre project will be an improvement by all accounts. But there is always someone who finds an issue.

"And I don't want to be the guy that complains but I have a different perspective," Michael Williams told us.

For 15 years, Williams has lived across the street. Long-time resident Michael Williams lives across the street.

Williams' more sentimental about what used to be than excited by what will, especially considering the $3-million price tag, funded mostly by the state and FEMA.

"It seems like when you have street lights that don't work, and curbs trashed and bad sidewalks, you could spread the wealth around a little bit."

But spending money for relief after disasters is not that simple. Every dollar for this project comes out of a specific pot for a specific purpose.

"They don't make it easy. It is a challenge," said Santa Rosa Assistant City Manager Jason Nutt.

He has heard such comments before. Getting money back from the feds and state, he says, is time-consuming and exacting. Moving money from one pot to another would violate guidelines.

BEFORE & AFTER: How North Bay Fires impacted Coffey Park in Santa Rosa

"We're dealing with a different set of rules and doing our best to maximize the federal and state funding coming in."

The bottom line, the city will spend all of $180,000 on this $3-million project after dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's. And no, leftover money cannot go anywhere else.

For Michael Williams and others like him, progress may be the price of memories.

"I just wish it could be as it was before," said Michael as he looked out from the door of his house.

Don't we all.

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