After 2017 wildfires, Fountaingrove Club becomes a refuge for survivors

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Are you rebuilding in Fountaingrove? A former resident who left? Do you want to share your story or your thoughts about Santa Rosa two years after the fires? Contact Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707.521.5207 and at will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com.

As golfers made their way up the back nine at the Fountaingrove Club on Thursday, they faced the fenced-off site of the former clubhouse, which burned in the October 2017 firestorm. And if swimmers lounging by the club’s pool glanced down, they could see a small pair of scorched palm trees and a burn scar where a towel cart went up in smoke.

The Tubbs fire destroyed more than 1,500 Fountaingrove homes, including many belonging to country club members. The country club — rebranded as the Fountaingrove Club from the former Fountaingrove Athletic and Golf Club — weathered the firestorm with relative success compared to the surrounding neighborhood.

The clubhouse overlooking the scenic golf course was destroyed, but the club’s athletic center survived. And though the bunker sand on the 18-hole golf course was roasted into glass, the grass fared much better than many of the homes surrounding the links.

Club officials emphasized that the Fountaingrove Club was still going strong and had served as a refuge, particularly for members who have lost homes and are still rebuilding nearly two years after the Tubbs fire. A new clubhouse is set to replace the old one, and though it won’t be complete for another two years, club officials are touting it as the focal point of the rebuilding effort and one of Fountaingrove’s prime meeting places.

“They got home, they got work, they want the third place, the place that’s an extension of their living room,” said Ron Banaszak, the club’s chief operating officer. He said the new clubhouse — which will feature a 7,000-square-foot patio, upgraded locker rooms and a new golf shop — was designed while considering extensive feedback from member surveys, focus groups and town halls.

Banaszak said club membership continued to rebound since the fires and that Fountaingrove Club actually has 17 more golf members than it did before. There are fewer athletic club-only members, but Banaszak said he expected those numbers to climb as occupants move into the homes that are being rebuilt.

Banaszak noted that Sweet T’s, formerly a nearby restaurant that relocated to Windsor, was going to be replaced by condominiums, and not a restaurant or another such place where Fountaingrove residents could gather.

“We’re going to be it for the social place to hang out in Fountaingrove,” he said.

About 60% rebuilding

Nearly 900 homes in Fountaingrove are being rebuilt. Most are under construction.

Of the 873 units being rebuilt, 124 are complete, and 567 are actively in the construction process, according to city data. The remainder either have been issued permits by the city or are awaiting staff approval before breaking ground.

Fountaingrove’s rebuilding represents about a quarter of the overall effort to rebuild roughly 3,200 of the 5,300 Sonoma County units destroyed by the Tubbs fire. About 60% of the homes destroyed by the fire are being rebuilt both across the county and in Fountaingrove specifically.

City removing its burned trees

The city’s efforts to remove potentially dangerous trees burned by the fire in public areas has been completed in Coffey Park and is proceeding into Fountaingrove and Hidden Valley.

About 700 trees were damaged in the fire. City crews finished clearing damaged stumps in Coffey Park by Aug. 1 and continue to work in the city’s northeastern hills. They plan to finish the initial batch of street tree removal by October before scrapping singed saplings on city-owned parcels, open space and parkland.

Tell us

Are you rebuilding in Fountaingrove? A former resident who left? Do you want to share your story or your thoughts about Santa Rosa two years after the fires? Contact Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707.521.5207 and at will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com.

Trees that are slated for grinding and removal have been emblazoned with red marks on their trunks. A map of damaged trees can be seen online at bit.ly/SRTreeMap.

Vista Campus reopens

A $19 million effort to rebuild a Fountaingrove clinic damaged by smoke, fire, water and mold has culminated in a newly rebuilt and remodeled facility that opened its doors in mid-August.

The Vista Campus, run by Santa Rosa Community Health, originally opened in 2010. The Tubbs fire ignited a nearby play place that spewed fiery material onto the clinic’s roof. The roof was a loss, and the resulting fire triggered of the building’s sprinklers, causing the clinic to flood.

Santa Rosa Community Health hopes the reopened health center will help the agency boost its patient rolls, which dropped nearly 10% in the first year after the fire.

Fire survivors move in to cottages

Nine families who fled the 2017 fires and lost their homes have new places to live in Fountaingrove.

Habitat for Humanity unveiled its $2 million Sonoma Wildfire Cottages project near Medtronic’s Fountaingrove campus earlier this month.

Modeled on cottages created for survivors of Hurricane Katrina, the new homes were built to be disaster resistant and last decades.

The project’s funders include the Medtronic Foundation and Rebuild Wine Country.

New pedestrian bridges are open

The city has rebuilt three pedestrian bridges that were damaged in the fire, all of which are once again open to the public.

Frances Nielsen Ranch Park now sports a metal-and-concrete bridge to replace a wooden pedestrian crossing there that was damaged beyond repair, according to the city. That bridge opened to the public in July.

The bridgework also targeted two 40-foot steel spans on the eastern side of Parker Hill Road that needed repairs to wood decking. That work was completed in mid-June.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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