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More than a year after 260 trees were felled around the Cohasset Elementary School playground, residents are still fighting to make sure the Chico Unified School District does the right thing by their mountain town.

A year ago in July, without consulting trustees or top-level officials, CUSD employees informally OK’d a plan suggested by logger Dale Ulsh: Take out diseased and dangerous trees and use part of the proceeds from timber sales to pay for a new playground. The number of trees taken largely destroyed the forested parts of the campus. District leaders have since apologized for the logging and continue to refer to it as a “tragedy.”

CUSD Facilities Planner Mike Weissenborn has been meeting with Cohasset community committees on a master plan to restore the campus as much as possible.

But budget constraints have left trustees torn: They say they want to make things right, but not at the expense of other schools.

Weissenborn recommended that the CUSD augment the $19,000 reaped from the timber sales with $8,000 to fully fund the schoolchildren’s idea of a good playground. In addition, he suggested, the district should put $5,000 toward a path around the perimeter of the site plus another $5,000 for an easier-to-maintain watering system and $5,000 for plants that the children would put in themselves. The money would come from something called “Fund 29,” generated from the interest of school bonds sold in 1988.

Some residents had been hoping the board would approve a broader, more costly landscaping plan proposed by Cohasset residents and landscape consultants Dana and Brian Hanson.

Resident Mikki Ashe said it’s been frustrating to watch the process drag on. “We feel like we’re being stalled or stonewalled.”

The CUSD has already spent $32,500 on cleaning up stumps and such after the logger was told to leave the project, along with erosion control. “So, just adding up the dollars we’re into this $77,500—is that what I’m hearing?” asked Trustee Scott Schofield.

“Mistakes cost money,” pointed out Cohasset resident Robert Herhusky.

Ultimately, the trustees seemed to be leaning toward approving Weissenborn’s suggestions. The board will likely give direction to staff members at its next meeting.

Trustee Steve O’Bryan, who has shown the most sympathy throughout the debacle, said, “This is certainly not the end of discussion on this process or the end of funding.

"We’re responsible for a car wreck, basically," he added.