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In the News -
Friday, jANUARY 6, 2006
Last Monday, Jan. 2, while several towns in Northern California
remained under floodwaters, the second of two powerful winter storms veered
south bringing more rain and snow to Central California but even higher
winds and heavier precipitation to the Southland. The traditional Rose
Parade in Pasadena was drenched for the first time in 51 years.
In Kaweah Country, there were some minor rockslides and trees
and power lines down, but no major damage. Every gully, drainage, steep
driveway or exposed road cut was brimming with runoff and the saturated
ground was leeching moisture everywhere.
just returned from a holiday trip to visit my mother in Tennessee,”
said Scott Mullikin, owner of Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs. “I can’t
believe how everything turned so green while I was gone.”
Most of the runoff that wasn’t watering the verdant
landscape found its way into Lake Kaweah. By Wednesday morning, much of
the basin’s bottomlands were completely underwater.
In the nearby mountains what began as a warm weather event
by Monday had developed into a major snowstorm. At 7,000 feet, Sequoia
Park locales at Lodgepole and Mineral King received three feet of new
The rainfall amounts around Three Rivers varied tremendously
depending on elevation. At 1,000 feet, the storm dumped five inches of
rainfall, bringing the current season’s total to nearly 11 inches.
At one location along the Mineral King Road near 2,000 feet,
the recent storms dumped 7.5 inches of rainfall for a season total of
What less than one month ago looked like a seasonal drought
now all of a sudden is looking more normal with 20 to 25 inches of rainfall
for the season a distinct possibility.
3R man charged in
Year’s Eve assault
On Saturday, Dec. 31, Jim Fansett, Three Rivers resident
deputy sheriff, was summoned to a Kaweah River Drive residence in the
vicinity of Lions Arena after neighbors reported hearing several shotgun
blasts shortly after 9 p.m.
still trying to sort out exactly what happened but it appears that the
suspect did discharge a firearm and at least one female at the house sustained
a minor injury,” said Deputy Fansett.
As a result of the incident, a longtime resident of Three
Rivers was taken into custody and transported to Visalia for booking.
Deputy Fansett said that the suspect is being charged with at least one
felony count of assault with a deadly weapon.
A Tulare County Sheriff’s spokesperson said that additional
charges stemming from the incident might be forthcoming. Anyone with information
that could aid in the investigation is asked to call Deputy Fansett at
Park entrance fees
If you plan to visit Sequoia and/or Kings Canyon national
parks this year, it’s going to cost you more money. The entrance
fee, valid for seven days, doubled as of Sunday, Jan. 1, from $10 to $20.
An annual pass to Sequoia-Kings Canyon increased from $20
to $30. The all-parks pass remains at $50 for now.
This is the first fee increase since the it was raised from $5 per car
to $10 a decade ago.
It used to be that the money collected at national parks
went into the nation’s “general fund,” the same place
that all federal tax dollars go. But, in 1996, Congress authorized the
“Recreation Fee Demonstration Program,” which allows 80 percent
of the money collected at the entrance stations to stay in the local parks,
with the other 20 percent going to parks that don’t collect an entrance
As a result, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have
received desperately needed funds to build a bike path, repave roads,
improve and renovate campground facilities and picnic areas, maintain
trails, implement new visitor-education programs, construct new restrooms,
and provide additional resource protection. Also being planned is a shuttle-transportation
system for the Giant Forest area to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
Granted, the entrance-fee income is much more easier to pay
since visitors’ dollars stay local for park improvements. But the
doubling of the fees could have an direct impact on visitation by Tulare
County residents, who are among the state’s poorest.
Lower visitation to Sequoia could ultimately mean a reduction
of visitors in Three Rivers. In the past, Sequoia National Park actions
affecting visitor facilities have had consequences for this gateway community,
such as the closure of the former Giant Forest Village in the wintertime.
The best deal around if planning on visiting any or all national
parks is the National Parks Pass. The cost is $50 and it’s valid
at any park for an entire year (and it’s not based on a calendar
year, but from first month of use).
Landscaping project blossoms
Two Exeter High School students, Andrew Medina, 16, and his
brother, Steven Medina, l4, worked on a recent Saturday removing bushes
and turning soil in preparation for new landscaping at the Memorial Building.
The two young men were donating their work to fulfill their high school
community service requirement.
The planting project has been organized and funded through
the Redbud Garden Club. Landscape plans include using colorful native
trees and shrubs and a variety of local flowers to give the garden seasonal
beauty while bringing it into harmony with the natural landscape around
The project is a community effort that includes, in addition
to the Redbud Garden Club, the Native Plant Society-Alta Peak Chapter,
members of the local fire station, as well as volunteer high school students.
Melanie Baer-Keeley, horticuluralist at Sequoia-Kings Canyon National
Parks, is providing overall guidance in plant selection and layout.
On Saturday, Jan. 21, the planting of phase one — the
40 feet of garden leading up to the main entrance of the building —
will commence. All who want to assist on the project can arrive at the
building (with shovels) anytime between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. High school
students interested in community service credit may call 561-3202 or 561-4126
Wet and wild winter weather, lots of business comings and
goings, and an exclusive of the tsunami aftermath dominated the first
quarter of 2005. It’s THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH in retrospect, a month-long
series that looks back on the year through stories and pictures...
PART ONE —
January 7— The year kicked off with
the fourth annual Polar Dip at which more than 20 hearty souls braved
the chilly Kaweah River in a turgid pool below the Gateway Restaurant.
The sun was shining, but the water temperature was in the 30s.
ALLEN ISHIDA was sworn in as the new county supervisor for
District One. Supervisor Ishida took over the seat vacated by Bill Sanders.
Sanders chose retirement over a new term or seeking another office.
SEVEN OF the last 10 days featured periods of rain and snow.
The mild El Nino was expected to significantly impact the next three months
of the rainfall season.
Forecasters were saying that there was real potential for
the season to become a “drought buster.” Some areas in the
vicinity of Wuksachi Village in Sequoia National Park had more than six
feet of snow.
January 14— The weather remained the
big news of the week. It was windy, it was wet, and it was definitely
some wild winter weather that barreled its way across California. On Sunday,
Jan. 9, locals arose to the roaring thunder of a suddenly swollen Kaweah
By Wednesday, a record-setting series of storms gave way
to general clearing but the entire state was dealing with the aftermath
of mudslides, dramatic rescues, power outages, and road closures. In Three
Rivers, more than four more inches of rainfall were recorded, bringing
the season total to 14 inches.
That rainfall total for early January was only slightly less
than what the area received for the entire 2003-2004 season.
THE BULLENE Vineyards tasting room was closed marking the
end to Three Rivers’s only commercial winery. Innovative Structural
Glass, Inc., purchased the property, including its 7,000 vines.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL Park announced the retirements of Scott
Ruesch, Bob Griego, and Frank Bleggi. JD Swed became the parks’
new chief ranger; Richard Huffman was appointed concessions specialist.
January 21— Nancy and Uwe Reimer,
longtime owners of Reimer’s Candies and Gifts in Three Rivers, announced
that the business and Sierra Drive property had been purchased by Lynn
and Mary Anne Bretz of Visalia.
The newest owners are only the third owners of the 50-year-old
candy store. Ted and Millie Huffaker started candy-making at the site,
selling the business to the Reimers in 1978.
THE RECENT storms that brought snow to the local mountains
and caused more than $100 million in damage statewide were a combination
of the jet stream pumping cold air into huge amounts of equatorial Pacific
moisture. What caused the rare weather event was actually a cut-off low
positioned directly off the Central California coast.
BRIAN DROSENOS became the new sous-chef at Wuksachi. He later
took over as executive chef when Jamie Rigau resigned.
January 28— Chris Gentry, who was
raised in Three Rivers and now is the CEO of Asia Works with an office
in Jakarta, Indonesia, reported being one of the first to provide direct
aid to victims of the Asian tsunami. Gentry said he buried dozens of victims
and saw firsthand the horrific devastation.
is no way to ever know how many actually died in these villages where
thousands of people formerly lived,” Gentry said.
Gentry donated thousands of his own dollars to the relief
effort and raised thousands more that were given directly to the victims.
He provided his story and photos of the devastation of the Aceh province
as an exclusive to The Kaweah Commonwealth.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL Park officials closed the South Fork Campground
to overnight use due to vandalism to pit toilets, signs, and garbage cans.
The footbridge across the South Fork was also set ablaze and partially
February 4— A large boulder slid onto
the Generals Highway one-half mile above the Foothills Visitor Center.
No one was in the path of the large slide that brought down the 12-foot
by 8-foot hunk of granite.
The slide caused some anxious moments for one carload of
visitors and then the following day had hundreds of day-users abruptly
changing their plans. The slide closed the two-lane highway from 7 p.m.
Friday until 3:30 p.m. the following day. A park road crew blasted the
big rock with a dynamite charge then used heavy equipment to clear the
THE FEBRUARY 1 snow survey contained some very good news.
The recent spate of January storms had the local snowpack at 178 percent
of a typical February 1. That number already represented 109 percent of
the average April 1 total, a season’s benchmark date for snow pack.
THREE RIVERS was treated to a sneak preview of a demonstration
garden being designed at the new CDF fire station. A local volunteer contingent
of mostly Redbud Garden Club members assisted firefighters with the planting
of a fire-safe native landscape.
February 11— The Naturedome called
it quits after operating continuously in Three Rivers since 1991.
DELAWARE NORTH Companies Parks and Resorts announced that
Jamie Hodgson had been named the new general manager for the company’s
operations in Sequoia National Park. Hodgson replaced Tom McFadden, who
left to work on a new concessions deal for the company at Yellowstone
One of the highlights while McFadden was general manager
was a presidential visit by George W. Bush in June 2000. Bush requested
that his room be equipped with a treadmill and a TV. After his visit,
televisions were installed in all 102 guest rooms.
WOODLAKE KIWANIS and the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce
announced its annual community service awards. Bob Hengst was presented
the Man of the Year award; Frances Mann was honored as the Woman of the
Jeff Holmes and his partner, Ed Micham, representing High
Sierra Lumber & Supply, accepted the Business of the Year award.
February 18— At a special ceremony
held February 15, Three Rivers School volunteer Jami Beck was honored
for her work with children. The 55th annual event was organized by the
school’s Eagle Booster Club.
ON THE local business scene, several comings and goings were
noted. Among the comings was Heart’s Desire, an eclectic gift shop
that planned to open in the former Naturedome. A new hair and nail salon
with day spa called TRU, owned by TaMara Dutro, opened adjacent to the
Century 21 office.
February 25— A burglary spree had
Three Rivers alarmed when three homes, one while the occupants were asleep
in an adjacent bedroom, were victimized. The series of heists netted stereo
equipment, a wallet, musical instruments, jewelry, and a 2002 Ford Explorer.
SUPERVISOR ISHIDA conducted his first Town Meeting and furnished
an update on several county matters. He also said he was still trying
to work on a deal that could help get a visitor center in Three Rivers.
AT THE meeting, the Commonwealth presented its annual awards.
Jim McClintick received the “Golden Pen Award” for outstanding
McClintick, a 13-year resident of Cherokee Oaks, received
the honor for writing an original Valentine’s Day poem submission
for the past 12 years.
Congressman Devin Nunes (R-21st District) received the 2004
Newsmaker of the Year award for his work on behalf of his constituents
and especially for his legislation to preserve the Mineral King cabin
March 4— A number of items stolen
in recent residential burglaries in Three Rivers were recovered when Tulare
County sheriff’s detectives served a warrant at a residence in Poplar.
Two suspects were taken into custody for receiving stolen property and
AT A special briefing held at Three Rivers School, BLM officials
said that the new user fee of $5 per car caused a decline in the number
of persons who used the North Fork recreation sites.
had less graffiti, less tagging, and our rangers wrote fewer citations
for drugs and alcohol,” said Alyssa Hancock, BLM ranger.
HANNAH ROBERTS, 3, of Three Rivers had her waist-length hair
cut and her family donated the detached ponytail to Locks of Love for
use by cancer patients.
March 11— In what was dubbed “The
not-so-great TKC paper caper,” several hundred copies of the Commonwealth’s
10th-anniversary edition of March 4 were removed from distribution locations
throughout town. The publishers reprinted 800 issues to replace the missing
MEASURE B, a local initiative that would have provided revenue
for Woodlake High School to maintain and improve facilities, was defeated
at the polls during a special election on March 8. Less than one-fourth
of the registered voters in the high school district made the effort to
IRISH EYES were smiling in anticipation of St. Patrick’s
Day as a Three Rivers couple, Shawn and Donna McConnaughey, celebrated
the opening of Doogle McGuires in Visalia. The new pub and family-style
eatery was a longtime dream of chef Shawn, who created the menu and also
supervised the kitchen operations.
March 18— Taggers were caught red-handed
as they painted on a newly constructed wall on the Generals Highway in
Sequoia National Park. Several youths, including some suspected gang members,
were cited and processed at the scene by park rangers.
WORK CREWS added rock to the construction of the earthen
dike behind the Best Western Holiday Lodge in Three Rivers. The dike would
accommodate the newly enlarged Lake Kaweah basin.
TRUS STUDENTS put the finishing touches on a new mural designed
by Nadi Spencer, local artist. The project was completed under the auspices
of the new Visiting Artists program.
March 25— Somebody forgot to tell
Mother Nature that it was time for spring in the foothills as a powerful
winter storm pounded Kaweah Country. The snowline was down to 4,000 feet
and a large mudslide forced the closure of Generals Highway while NPS
crews worked to clear the debris.
The rainfall in the Three Rivers environs surpassed 20 inches
for the season at the reporting station located at 1,000 feet. That number
equaled the average precipitation for the past 40 years with three months
to go in the current rainfall season.