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In the News - Friday, January 18, 2013




Injured bobcat succumbs to injuries

  Tulare County fire personnel responded Saturday, Jan. 5, to a report of an injured bobcat alongside the highway near Three Rivers Mercantile. After arriving on scene, a Department of Fish and Wildlife officer was summoned.
   The officer examined the bobcat that was apparently hit by a vehicle and removed the animal from the roadway. According to the fire department incident report, the state officer said that the bobcat would be transported to Critter Creek in Squaw Valley for treatment.
   How that works is via a cooperative agreement with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game).
  “Fish and Game came to us a while back and asked us if we could take injured wildlife since we have a vet who frequently visits here,” said Dan Turner, who with Louise Culver owns and operates Critter Creek Wildlife Station. “We have a network of organizations and volunteers who bring us animals for rehabilitation.”
   Turner said he thought the recent incident (Jan. 5) with the bobcat in Three Rivers was curious because prior to getting a call that the cat was en route he received a call from one of the local TV news stations asking if the bobcat was okay.
  “That injured animal was transported here by Bruce Lowe, a Critter Creek volunteer from Exeter,” Turner said. “Unfortunately, the bobcat was dead on arrival.”
Turner said the cat was probably hurt too badly to save but sometimes a few minutes or hours can make a difference.
  “Currently, we’re looking for Three Rivers volunteers who on short notice might be able to transport an injured animal up here,” said Turner. “It involves a brief training session, a reliable vehicle, and a willingness to help.”
   Critter Creek Wildlife Station is located on Hwy. 180 in Squaw Valley near the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park. From Three Rivers, it’s about one hour of driving time via Highways 198 and 63 to the ranch headquarters of the wildlife station.
   To become a volunteer, call 338-2415.

3R motorist injured in crash on Sierra Drive

  Kelsey White, 21, of Three Rivers, was injured late Friday night, Jan. 11, when the 2001 two-door Saturn she was driving collided with a power pole on Sierra Drive between the intersection of Old Three Rivers Drive and the Village Shopping Center. White was headed westbound when she went off the right side of the roadway, then overcorrected, causing her to cross to the other side of the road.
   The CHP preliminary report said the driver suffered minor injuries — lacerations, bumps, and bruises. She was transported to Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia for further examination and treatment.
   A cause of the solo-vehicle accident is pending completion of the accident report. White was not wearing the shoulder and lap belt in the vehicle and no air bags deployed upon impact of the crash.

New owners at Three Rivers Chevron

By Holly Gallo

  Locals may have noticed some new faces at Three Rivers Chevron over the last month as a new family takes ownership of the local gas station and mini-mart. Mohinder Sall, his wife, Kuldeep, daughter Jasmeet, 7, and son Naveen, 5, are preparing to move to Three Rivers now that they’ve acquired the business.
  “I love it here in Three Rivers,” Mohinder said. “People are so friendly. It’s a small community where you know almost everyone.”
   The Salls are currently living with friends in Visalia until they find residence in Three Rivers.  His daughter, Jasmeet, is already attending school at Three Rivers Union School where she is a first-grader. Naveen just celebrated his fifth birthday this month and currently helps keep things in check at the Chevron.
   Though Mohinder has been a business owner for the last 23 years, operating businesses in New York, Boston, Florida, Missouri, and California, this is his first gas station. His last business was a restaurant called Monsoon, where Mohinder was a chef as well as the owner.
   When he found the Chevron in Three Rivers, he sold his restaurant and moved his family to the Central Valley from Palm Springs.
   As this is the first time Mohinder has owned a gas station, former owner Dennis Reisinger has helped with the transition. Dennis owned the Chevron with his late wife, Lori, for over 27 years until the close of escrow on January 1, 2013, transferred the ownership to Mohinder.
   The Chevron station is on Sierra Drive across from Three Rivers School.

Joe the Drummer navigates court’s red tape

By Holly Gallo

  Joe “the Drummer” Parisi of Three Rivers remains in litigious limbo following his December 17 court date resulting from a noise complaint being made against him for his mobile drum performances in October 2012.
  “The judge called about eight of us up and apologized because he had no paperwork on us,” Joe said. “They lost the paperwork? Now I have to call them every two weeks for a year, when the case will be dropped, just to see if I get to go to court yet.”
   Joe said that the judges evidently had too many cases and “bigger fish to fry,” leaving Joe without closure or answers.
  “I don’t even know if I should start playing again,” he said. “It’s the worst that can happen, there’s no resolution.”
   Disconcerting for Joe is the fact that so many Three Rivers locals rallied to support him in his trial. Following the October 19 article about Joe’s citation, hundreds of signatures were collected on petitions scattered about the town calling for Joe’s name to be cleared.
  “The petitions are still out there but people must be tired of them by now,” he said.

Bridge construction
on South Fork side road

  The Grouse Valley Road bridge (Mountain Road 319), six miles up South Fork Drive, is being rebuilt with Measure R funds. The old 60-foot timber bridge was built in 1950. The 12-foot-wide bridge was deemed to be in an “advanced state of decay.” The new bridge will be 10 feet wider, allowing for two-way traffic. PHOTO ABOVE: The detour bridge with the new abutment to the left.


Huell and the Barbarian: A tribute

By Jay O’Connell

  I recently learned of the passing of two men, each a colorful personality who died tragically young. I knew them both, albeit to vastly differing degrees, and rather than join the chorus of tweets offering pithy tribute to Los Angeles television icon Huell Howser, or posting my memorial to Three Rivers native Randy Norris on the Facebook page in his honor, I thought both these guys deserved, and would have appreciated, some good old-fashioned ink and newsprint. While I worry that those unfamiliar with Huell’s work, or who didn’t know Randy, might not see the fondness and respect behind this teasing tribute, I’m compelled to offer it nonetheless.
   Huell Howser (1945-2013)— As a history nerd, it was natural that I be a fan of Huell Howser and especially his show “California’s Gold.” I was especially thrilled when, back in the mid 1990s, he agreed with me that the Kaweah Colony was a great story, and a California’s Gold segment was planned. Arrangements were made with Sequoia National Park officials to host Huell and his show. A couple of old-timers who were Colony descendants were invited to the brand-new office of The Kaweah Commonwealth to be interviewed by Huell. I even had Earl McKee lined up to sing “California Here I Come” in front of the Kaweah Post Office. A last-minute shut down of production (cameraman Luis injured himself) caused us to postpone until we could reschedule.
   A few months later I ran into Huell on the Warner Bros. lot. I introduced myself (as we had never actually met in person), and he enthusiastically shook my hand, loudly proclaiming   “You’re the Kaweah guy!?! We’re going to do that story. It’ll be great.” We tried to reschedule the segment a couple times, but unfortunately were never able to work things out.
   I later sent Huell an advance copy of a book I wrote about the Kaweah Colony in hopes he’d offer a line of praise for promotional purposes. It’s a standard practice in the book business, and I knew of no one whose endorsement I wanted more. He was enthusiastic (when was he ever not?) about the book, and said he’d get around to giving me a quote.   Finally, as the printing deadline loomed, I called to see if he’d written it. I explained that I’d really like something short I could put on the front cover. Something like “a truly colorful slice of California’s rich history” might work. Huell heard that and enthusiastically said, “Yes, that’s perfect. Print that!” I can only assume he actually read the book, which proudly bears that endorsement.
   Randy Norris (1961-2013)— Although I’d known Randy Norris since grade school, it was only later when we worked together at my dad’s service station that I really got to know him. Becoming friends with Randy was an often enlightening and always entertaining experience. Randy was quite a character, and I think more self-aware of that character than he ever let on.
   I remember one time at the station, early 1980s, and this BMW pulls in. Two couples get out, all polo shirts and chinos, topsiders and sunglasses, ostentatious sophistication and wealth. If they didn’t have Connecticut plates on the car, they probably should have. We filled up the Beemer, washed the windshield, answered their silly questions, and basically played Gomer and Goober for their (and our) amusement. As they readied to pull away, Randy, with deadpan panache and impeccable comedic timing asked, “Are those what you call Yuppies?” And as much as he may have mocked them, he’d be the first to offer them help if needed.
   I remember one tasty example of Randy’s endearing mountain man bravado. One time, we had convinced a couple of city girls to come hang out at whatever house was the hangout house that summer. Sitting around drinking Lowenbraus, Randy, to impress these young ladies, snatched a fly right out of the air and made it appear like he ate it (maybe he actually did, who knows.) The girls gave a grossed-out “Eeeuuwww!” Randy uttered a mountain man “Aaarrgggghhhh!” The rest of us laughed.
   While I never attended, I often heard tales of a tradition Randy and many of his contemporaries took part in — the annual Barbarian Feast. I always imagined Randy as one of the most enthusiastic participants. He loved the showmanship of it all. He loved to play the part.
   He one time, and only half-jokingly I think, claimed that the Brad Pitt character in Legends of the Fall reminded him of himself. I can’t really explain it, but I kind of get that. I can somehow see the water bouncing, in slow motion, off the brim of Randy’s hat, a vista of mountains in the background.
   Imagine that: Huell meets Randy— To temper the sadness I feel thinking of Randy’s passing and the news of Huell’s death, I imagine the following scenario. It brings a smile of fond nostalgia to mind. In my imagined memory, I am leading Huell and his cameraman to a remote mountain location, way up at the end of the North Fork, let’s say. We are off trail, exploring and searching for long-lost Kaweah Colony artifacts when we hear strange noises. Is it the call of Big Foot? The wailing of lost Yokuts in fierce battle? Just then, several grizzled locals burst upon us, clothed in animal skins and wielding rough-hewn weaponry.
  “Oh, hey Randy,” I call out. “Barbarian Feast?”
  “Oh my gosh,” Huell enthusiastically exclaims, rushing toward Randy, wielding his microphone like a sword. “Now, tell me, what are y’all doing out here? This is amazing! It’s like something out of the movies, right here in these gorgeous mountains. A truly colorful slice of California’s rich Barbarian history!”
  “Arrggghhh,” Randy proclaims, his chin tilted up, chest out, and prop weapon raised to the sky. You can see the beginnings of a smile lifting his impressive moustache, an in-on-the-joke twinkle of joie de vivre (imagine Randy’s pronunciation of that!) in his eyes. As I fall awake from this imagined scene, I hear Randy say, “Hey, Huell, I’m ready for my close-up,” and we all share a good laugh.
   Huell Howser and Randy Norris were two genuine, one-of-a-kind individuals. I’ll drink a Lowenbrau (or two) to that.


Mary Theys
1913 ~ 2013

   Bernice Mary Theys (pronounced TEEZ), a former resident of Three Rivers, died peacefully on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. She was 99, just seven weeks from her 100th birthday.
   On Saturday, Jan. 19 (tomorrow), at 11 a.m., a memorial service will be held at Park Visalia Assisted Living, 3939 W. Walnut Ave., Visalia.
   Mary was born on a farm near Americus, Kan., on February 22, 1913. She was the youngest of 10 children — five girls and five boys, including twin brothers — born to John and Persia White. Mary’s mother passed away when she was 15.
   In 1930, she graduated from Emporia High School. She married Olman Theys on New Year’s Day 1939.
   During World War II, the couple worked for Hercules Powder Company near Lawrence, Kan. Mary worked for two years there, dry-sorting nitroglycerine sticks. She described it as “a very dangerous job.”
   In 1945, the couple came west, settling in Corcoran. For the next 16 years, they owned the Shell Station there. Olman operated the service station; Mary said she was “the gopher” and assisted in other aspects of the business.
   In 1963, Mary and Olman retired to Three Rivers. They lived near to, and were very active in, the Community Presbyterian Church. Mary served as a deacon, elder, and in many other capacities at the church.
   Mary and Olman loved to attend High Sierra Jazz Band concerts. They also enjoyed playing a weekly game of Yahtzee with friends. She was also a member of the Redbud Garden Club, Sierra Traditional Jazz Club, Three Rivers Woman’s Club, Three Rivers Senior League, and the Presbyterian Church’s Firesiders, New Life, and other church-related groups.
   For the past seven years, Mary has resided at Park Visalia Assisted Living.
In 1990, Mary was preceded in death by her husband, Olman.
   She is survived by nine nieces and nephews and their families: Glenda Cole of Providence, Utah, Ermajene Milliken of Topeka, Kan., Ronald Moore of Americus, Kan., Archie Ames of Anaheim, Shirley Bentley, Russell White of Emporia, Kan., Margo Tressler of Visalia, and Allison Bettencourt of Penn Valley, Calif.

Judy Nichols
1942 ~ 2013

   Judith Lee Nichols, a resident of Three Rivers for 40 years, died Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in Visalia. She was 70.
   Judy was born November 14, 1942, at Fort Bragg, N.C., to Lawrence and Ruth Tutak. She was raised on U.S. Army bases on the East Coast of the U.S. and in Germany. After completing high school, Judy moved to Washington, D.C., to attend American University, graduating in 1964 with a degree in English literature.
   Upon graduation, Judy took a job as a flight attendant with United Airlines, where she worked for three years.
   In 1966, she met Ralph Nichols. During their five-year marriage, they had two children, Christine (b. 1967) and Jeffrey (b. 1970). The couple lived in San Francisco, Petaluma, and Bakersfield.
   In 1973, Judy moved to Three Rivers and began a teaching career at Lindsay Unified School District. During her more than 20 years there, she taught English at Steve Garvey Junior High School, Lindsay High School, and Lindsay Continuation High School.
   During this time, Judy raised her two children, who attended Three Rivers School, and stayed actively involved in the community while also enjoying gardening, snowskiing, relaxing at the river during the summers, and playing softball.
   As she approached retirement, Judy purchased a home on the South Fork and continued to pursue her life’s passion of gardening while enjoying time spent with close friends and her beloved animals.
   Judy is survived by her children, Jeffrey Nichols and Christine Nichols; and three grandchildren, Blake Nichols, 10; Kaelyn Nichols, 5; and Dalton Vawter, 5. She will be missed dearly by the friends and family whose lives she touched to deeply.

2012 in Review:
January ~ June

Compiled by


  The year 2012 is now in the record books. The news around world included the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, a native Californian; the 2012 Summer Olympics; civil unrest in Syria and Egypt; the presidential election; the shooting of Trayvon Martin; the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy; a roller-coaster of gas prices; Mars Rover explorations; the Penn State child sex-abuse trial; Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast; the affair and subsequent resignation of CIA director David Petraeus; the fiscal cliff drama; the ups and downs of unemployment numbers; Gangnam Style; mass shootings at the Wisconsin Sikh temple, Oikos University (Oakland), Clackamas Town Center (Oregon), Aurora, Colo., movie theatre; and Sandy Hook (Conn.) Elementary School; the record-breaking jump by extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner from the edge of Earth’s atmosphere (23 miles up) to an 834 mph free fall before landing safely; and the loss of celebrities such as Whitney Houston, Dick Clark, Nora Ephron, Andy Griffith, Ernest Borgnine, Phyllis Diller, Mike Wallace, Don Grady (whose mother, Mary, formerly lived in Three Rivers), Jack Klugman, Ravi Shankhar, Dave Brubeck, Michael Clarke Duncan, Davy Jones, and so many more.
   How did Kaweah Country fare during all this turmoil and pandemonium? Well, you be the judge. Read on...

   January 6— The New Year dunked the 11th goose-bumped brigade of “Polar Bear Plunge” participants into the cold waters of the Kaweah River adjacent to The Gateway Restaurant. Farther east along Highway 198, the impending closure of the Generals Highway “between the parks” for the duration of winter sparked concern about the local economy during the already slow winter months.
   On the Highway 180 side of the parks, two bandits burglarized Badger Mountain House restaurant and saloon — located at the junction of Highway 245 and Dry Creek Drive — removing a cash register and an ATM. At Mount Rainier National Park, National Park Service ranger of 12 years Margaret Anderson was shot and killed in the line of duty on New Year’s Day.
   In local politics, the Three Rivers Community Services District welcomed new members Robert Groeber, Jacki Fletcher, and Dave Vasquez to four-year terms alongside Rex Black and Mike Cannarozzi. The Three Rivers Memorial District added Maureen “Mo” Basham and Richard Fletcher to the incumbent board comprised of Marge Ewen, Frank Capalare, and Dave Sherwood.
   Down the hill, the Woodlake High School District unified with the Woodlake elementary schools. Three Rivers trustees Edmund Pena and Kent Owen remained on the seven-seat board with Joe Hallmeyer, Ralph Chapman, Richard Rochin, Helen Renteria, and newcomer George Sanchez.
   January 13— Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) now represents Three Rivers in the new senatorial District 8. Meanwhile, state redistricting would shift Three Rivers from the 21st district, represented by Devin Nunes (R-Visalia), to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Bakersfield) 22nd district.
   Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks officials decided to open the Generals Highway between the parks on weekends and holidays. An 84-year-old Three Rivers man escaped injury after rolling his Toyota Tundra that ignited a small grass fire near the Lazy J Ranch Motel.
   The California Department of Fish and Game proposed the addition of the American pika to the federal Endangered Species List due to the fact that the above-timberline dweller’s habitat has been impacted by climate change. The Middle Fork of the Kaweah River was also impacted as its flow was measured at 88 cubic feet per second, one of the lowest flows in recent history.
   January 20— The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) certified a group of concerned Kaweah and Three Rivers citizens as an official volunteer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) organization. The flashing sign at Lake Kaweah asked boaters to help prevent an ecological emergency, one caused by the spread of quagga and zebra mussels. The mussels are an invasive species from eastern Europe, and they have been colonizing the western United States.
   Mount Taishan National Park in China was named a sister park to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Karen Taylor-Goodrich, Sequoia-Kings Canyon superintendent; Colleen Bathe, chief of the Division of Interpretation, Education, and Partnerships; and Denise Robertson, Sequoia South District interpreter traveled to Mount Taishan for an agreement-signing ceremony.
   The mild winter gave Three Rivers an early spring, flirting with 70 degrees at times.
Woodlake High School alumnus Rocio Medina, M.D., returned to her hometown to oversee a Kaweah Delta Health Care District clinic.
   January 27— New laws flooded the state this month. The Booster Seat Law banned any driver from transporting a child under the age of eight without proper child restraints. The ban on open-carry handguns reduced ambiguity for law-enforcement officers. Several new laws also took effect protecting minority gender and sexual identities.

   February 3— The new Woodlake Unified School District board was split on the issue of whether or not to provide board members with health insurance benefits. Questions arose regarding the district’s ability to pay for the benefits and were complicated by the facts that the district had already suffered cuts due to budget restraints and the former elementary board members had health insurance in their previous posts.
   By February, the two inches of rain that fell two weeks previous, the first precipitation in the region since November 2011, had become a mere memory.
   February 10— Woodlake Unified School District trustees narrowly approved health insurance benefits for its board members in a 4-3 vote. In the event that all board members accepted the benefits, it would cost the district $90,000 annually. Richard Rochin, Kent Owen, and Edmund Pena voted no while Joe Hallmeyer, Ralph Chapman, Helen Renteria, and Sanchez voted yes.
   The Three Rivers Village Foundation organized a committee to explore ways of designating safe passageways for pedestrians traveling from Comfort Inn to the Village Shopping Center.
Golden West Meteorology reported dangerously low snow levels in the Sierra Nevada that were, in some areas, down to 31 percent of normal. Normal snowfall for Norden, Calif., typically a good indicator of seasonal averages, reported the driest winter ever recorded with 89 inches of snow; the average year produces 450 inches.
   February 17— President Obama released a budget that support of America’s Great Outdoors initiative included $2.3 billion for National Park Service operations — a $13.5 million increase. Meanwhile, Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park received 11 inches of new snow and Lodgepole received 31 inches. The small storm meant increased revenue not only for local businesses catering to visitors, but also retailers that supply snow chains to travelers.
   James Birch’s Flora Bella Farm opened a local outlet for locally grown organic produce. Flora Bella Farms has a total of five organic certifications and has been certified by the California Certified Organic Federation since 1989.
   February 24— Sam Yim at Three Rivers Market faced a $50,000 repair hit after his old gas pumps started having regulatory issues. He said that the contracting company that installed the pumps was responsible for the substandard work, but he would have to pay the price since the contractor had gone out of business.
   School board controversy continued to boil when the Woodlake Union Elementary School board gave district superintendent Tim Hire the authority to release or reassign staff and probationary certificated employees despite contrary public comment. Board trustees also approved a 10 percent match to assist the planting of 200 plus new trees on district property.
   A Three Rivers motorist struck a boulder near Pierce Drive on Sierra Drive, causing the 1993 Ford F-250 pickup to roll and scatter rocks and various vehicle parts and tools across the roadway. The driver was stuck inside the smashed cab but pulled from the wreckage by a family from Ridgecrest. Immediately after, two other vehicles colledied with the wreckage. No one was seriously injured. The driver of the Ford pickup was later charged with DUI.

MARCH 2012
   March 2— Anore Jones and Charlene Vartanian hosted a 1st Saturday event that taught visitors how to identify, harvest, and prepare wild edibles that grow locally. The same weekend, the 10th Three Rivers Artists’ Studio Tour allowed visitors to explore Three Rivers artists during self-guided tours to local studios. Nearly two dozen artists and five studios were on the tour.
   Joe Sherman, a former resident of Three Rivers, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly stabbing Gilbert Navarette of Exeter at the Three Rivers Pizza Factory. Navarette was transported for medical care with non-life-threatening wounds.
Mountain Home Conservation Camp No. 10, operated by the California Department of   Corrections and Rehabilitation and Cal Fire, helped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at   Lake Kaweah by renovating the old amphitheater at Horse Creek Campground.
   March 9-— A reunion committee planned to host the first ever TRUS Graduates Reunion on October 6.
   Jon Keeley of Three Rivers, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey in Sequoia National Park, led a host of international authors in publishing Fire in Mediterranean Ecosystems. The book focuses on the impact of fire on Mediterranean-type ecosystems and plant communities.
   Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, one of North America’s most endangered animals, were reintroduced to the Great Western Divide region of the Sierra Nevada after their numbers were greatly reduced over the last 150 years. The Three Rivers Woman’s Club hosted  Louise Culver of the Critter Creek Wildlife Station in Squaw Valley, and the club members got the opportunity to learn about birds of prey of the Central Valley.
   March 16— Doug and Luci Long, owners and operators of the Orange Blossom Junction since 2004, confirmed rumors that their restaurant and music venue was set to close its doors.
Joe Sherman, arrested for stabbing an Exeter man at the Three Rivers Pizza Factory, posted $50,000 bail, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled. He faced a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon and a state prison sentence.
   A winter storm was anticipated to help alleviate the drier than normal Kaweah Country (and statewide) climate in the short term, but promised nothing in the long run. A heated issue erupted yet again in the national parks as members of Congress attempted to reinstate a ban on firearms in the parks. The renewed concern came after the shooting of park law enforcement ranger Margaret Anderson. Two years before her murder, legislation was passed that would allow visitors to carry weapons into the parks.
   March 23— An unprecedented event occurred at the Potwisha Campground on St. Patrick’s Day night when several inches of new snow on budding spring trees caused the toppling of at least 40 mature oaks in that campground alone. A church group camping in the area narrowly dodged the danger when they fled moments before the heavy trunks crashed upon their tents. A Park Service SUV was less lucky, and miles of Highway 198 and the Generals Highway were littered with branches and debris.
   U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commander Merdith W.B. “Bo” Temple visited Lake Kaweah from his Washington, D.C., headquarters on March 15 after Lake Kaweah park ranger Valerie McKay made a military family connection. General Bo Temple had previously sent out a holiday message that shared the story of British and German troops coming to a truce on Christmas Eve 1914 during World War I. McKay responded to the email with stories of her own grandfather’s eyewitness account of the truce. Inspired, General Temple came to meet Valerie and the rest of the Lake Kaweah staff.
   March 30— Three Rivers observed the construction of its first California Renewable Energy Small Tariff solar-generating facility on Pierce Drive. The facility, on five acres of what used to be covered in Bullene Vineyards’ grapevines, includes 48 dual-axis trackers, or “arrays,” that hold 30 solar panels. With a total of 1,440 solar panels, the facility is capable of generating 331,200 watts, or 25 percent of the electricity used by residents and businesses in Three Rivers.
   The Emergency Aid Alliance, founded during the 1990s and recently revived by the Three Rivers Blue Thong Society after a 10-year hiatus, planned the Three Rivers Music Festival to raise money for Three Rivers residents who are experiencing severe financial hardships. The Music Festival would feature musicians from near and far during the family-friendly event.

APRIL 2012
   April 6— A pair of crooks burgled at least two Three Rivers homes and was almost caught when a resident startled them in the act of committing a would-be third. The duo’s MO was to behave as house hunters looking for a new home in the area and strike the houses that helpful locals mentioned to be vacant that they would then break into and steal pricey electronics.
   The April 2 Town Hall meeting recognized Village Foundation founder Marge Ewen for outstanding community service. It was also reported that local efforts were underway to improve broadband transmission by seeking providers to serve Three Rivers.
   Statewide April 1 snow statistics were at 56 percent of normal with water content at 34 percent. In the southern region, which includes the Kaweah drainage, numbers came in at one-third of normal. Three Rivers received .47 inches of rain, which brought the season total to 12.54 inches – 60 percent of average.
   April 13— Three Rivers mountain biker Michael Turner was involved in a freak accident that resulted in a branch from a manzanita tree getting lodged into his skull after falling off his bike on a popular trail near Salt Creek. Kaweah Delta Medical Center transferred him to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno because of the unconventionality and severity of the trauma. Retired Army surgeon Dr. Brien Tonkinson was called in to remove the stick in a risky procedure. The surgery was successful and Turner returned home to recuperate a few days later.
   President Obama’s Affordable Care Act spurred response from Three Rivers residents in the form of letters to the Commonwealth. The debate brought up questions of the constitutionality of the Act itself, as well as the role of government in the private and/or public sphere, and social versus individual responsibility.
   The Jamba Juice franchise out of Porterville parked its mobile juice shack in front of the Kaweah Commonwealth office for the weekend of April 14 and 15. The Porterville franchise, located at 1395 W. Henderson, gave 20 percent of its weekend profits from its fruit drinks and smoothies to Three Rivers School.
   April 20— Lori Ontiveros, Three Rivers postmaster of eight years, retired after three decades with the U.S. Postal Service. Her career as postmaster was highlighted by her organization of the local branch of Operation Gratitude, a nationwide campaign coordinated by the Postal Service that sends gifts to men and women serving overseas in the U.S. military. Ontiveros also helped to keep the Kaweah Post Office alive when it was threatened with closure.
   In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Bearpaw High Sierra Camp reservations and pack station permits were put on hold pending the outcome of the High Sierra Hikers Association v. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks lawsuit. HSHA purported that commercial packers and the National Park Service managers were disregarding Wilderness Act mandates by not having quotas on stock use and for allowing commercial packers to graze stock in wilderness areas.
   Exeter Public Schools announced the hiring of Tim Hire to succeed Renee Whitson as superintendent at Exeter Union High School. Hire had been superintendent at WoodlakePublic Schools since 2007 and planned to remain at his post there through the end of the school year.
   April 27— The controversial health benefits for Woodlake Unified School District board members issue was on the agenda during the April 25 meeting, attended by 150 members of the community. In a 4-3 vote, cast down the same lines as the original vote, the board voted not to rescind the health benefits package. Some impassioned community members, not remotely placated by the re-vote, threatened recall of certain board members.
   Comfort for Kids volunteers finished quilt number 23,600, one of the final quilts for their 2012 season. For the past 16 years, Jack and Joyce Nielsen of Three Rivers and project volunteers have dedicated four months of each year, January through April, to making and donating quilts to the patients at Children’s Hospital Central California.
   The warmer weather brought more visitors and more crime. A local resident encountered two squatters in his Oak Grove trailer hoarding Dixie cups with pot seedlings. The owner of the property made a citizen’s arrest, holding the two at gunpoint until Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies took them into custody. Around the same time, a North Fork residence was robbed of its chainsaw and vacuum, while a Dinely Drive residence lost a TV, antique jewelry, firearms, and more than $300 in cash.

MAY 2012
   May 4— A lightning storm during the night of April 25 knocked out cell service for Three Rivers residents when lightning struck the AT&T cell tower installation on Case Mountain.  The electrical circuits were fried by an 800,000-volt jolt of electricity, and could not be quickly fixed because heavy downpours washed out chunks of the access road to the Case Mountain site. Service was restored May 1.
   The National Park Service requested that the U.S. District court allow Sequoia and Kings Canyon to issue pack stock operations permits in wilderness areas. A lawsuit by the High Sierra Hikers Association sought to reduce the number of pack trips allowed into the park wilderness areas.
   May 11— Jim Kennard of Southern California Edison announced at the May town meeting that the “Edison Beach” swimming hole would be closed Fridays through Mondays during the summer.
   Nadi Spencer, coordinator of the Three Rivers 1st Saturday event, stepped down from her position as an organizer three years after the event’s debut.
Matlyn Matta of Woodlake was crowned the 2012 Rodeo Queen during the May 5 coronation event at Woodlake Lions Rodeo Ranch. Matta narrowly beat out Meg Johnson of Three Rivers.
   May 18— Three Rivers caregiver of 31 years, A.J. Rice, M.D., passed away at his home after fighting a rare cancer for the past four years. Rice settled in Three Rivers in 1973 and opened his local practice in 1980 and was the exemplar of homeopathic medicine in the Central Valley.
   Woodlake High School alumnus Ramon Lara was sworn in as the Woodlake city manager on May 14. Lara left his position at Tulare County Association of Governments to take his new post. Lara has Three Rivers connections through his wife, Cassie White, the daughter of White Horse Inn owners Gary and Jeanne White.
   Lake Kaweah celebrated the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Terminus Dam on May 18. Construction to dam and control the Kaweah River began in 1959 after several major floods over the prior 50 years had inundated downstream communities. The new Lake Kaweah reservoir offered not only flood protection, but also insurance against drought for Valley agriculture in its seasonal retention of millions of acre feet of water.
   May 25— A judge residing over the federal court hearing in San Francisco regarding commercial stock use in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks issued an order stating that commercial use may be permitted during the interim period between now and the final decision of the 2009 lawsuit filed by the High Sierra Hikers Association.
   The stretch of Highway 198 near Mehrten Drive was dedicated to two Tulare County Sheriff’s Department officers who were killed in 1985. Detectives Monty L. Conley and Joe R. Landin were killed when a vehicle ran a stop sign at 85 mph crashed into their patrol vehicle. Conley and Landin were Woodlake High School alumni and former Woodlake police officers.
   At this time, the election year was promising to be an interesting one. California’s Open Primary Initiative, passed in 2012, allowed all registered voters may vote for any candidate regardless of party affiliation, and the top two candidates would proceed to the November general election ballot.

JUNE 2012
   June 1— Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks mule packers team won for the second year in a row at the 43rd annual Bishop Mule Days. Last year, the team won all the events as well as the Governor’s Trophy for best parade performance. Nick Knutson won the World Champion Packer award, and Dan Baker won the Individual Scramble award. Beth Lasswell and Tyler Willis won team buckles.
   In other park news, Sequoia National Park planned to kick off the upcoming fire season by reducing fuels in the vicinity of the Foothills Visitor Center and on a 50-acre plot at Round Meadow in Giant Forest.
   The low winter snow levels spelled trouble for local whitewater rafting outfits. By the first days of June, they were expected to have enough river for only two more weeks of rafting trips.
   June 8— Following the completion of repairs to the Middle Fork flume, the hydroelectric-generating station at Kaweah Powerhouse No. 3 near Ash Mountain came back online on June 2. The site had been out of service since a March 17 storm damaged the flume.
   The expected conversation about river access and safety at the Town Hall Meeting went up in smoke when Lt. Robert Schimpf insisted that the cultivation of marijuana was a more pressing matter. As Three Rivers is located in one of the most agriculturally rich areas of a state inundated with drug cartels taking advantage of legal loopholes in medical marijuana laws, Schimpf said this small rural community is in immediate danger of violence and crime.  The plan was made to have at least one of four deputies cover the Three Rivers area when resident deputy Jim Fansett is off duty.
   A suspicious fire was reported in Giant Sequoia National Monument on June 1 and was expected to be contained within a week. The fire charred more than 1,800 acres of Freeman Creek Grove.
   June 15— A deadly fire destroyed the historic Cider Mill Restaurant on June 8 and took the life of 13-year-old Geordie Gonzalez. Investigators said that the fire started in the storeroom, where multiple electrical devices were plugged in, and caused a flashpoint that in turn caused the combustion of a nearby CO2 cylinder. The structure was a total loss.
   Ten National Park Service pack animals, eight mules and two horses, died of dehydration over the past weekend when a water pump shorted out at their Pixley National Wildlife Refuge winter pasture in southern Tulare County.
   The county Sheriff’s Tactical Enforcement Personnel team and Narcotics Unit raided a large pot garden near Badger. No arrests were made.
   June 22— Cider Mill Restaurant owner Efrain Ponce announced that he planned to rebuild the historic building lost in a fire that resulted in one death and the total loss of the property.
   Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia sought Three Rivers donors for its helipad project, which would provide the crucial service of fast transport of patients in extreme medical emergencies. Whereas an ambulance takes up to 40 minutes to transport a patient to the hospital, a helicopter could make the same commute in just 9 minutes. For Three Rivers, the distance from the hospital and the town’s risky topography combine to make quick medical transport a necessity. The cost to construct the helipad will be $2.2 million.
   At Lake Kaweah, water levels were dropping by a foot a day, and remote readings of river flows in the vicinity of Slicky show levels typical for August. While the atypically low water was good for business for campground facilities around the lake, especially with the upcoming holiday weekends, the trickling river was useless for the rest of the rafting season.
   June 29— Adwait Athale, 21, of Visalia careened his Honda Civic 200 feet into a ravine off Mineral King Road when he failed to negotiate a sharp turn during the early morning hours of June 22. Athale was trapped inside the wreckage for at least four hours before a local man heard his cries for help. The driver was injured and taken to Kaweah Delta Hospital via ambulance, but ultimately survived the crash.
   Following the retirement of Lori Ontiveros, Shirley Martinez was appointed as the new Three Rivers Postmaster. It was uncertain whether Ontiveros would be succeeded in her post, but a completed evaluation of the Three Rivers Post Office’s volume of mail and patronage allowed the site to be officially upgraded and the appointment of a new postmaster practical.
   A poorly maintained vehicle was the cause of multiple spot fires along Sierra Drive. At least three of the fires were put out by firefighters, while another was stopped by a person unknown kicking dirt on the flames near the Three Rivers Historical Museum. Near Sierra Lodge, another fire threatened residences on the hillside before being doused by firefighters. Firefighters found ceramic parts of a disintegrating catalytic converter at two of the scenes, suggesting that this was the source of the fires.
   Next week: July through December 2012.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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