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In the News - Friday, February 17, 2012



Despite recent rain, conditions still dry

  Although the 1.37 inches of rainfall that fell in Three Rivers earlier this week helped, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) says the moderate drought of the current season is likely to continue through February. The local forecast calls for a gradual warming trend with high temperatures reaching the 70s by the end of the work week.
   No rain is in sight, but at least there is now some visible snow on the ground in areas above 6,000 feet elevation. At Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park there is 11 inches of snow on the ground; at Lodgepole, where the elevation is higher (6,800 feet) and it is generally colder, there is 31 inches.
   In the current precipitation season (July 1 to date), Three Rivers has recorded 7.73 inches of rainfall. That is at least an inch or two behind any of the last several seasons on the same day (February 17).
   A state Department of Water Resources spokesperson said recently that it’s not time to push the panic button just yet. In a written statement released by the DWR, there are least two reasons for guarded optimism. First, it’s still early; the potential for some significant cold-weather storms in March still exists.
   And even more important is the fact that several of the indicator water storage facilities up and down California like Shasta, Whiskeytown, San Luis, and Millerton are near normal for this time of the year. That condition is due to a large water surplus last season.
   In other words, one dry year is not as bad as two — three dry years in a row could deal a crippling blow, especially to California in a struggling economy. Forget about an extended local ski season this year; skiers looking for the deep powder are heading to Colorado.
   Believe or not, Lake Kaweah is about same level where it is typically at this time of year. Last year, the levels for February were much higher and the runoff was intense because of February storms.
   The critical things to remember about the weather is that recurring dry years are not unusual and always be prepared for any extreme. One thing is for certain, when it comes to forecasting the weather, expect the unexpected.

Flora Bella Farm makes commitment

to keep it organic and local

  One of the great things about living in Kaweah Country is that just about anything under the sun will grow here. It would follow then that farming, if done right, could be a meaningful way to make a living.
   James Birch, a Three Rivers farmer, has proved for more than two decades that farming can be a sustainable occupation and that doing it right means doing it 100 percent organic. In fact, when Flora Bella was first certified by the California Certified Organic Federation in 1989, it was the only 100 percent certified organic farm in Tulare County; no small feat in one of the largest producing agricultural regions in the entire world.
   And Flora Bella didn’t stop there with the CCOF certification, which costs about $1,000 annually for a farm of Flora Bella’s size (20 acres). Flora Bella currently has five organic certifications including a prestigious Swiss one that requires at least 10 percent of the farm property be kept in native habitat.
   So why would a small farmer pay extra to be certified organic when they could legally spray produce and add chemicals that would increase yields per acre and produce higher profits?   Because what Flora Bella has known since the 1980s is becoming more apparent today to a growing legion of consumers — some folks get it that nutritious, organically grown food is one of the keys to healthy, sustainable living.
   But many local folks don’t even know Farmer James or his Flora Bella Farm because for many years most of the Three Rivers produce has been sold at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. There the chefs at L.A.’s finest restaurants regularly seek out James and pay market prices (a little bit higher than what we locals pay) to personally select the finest, freshest Three Rivers produce James can transport down south.
   In the past, there has been a produce stand at the farm on North Fork Drive that some locals found on occasion and, last year, a storefront market that was open one day but closed the next. But now thanks to the marketing savvy of Dawn Canter, James’s partner in the venture, what is locally available has expanded and it’s going to get bigger and better and perhaps change the way we eat in Three Rivers.
  “We wanted to open the market here on Sierra Drive and keep regular hours but it’s a huge commitment to keep these shelves stocked with enough produce to keep locals coming in and attract visitors too,” said Dawn. “Now, in addition to what we grow, we take our produce down [to Santa Monica] and bring back products we can’t make or grow and, wow, the possibilities are limitless.”
   Among the examples of what the new Flora Bella Farm Store is selling is an apricot butter made from locally grown Blenheim apricots.
  “We send down the fruit and James brings back Flora Bella Farm Blenheim Apricot Butter,” said Dawn. “The maker is in L.A., so they sell some and we sell some — it’s a win-win.”
   Exploring the Farm Store will thrill those who desperately seek organic products in Tulare County while luring the uninitiated consumer down the road to eating more organics. What organics do, whether it is greens from the garden or whole milk from the happy cow, is allow the consumer to truly reap the nutritional benefits of the commodity — not what’s added to it or sprayed on it.
   Adding organics to a healthy diet also helps the planet by eliminating the use of pesticides that can be harmful to humans, animals, water, and the soil.
   Buy 100 percent locally grown organics and other products — from flowers to drinks to yogurt and more — at the Flora Bella Farm Store at 41763 Sierra Drive (just up canyon from Three Rivers Market). They are open Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Federal budget includes $2.3 billion for NPS operations

  The 2013 President’s budget released Monday, Feb. 13, increases or maintains funding for programs that support President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative. The budget includes $2.3 billion for National Park Service operations, an increase of $13.5 million.
   The budget also includes $67.2 million in strategic reductions in park and program operations, construction, and heritage partnership programs. On the positive side of the ledger, there are also requests for increases for programs funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
   The $2.5 million increase to the LWCF federal land acquisition includes projects that strategically invest in interagency landscape-scale conservation projects that will help meet agency-specific programs that are already in process. The budget maintains funding levels for Historic Preservation Fund Grants-in-Aid to states, territories, and tribes, which is allocated at $55.9 million, and retains $10 million in funding for the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
   The proposed program reductions of $21.6 million for park base operations and $1 million for service-wide programs will have some trickle-down effect on Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. NPS officials are working to minimize the impacts on visitor experience related programs and park resources.
   The budget seeks to fund $52.4 million for line-item construction projects, a $25.3 million reduction from 2012. There is no budget for any new buildings and provides funding for only the highest priority projects that are critical to visitor and employee safety.
   There is also an $8.1 million decrease for National Heritage Area grants. Park operations in America’s 397 national parks remain the priority of the new budget.
  “In these tough economic times, we recognize the value the national parks provide all Americans, as places of introspection and recreation and as economic engines that create jobs and help our gateway communities thrive,” said Jonathan Jarvis, NPS Director. “In 2010, national park visitors — 281 million of them — were responsible for $31 billion impact on the nation’s economy. From motel rooms to gas for the car and souvenirs, visitor spending supports 258,400 American jobs.”
   National parks are also playing a significant role in attracting international tourists. These tourism dollars rank national parks as America’s number-one export.
   In January, President Obama launched the creation of a Travel and Competitiveness Task Force to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the U.S. A particular focus of the task force will be on strategies for increasing tourism and creating recreation jobs by promoting visits to national parks.
  “President Obama last month highlighted national parks as extraordinary attractions for international visitors,” Jarvis said. “Those of us in the National Park Service have first-hand knowledge from the stories international visitors tell us as they try to explain what it feels like to see the Grand Canyon or Old Faithful, Lady Liberty or the ocean booming on the rocky shores of Acadia National Park.”
   In Kaweah Country, visitors from dozens of countries and across the U.S. stand in awe among the giant sequoias, the largest trees on the planet. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees work with gateway communities like Three Rivers all across the country to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.
   For more information log onto: www.nps.gov.

SFCC honors ‘heroes’

  The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce has named its February honorees that will be bestowed with gratitude at a presentation on Friday, Feb. 24. The event will begin at 7 p.m. at the Three Rivers Historical Museum.
   Ken Greenspan of Three Rivers, an elementary school science teacher, will be recognized for his volunteer work. He has been a Tulare County Sheriff’s Department VIP (Volunteers in Patrol) for eight years.
  “I began volunteering as a VIP when Three Rivers was having quite a few residential and commercial burglaries,” he said. “I joined to try to be a preventative measure.”
   In addition, Ken is a Trail Rover during the summer in Sequoia National Park, which is a volunteer position in which park trails are patrolled in an effort to keep visitors safe and informed. Formerly in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, he participated in the River Rovers program, was a bear technician, and spent a summer as a fire lookout.
   Here are a few other of his volunteer activities: search-and-rescue with the Sheriff’s Department, docent at Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Tulare County Science and Engineering Fair judge, Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute volunteer, Adopt-A-Highway (for the two-mile stretch of Highway 198 from Horse Creek Bridge west), and he collects cell phones for the Battered Women’s Shelter in Visalia.
  “It’s our job to leave this world a little better place than it was when we came into it,” Ken said. “So I volunteer.”
   Detective Joseph Rodriguez has worked for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department since February 1997. Previously, he has worked for Mariposa and Kings counties.
   His current assignment is as a North End Property Detective, a unit that covers the northeast region of Tulare County, including Three Rivers, Exeter, Ivanhoe, and Visalia.
  “Detective Rodriguez is a highly motivated individual who takes his job seriously, which is evident by the fact that he is a top-notch detective,” said Sheriff Bill Wittman.
   Detective Rodriguez has worked as a patrol deputy and is a member of the department’s Dive Team and Swift Water Rescue Team.
   According to event organizer Leah Catherine Launey, Detective Rodriguez was involved in working on the recent burglaries in Three Rivers.
   The Law Enforcement Party is part of the SFCC’s Hero Months, held January through March each year. The public is invited to attend all events.
   For more information, call 561-4270.

Blood bank seeks donors of O-negative

  The Central California Blood Center is asking all blood donors, especially those who are O-negative, to give at their nearest donor center. For Three Rivers residents that means the Visalia facility, which is located at 1515 S. Mooney Blvd.
   High usage, particularly of O-negative blood, is again straining inventory. O-negative blood currently is at the lowest level, just 14 percent of needed inventory. O-negative is the universal blood type that can be given to all patients in emergency situations.
  “Recent storms have caused emergency room usage to climb,” said Dean Eller, president and CEO of the Central California Blood Center. “Therefore, we are asking new and returning donors to take an hour and help save someone’s life. It could be the most important one hour you set aside today, especially for patients in Valley hospitals. Usually at this time, we are also preparing for the upcoming three-day weekend, so the need is especially critical.”
   The Central California Blood Center is the sole provider of blood and blood products for the 31 hospitals in Fresno, Tulare, Madera, Kings, and Mariposa counties and must collect between 5,000 to 6,000 pints of blood a month to meet the needs of the Valley community.
   The Visalia donor center’s hours of operation are: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Clancy and Gail Barlow celebrate 60 years

  Clancy and Gail Barlow will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on Monday, Feb. 20. They were married in 1952 in Glendale.
   The couple met when Clancy was in the U.S. Marine Corps. While training in San Diego, he was on liberty with friends when he met Gail, who was his friend’s cousin. Clancy served in World War II and the Korean War.
   Clancy and Gail only met three times before he left for Korea. While he was overseas, they corresponded regularly, and Gail sent care packages to him with canned pheasant and Ritz crackers.
   At one point, he told Gail he would be home in October, but those plans were changed due to “too many casualties.” He then wrote that he would be home in November, but again the war caused that promise to be delayed.
   Gail wrote to Clancy, “I’ll give you until Christmas to come home.” And he was home before Christmas!
   Before Clancy proposed to Gail he asked her father for permission to marry his daughter. The couple originally wanted to get married on Valentine’s Day, but the best man, Clancy’s brother, had to work that day, so February 20 was selected.
   Clancy served two years in World War II and one year in the Korean War, all in combat. He then worked for the Los Angeles Police Department until his retirement in 1975.
   Over the years, the couple lived in Glendale, Granada Hills, and Simi Valley in Southern California before moving to Three Rivers 37 years ago.
   Clancy and Gail have three sons — Lee, Kit, and Stephen — and five grandchildren ranging in age from 1 to 30.
   These days, Clancy concentrates on his artwork, from painting to carving to weaving pine-needle baskets. In fact, this handiwork is how Clancy and Gail found Three Rivers. They were designing needlework and attended a show in Hanford. While there with their RV, they were pointed in the direction of Three Rivers.
   There is no big anniversary bash scheduled. The couple will celebrate quietly by going out to dinner with family.
   What is Clancy and Gail’s secret to a long, happy marriage? “Love one another and be willing to work at it.”


Diana Aquino
1953 ~ 2011

   Diana Lynn Aquino, a resident of Three Rivers for more than 25 years, died last year on April 19, 2011, of cancer. She was 57.
   Diana was born September 14, 1953, to Ralph and Hazel Smith in Long Beach. She was raised in the Bay Area, where she attended Aragon High School in San Mateo.
   Diana worked as an accountant and bookkeeper. She enjoyed gardening, which was evident when one visited her River Envy Iris Farm in Three Rivers, where hundreds of types of iris — bearded, non-bearded, bulbs, rhizomes — were planted.
  “Iris” takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colors found among the many species. In the springtime, Diana’s garden was indeed a rainbow of blooms.
   Until the late 1990s, River Envy Iris Farm was open for free tours.
   Diana loved jazz music and Three Rivers’s annual Jazzaffair festival. She also looked forward to the Redbud Festival arts and crafts show each spring.
   Diana is survived by her son, Jason Hiscox; daughter Sandi Olson; sister Patty Menese; and seven grandchildren.
   No service is scheduled.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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