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In the News - Friday, FEBRUARY 23, 2007

Wet weather may be a trend

   The moisture-laden clouds that have been making their way through the southern Sierra region just might be the start of the long-awaited winter weather and some significant accumulation of snow in the nearby mountains.
   The current series of storms is expected to bring between one and two inches of rainfall to the foothills and two to four feet of snow to elevations above 7,000 feet. Forecasters are calling the February storm the first typical Sierra snow-maker of the season.
   A chilly, arctic blast of cold air is expected to fill in behind the heaviest bands of moisture that could drop snow levels to 3,000 feet. Some partial clearing is expected for the weekend but the unstable conditions may provide lingering snow showers in the higher elevations.
   The next snow survey results, due to be released by the end of next week, are expected to reveal some improving conditions and more water content in the Kaweah drainage. That’s good news for downstream users especially farmers who depend on the precious snowmelt to fill the Kaweah basin in May that in turn helps to ensure water for irrigating crops throughout the dry summer months.

Cider Mill purchased by

Woodlake developer

   If ever there was a book about rags to riches in Tulare County, the success story of Efrain Ponce would be a prominent chapter. His latest venture, the purchase and makeover of the Cider Mill Restaurant and its one-acre parcel, is destined to produce a dynamic player in the persnickety Three Rivers restaurant scene.
   At age 43, Ponce is youthful among his developer peers. His fortitude and hard work are testimony that the American dream is indeed within reach of all those who start humbly but think big.

  “I could call it quits right now,” said Ponce, who currently owns more than 40 properties. “But I take great satisfaction in teaching my renters how to become owners.”
   Ponce’s drive to help others, especially his extended family, is what he hopes will make the new Cider Mill Restaurant a success. He readily admits that he and the 10 family members who work there have a lot to learn about the restaurant business, but one thing they do know is they are serving fresh, original cuisine.
   The main ingredient, Ponce said, is the extraordinary ability of his wife, Martha, to create, cook, and bake an entire menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

  “From the day I met my wife Martha, I was attracted to her cooking,” recalled Ponce. “She makes all the Mexican specialties like tamales, pozole, you name it, and she makes the very best.”
   In the past two decades, mostly at family gatherings, many have come to know and love Martha’s cooking. She has also dabbled in the catering business, and in Woodlake, where the couple met and still reside, she is a renowned cake baker.

  “Many of our guests and relatives always encouraged us to one day open a restaurant and finally the right opportunity came along,” Ponce said. “It’s been my dream to own property in Three Rivers so this deal was the right one to make.”
   Ponce revealed that when Hector and Juliette Delcon, the former owners, first contacted him about the property it was actually about refinancing. In addition to being a licensed general contractor, Ponce realized early on that if he wanted to buy and sell properties, he needed a mortgage-lending business, too.
   Hector admitted to Ponce that after owning and operating the restaurant since 1982, what he really wanted to do was sell the property and retire. That’s when Ponce challenged Hector to make him a price he couldn’t refuse on the restaurant parcel.

  “This past week, my dream became reality when we reopened the Cider Mill,” Ponce said. “I know a lot of folks are wondering what’s going on since Hector retired. For the first few weeks, we wanted to start slowly with a smaller menu.”
   Ponce said that soon more items will be added. He’s also building a redwood deck to overlook the scenic Kaweah canyon for more outdoor dining.

  “Right now, we are open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and doing a ‘soft opening,’ but that’s only for a few weeks until everything including our new computerized register is working smoothly,” Ponce said. “Soon we’ll be able to take credit cards and eventually expand our beer and wine to a full bar.”
   Although the new Cider Mill is a work in progress, they already have what Ponce calls a “secret taste” that’s featured in entrees like the grilled chicken and the marinated carne asada, steaks, enchiladas, and burgers.

  “It’s a fresh taste that’s been handed down in my wife’s family for generations,” Ponce said. “There are no words to describe it. You’ll just have to come in and try it!”
   The new Cider Mill is serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner and all menu items may be prepared for take-out.

3R businesses

doing the winter shuffle

   It’s certainly not unusual to see local businesses coming and going in the winter months of January and February. The World Ag Expo (February 13 to 15) provided a much-needed spurt, but the last two weeks of February are often weather dependent and tend to be slower paced.
   As early as the last quarter of 2006, several changes in the commercial makeup of the business community were set in motion. The Totem Market and Deli officially changed owners in early December.
   The former owners, Jeff and Karen Weiss, liquidated their Three Rivers property and relocated to San Luis Obispo. Jeff had been commuting to the coast where he also worked in the sales department of the AT&T Yellow Pages directory.
   The Totem’s new owner is Vinod Rayani, who has kept the venerable market purring along without making any major changes. Tanya Baker, a former deli chef at McCoy’s Lemon Cove market, who came to the Totem during the Weiss tenure, is still performing her culinary magic.
   The Village Center commercial building anchored by Pizza Factory was also purchased during the last quarter of 2006. The new owner, James F. Brucker, who also owns Springville property, is extensively remodeling the building to accommodate several new offices and an art gallery on the ground level.
   Sequoia Pacific Realty, owned by Greg Lockhart of Three Rivers, recently opened a new office on the upper story between Darrell Rich’s dental suite and Todd Tashiro’s Pizza Factory and will manage the complex.

  “We have a lot of plans to upgrade the property, including some beautiful landscaping that will really change the appearance of the property,” Greg said.
   This weekend marks the opening of Rosemary’s Remembrances at its new location in the building that formerly housed the Whitewater Art Gallery. The antique store, owned and operated by Rosemary Anderson of Three Rivers, will have lots more space to showcase a huge inventory of new treasures.
   There is also a new tenant in the commercial triplex next to Chump’s, owned by Derek Philp, local real estate agent. Creekside Yarns is relocating from George Mills’s building anchored by Anne Lang’s Emporium.
   The gals who operate the yarn outlet will share the rear portion of the space with Sierra Subs & Salads who are literally bursting at the seams for more storage. The retail shop unit was formerly the gallery of Bonita Waldron’s garden artworks.
   Unfortunately, amidst the comings, there are always goings as business properties change owners. On Saturday, Feb. 17, the local favorite coffee klatch, The Cabin, closed after several years of operation under two separate ownerships.
   The property was scheduled to be sold at a foreclosure auction yesterday (Thursday, Feb. 22). According to its former manager, Dave Dunham, there may be new owners in place soon and hopefully a reopening of the riverfront property in the next few weeks.

Two 3R students

vie for Miss Tulare County

   The 56th annual Miss Tulare County pageant will be held this Saturday, Feb. 24, with 11 contestants competing for a total of $12,000 in scholarships. Out of those 11, this community will be represented by two young women who were raised in Three Rivers.
   MEAGHAN SWINNEY is a homeschooled high school senior who is also currently enrolled at the College of the Sequoias. Meaghan has been studying dance for the past six years and plans to pursue dance and drama at a four-year college.
   Meaghan’s platform is “Alternative Education Awareness,” and she will discuss this issue that she knows about firsthand, how alternative education can teach, inspire, and liberate.
Meaghan’s parents are Steven Swinney and Rachelle Ledbetter of Three Rivers. She has one younger sister, Sierra.
   JENNIFER LAMAR graduated from Woodlake High School in 2004 and the College of the Sequoias in 2006. She is currently an art major at California State University, Stanislaus.
   Jennifer’s platform will be “Promoting the Arts in Education.”
   Her parents are Steve and Elizabeth LaMar of Three Rivers. She has one younger sister, Tracy.
   During the pageant, the contestants will participate in a swimsuit competition, talent competition, evening wear competition, and on-stage question competition.
   Three Rivers was honored with its first crowned Miss Tulare County in 2004. Janessa Wells, who was raised here, won the competition and went on to compete in the Miss California pageant.
   Tulare County has had two Miss Californias. Lisa Davenport (1985) and Lisa Duncan (1993) were both crowned Miss Tulare County, then Miss California, and advanced to compete in the Miss America pageant.
   This year, other contestants are Tara Loftis of Tulare, Shanda Nichole Stacey of Exeter, Danielle McDaniel of Visalia, Amber Nonorgues of Porterville, Bryce Beatty of Porterville, Whitney Vegvoda of Tulare, Sarah Risvold of Springville, Brittany Castillo of Porterville, and Katy McElhinny of Visalia.
   Miss Tulare County 2007 will receive a $4,500 scholarship. The first-place finalist receives $1,500; second place, $1,000; third place, $900; fourth place, $700; and four remaining semi-finalists will receive $500 each. In addition, there is a scholastic achievement award, a memorial scholarship, a top interview award, and a Miss Congeniality scholarship.
   The pageant will be held at the Fox Theatre in Visalia. Doors open at 7 p.m.; the festivities begin at 7:30 p.m.
   Tickets are $20 for general admission. Student tickets are $10.
   For more information, call 735-9905 or 733-4256.

Chamber of Commerce

offers veterans promo

   The new Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce is embarking on a winter promotion to entice visitors to Three Rivers during the off-season. The inaugural campaign will kick off beginning in March, which will be proclaimed “California Veterans Month.”
   Correspondence has been sent to veterans’ service centers throughout California as well as local American Legion posts.
   Those who take the chamber up on their offer to visit Kaweah Country will receive 20-percent discounts on lodging, shopping, dining, and services by participating businesses. Discount cards will be required and available at any of the participating lodging facilities or 3 Rivers Cyber Café, Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs, and the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce office located in the Three Rivers Historical Museum.
   In 2008, the chamber plans to add several other promotions. Tentatively scheduled for next winter is: January-California Firefighters; February-California Police Officers; March-California Veterans. A December promotion may also be added.
   Local businesses that are offering 20-percent off to visiting veterans next month are: Holiday Lodge, Comfort Inn and Suites, River Inn and Cabins, Sequoia Village Inn, Buckeye Tree Lodge, Gateway Restaurant and Lodge, Sequoia Motel, Sierra Lodge, Circle Star Ranch Bed and Breakfast (Lindsay), Lazy J Ranch Motel, Sequoia River Dance Bed and Breakfast, Three Rivers Bed and Breakfast, Anne Lang’s Emporium, Nadi’s Studio, Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs, Creekside Yarns, Reimer’s Candies-Gifts-Ice Cream, The Doll Nest, Sierra Subs and Salads, We Three Bakery and Restaurant, Hummingbird Café, 3 Rivers Cyber Café, Sequoia Sightseeing Tours, Advanced Therapeutic Massage, Jules Construction, and Wood-N-Horse Stables.
   Any local business that would like to participate may contact Scott Mullikin (Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs), 561-3488, for information and promotions materials.

CDF has name change

   This newspaper’s policy to always spell out any acronyms before they are used meant that whenever we wrote about CDF, it was always preceded by the lengthy “California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection” title.
   Well, things just got a little easier. On January 1, as a result of new state legislation, CDF’s name was changed to the more descriptive “CAL FIRE.”
   Besides better explaining what the state agency does, the new name will be more recognizable. The former name will still appear on uniforms, equipment, and business cards until it becomes necessary to replace the item for other reasons; the legislation that changed the name also requires that no money be spent on it.
So, for now, it will just be an easier way to write about the agency.

3R invited to visit ‘Our Place’

   Ever since the new playground adjacent to the Three Rivers Library was completed last fall, children from Three Rivers and beyond have been coming to play at “Our Place.” There will soon be even more reasons to come when playschool classes begin, Our Place’s sign is decorated, and benches are installed.
   Playschool begins Friday, March 9, with book-reading and a bird-nest craft taught by Savannah Boiano of the Sequoia Natural History Association.
   Playschool classes will be held rain or shine every Friday through July 20 from 10 a.m. to noon. On sunny days, classes will be held outside at Our Place; on rainy days, they will be moved inside to the library.
   The playschool activities are intended for children ages five and younger. And children must keep their guardian with them at all times!
   Playschool will be taught by volunteers and cover typical pre-school core activities: arts, crafts, music, movement, nature, shapes, colors, and more. Contact Liz van Mantgem at 561-0918 to volunteer.
   Three Rivers artist Mike Perez has designed and built three benches for Our Place, one of which is a working xylophone bench. We aim to have the benches installed in time for the first playschool class.
   Steve Esson, a sign-maker at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, is currently volunteering his time and talents to construct the sign to Our Place. At a future playschool class, all children five years and younger will be invited to imprint their hands in the wet cement border surrounding the sign.
   Steve, who also designed the sign, suggested the name “Our Place” in honor of the community that built it.
   Additional future events include a ribbon-cutting ceremony that will be attended by county Supervisor Allen Ishida and a mural project for Our Place’s lower retaining wall.
   Our Place was made possible by a grant from First 5, a social-service organization that supports children in their first five years. Long-term local support comes from the Three Rivers Community Services District, which provided the playground site and the maintenance and insurance expenses.

Garden Club to

landscape P.O. grounds

   The Redbud Garden Club has selected the Three Rivers Post Office for their next planting project. This site is one of the first places visible as people drive into town and a place many local residents visit on a regular basis.
   The plan is to create a garden representing the natural beauty of the foothills using drought-tolerant, native perennial plants. This project has been months in the planning and received support from the community with donations of materials, time, and labor.
   After removing unwanted or inappropriate plant material, the landscape will be enhanced with varying planting elevations accented with large boulders. Planting is scheduled for Saturday, March 3, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
   The Post Office parking lot will be closed during that time. Post office patrons are advised to park behind the Village Market.
   Additional manpower will be provided by a team of youth workers from C-SET, as well as local students fulfilling their community service hours. Any students wishing to volunteer should contact Heidi Crouch, 561-3363.
   Native plants are being both donated and purchased and an irrigation system will be installed. The Redbud Garden Club has provided funding for this project with additional contributions from the Three Rivers Community Services District, Supervisor Allen Ishida, Three Rivers Woman’s Club, Bank of the Sierra, and Century 21 Three Rivers.
   Recently, the Redbud Garden Club has completed landscaping projects at the Three Rivers Fire Station and the Veteran's Memorial Building. A ceremony dedicating the Memorial Building project is scheduled for May.
   Community support is so important to projects of this size, so any volunteer help on planting day will be appreciated. Bring your shovels!
   Financial contributions would also be appreciated and may be directed to the Redbud Garden Club, P.O. Box 251, Three Rivers, CA 93271. For further information, contact Bev Slinger, 561-3601.

WHO’S NEWS: Fixing photos

By Jeremy Cormier

   A new photo-repair service is now available in Three Rivers. This useful process will bring life back to worn-out photographs, whether recent or vintage.
   Like most people, you probably have a dozen or so decades-old photos stashed away in an old shoebox or dresser drawer somewhere. Time has probably caused them to fade, and maybe a few creases and tears have begun to form from being shuffled around too much.
   Instead of stowing these pictures away only to be looked at every 10 years or so, they could be mounted on your walls. They are wonderful conversation starters and will greet you everyday with smiles that haven’t been seen in years, reminding you of ancestors and your family’s heritage.
   Last year, on a trip back to my home state of Massachusetts, I was having dinner with my aunt Tina. After a scrumptious meal (Tina is an excellent cook!), she pulled out a large box stuffed with old black-and-white photographs of my grandmother and grandfather in their younger years. I had never seen these photos before.
   We had a wonderful time reminiscing through the ages and ages of pictures. Then I came across this tiny photo of my nana that blew me away.
   It was taken when she was in her mid 20s, and she was absolutely stunning. The photo was authentically classic, but it was in less than classic condition.
   I asked my aunt if I could take it home with me where I would work on bringing it back to life, which I did. I then enlarged it to an appropriate size for framing and sent copies to my siblings and other family members.
   This photograph captures a period in time for my nana that I knew nothing about. Now I do and can share it with others.
   What I am now prepared to offer is a chance to put life back into the photographs of your cherished memories and loved ones. My new Photo Restoration Service will:

  —Repair creases, wrinkles, tears, and worn edges.

  —Remove blemishes and imperfections.

  —Adjust colors and hues to match another photo.

  —Adjust clarity and fading for a more vivid picture.
   This service can also repair any large tears or missing portions of the photograph (as seen in the photo at the lower right), restoring this photo to its original state.
   For more information or to submit photos to be restored, call Jeremy Cormier at 561-4191.

WHO’S NEWS: Free mediation services
By Edie Schroeder

   What do people do when they get into serious fights? There are fights that can happen between property owners, neighbors, a homeowner and contractor, adult siblings, or divorced parents of kids in trouble? Or the kind that can cause havoc in a relationship or a community.
   Neighbors arguing over a barking dog, guys who have gotten into a violent bar fight, employees whose clashing work styles are interfering with productivity, a teenager and his parents whose family life has turned into a war, a house buyer and seller who can't agree on terms, and more.
   Well, sometimes they go to court or to a government agency and ask a judge or official to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. Sometimes they keep fighting until whoever is more powerful wins and the other has to accept the loss. Sometimes they just live with it, and there are continued bad feelings or a relationship permanently broken.
   Could there be another, better way?
   The people I work with at Sequoia Community Mediation Center think so. We're getting the word out that we do know how to help, and that we'd like people to try using our services, which are free to the community.
   How does it work? How can a mediation center help people who are furious and have no trust or respect for each other?
   For those people who would like to get things settled in a satisfactory way and move on, mediation offers a process that results in fair, practical written agreements that are created by the people involved.
   Mediators do not tell people what to do or act as therapists, lawyers, or judges. This is a new and different way to get conflicts resolved, and it really does work.
   The kind of mediation that is most well known is divorce mediation. Here's how it can go.
   A couple's marriage has broken down and each blames the other. Their kids get caught in the middle as each feels the other is not a good parent and should have limited access.
   They want to hire lawyers who will do investigations and build cases to take to a judge. They both feel completely in the right, so they're sure the judge will see it their way.
   However, money is tight, and their anger is spilling over onto the kids who are already suffering from the breakup, so they decide to try mediation.
   The Center provides a safe, comfortable, private space where the couple can talk things over. Mediators help them to express their angry feelings, listen to each other, and then move on to discussing specific needs and interests.
   This is hard work and takes a while, but mediators are patient and encouraging. Eventually, the parents are able to focus on their mutual love for their children and come up with agreements that will be good for the kids and satisfy their own needs.
   They decide together some things that will happen with the kids in each parent's house so the other parent won't have to worry. The issues they settle include such things as bedtimes, safe play areas, homework, new significant others, and church attendance. Having found that they are able to make agreements that will benefit their kids, the divorcing couple can continue to work together as parents, even as they move into their separate lives.
   Another mediation might involve members of a family facing difficult choices about how to care for aging mother whose health is deteriorating. A brother wants her to be able to stay in her home and is willing to help pay for home care. One sister thinks a nursing home is the only safe option, while another sibling feels that all three of them should work out a way to care for her themselves. All the old childhood rivalries reappear, and soon they're fighting so much that their mother is suffering from much more than her health problems.
   In a mediation session, they are able to listen to their mother's wishes and to each other's worries about her health and safety. The mediators help them come up with some ideas that will meet everyone's concerns.
   Another kind of mediation is geared toward helping young people in trouble stay out of court and get on a better path. Coordinating with school administrators and the police department, the Mediation Center will bring young offenders who have been in fights or committed minor crimes together with their victims.
   Because they feel respected, young people are more able to take responsibility for their actions. Mediators then help both sides to work together to figure out what can be done to make things right.
As shown above, mediation can be useful in a wide variety of situations. It can happen between two people or a number of different interest groups.
   We have five Three Rivers residents who are working with and/or mediating for the Sequoia Community Mediation Center, a program of the nonprofit Samaritan Center in Visalia, continuing the work of the defunct Good News Center. They are Anne Bowen, Valerie Deveraux, Kent Owen, Leah Catherine Launey, Edie Schroeder, and Sarah Shena. Although the Center is in Visalia, mediations can happen anywhere, even right here in Three Rivers. We'd be happy to answer questions, talk to your group or church, or help resolve a conflict.
   An open house is being planned for next month. For more information about local, free mediation services, call Edie Schroeder, 561-3662.

Helen Staggs
1917 ~ 2007

   Helen Staggs, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Monday, Feb. 19, 2007, one day before her 90th birthday.
   Helen’s friends are invited to celebrate her life with her family on Sunday, Feb. 25, between 1 and 4 p.m., at the Johnson ranch, 43671 Washburn Dr., Three Rivers.
   Helen was born Feb. 20, 1917, in Aberdeen, S.D. She was blessed with wonderful parents and three brothers.
   Helen had one daughter, Jill, whom she raised with the help of her parents. Helen worked as a secretary in Los Angeles for 46 years.
   In 1990, Helen moved to Three Rivers to be near family. For many years, she assisted at the Community Presbyterian Church office.

  “Helen was a lady who really knew how to put an outfit together and wear it fabulously,” said her daughter, Jill Johnson of Three Rivers. “She loved to be on the go and kept our local restaurants busy. She enjoyed life to the fullest and was blessed with good health till the end.”
   Helen is survived by her daughter, Jill, and husband Cal Johnson; three grandsons, Tyler and wife Teddi, Clint, and Tod and Joyce; great-grandchildren Ryan, Jesse, Meg, and Beth; sister-in-law Shirley Staggs; nephew Cort Staggs; and niece Cynthia Staggs.

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