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  In the News - Friday, March 26, 2004

BLM on North Fork: Pay to play

Lions recognize Pantry pioneer

Volunteers welcome at home-building project

BLM on North Fork: Pay to play

On Tuesday, March 23, at a sparsely attended meeting at Three Rivers School, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials explained how fees would be collected for the North Fork recreation sites. The $5 per car fee begins this week, on Thursday, April 1.

Michael Ayers, BLM recreation planner, developed the fee demonstration and prepared a business plan for the project. According to that document, the agency expects the pilot program to generate $25,000 in its first season.

The fees will apply to users who park at the Cherry Falls, Advance, and Paradise recreation areas. Although the fees had been anticipated for several months, the limited parking on BLM lands was somewhat of a surprise.

Ayers said that parking is limited to 10 vehicles Cherry Falls, 12 at Advance, and 20 at Paradise. During peak weekend periods, parking and the fees will be strictly enforced.

At least half of all prospective users are expected to look elsewhere to recreate once they realize the fees are being enforced. BLM managers are hoping that the decrease in visitors will help ease congestion and gang-related problems that have plagued the sites in the past.

“During a busy summer holiday last summer, BLM rangers counted as many as 300 vehicles parked in and around the BLM recreation sites,” Ayers reported.

The fees will be collected at a roadside box that will be erected just south of Paradise, near the entrance to BLM lands. If a fee receipt is not properly displayed on the dash of a parked vehicle, the offending owner will be cited.

Fees will not be charged during the low use season of October through March. Pedestrians, equestrians, and bicyclists are not required to pay fees.

Virpi Takala, a local resident who uses the areas frequently with her two children, told the BLM officials in attendance that there should be some exceptions to the fee policy. She said that her family has routinely picked up trash at the sites for five years and a fee exemption could be compensation for their efforts.

Steve Larson, assistant director of the BLM-Bakersfield region, said that if locals want to sign up as site volunteers, in exchange for some work, they would be exempt from the fees.

An annual pass is also available from the Bakersfield office for $20. But BLM officials cautioned that even if you have a pass, the parking might be full, especially on weekends.

The BLM sites, like most public-use areas, are available only on a first-come, first-served basis.

Ayers reminded the audience that the program is only a demonstration.

“In September, we’ll have a meeting here in Three Rivers to report on whether the collection of fees is a workable arrangement,” Ayers said.

In other BLM-related news, the agency announced the retirement of Ranger Ed Ruth, a law enforcement supervisor who was instrumental in stemming the tide of criminal activity in the last few seasons at the North Fork sites. Ranger Greg Auman is filling in for Ruth until another appointment becomes official.

Comments or questions about the BLM sites or programs may be directed to Ron Huntsinger, the new field manager of the Bakersfield regional office, at (661) 391-6120 or visit for information.




Lions recognize Pantry pioneer

For eight years, the Three Rivers Lions Club has kicked off Jazzaffair weekend with its Community Recognition Night. The special evening has featured a dinner-dance at Lions Arena, but the highlight is the moment when a local personality is honored for outstanding community service.

This year’s Recognition Night will be held Thursday, April 1, beginning at 5 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

There have been ambulance volunteers, career community servants, a quilting couple who bring bundles of joy to terminally-ill children, a founder of the local historical society — people who selflessly give to others. Joining the growing list of deserving recipients who serve those in need is this year’s honoree, Patricia Stivers.

Trish is a mom, teacher, grandma, prayer leader, Vacation Bible School volunteer, and so many other things in her five decades of life — but only in the past seven years has she found her true niche as director of the Three Rivers Community Food Pantry.

Trish’s volunteerism might have taken a different course had it not been for a deep commitment to her religious faith and relationship with her church — First Baptist of Three Rivers. It was there she met Cathy Fitzpatrick.

“About seven years ago, Cathy, a FoodLink organizer, asked if I would volunteer and pick up food for the National Letter Carriers Food Drive,” said Trish. “As I took my food back to the pantry at the church I began to get a sense of the work that was being done and the great need, especially for single mothers and their children.”

The Fitzpatricks moved to Northern California and that food link became the ongoing stocking of the shelves at an area set aside in an auxiliary building by the Baptist church to house non-perishables.

“It was very difficult in those early days to keep those shelves stocked with food,” Trish said. “It could get so hot in there that the food would spoil right in the cans.”

The community began to hear more about the Food Pantry and donations started to increase. Soon the First Baptist Church added an evaporative cooler, which solved the spoilage problem.

Then a freezer was donated, and another, and two refrigerators. After that, Trish said, the Pantry began to supply fresh foods like butter, eggs, fruit, and even organic produce from Flora Bella Farm.

Trish says it’s easy for poverty and hunger to go unnoticed amid the affluence of Three Rivers.

“Currently, we are helping 24 families on a regular basis,” said Trish. “These are single moms with children, 25 to 30 adults, and grandparents that are raising children.”

Trish, who is adept at making certain the needy receive food and clothing, is quick to point out that it is a team effort.

“I can assure you that this pantry is not one person,” Trish said. “The [operation] is so many people giving of themselves.”

From humble beginnings, now on every third Tuesday of the month, Trish and one of her legion of volunteers, pick up a ton of food. Not content to rest on these accomplishments, the Food Pantry is currently conducting a building fund drive to upgrade their premises and eventually have their very own facility on the grounds of First Baptist.

The latest vision of the fundraising is to create a cookbook of Three Rivers’ recipes. Trish said $6,000 has been raised so far but more than $10,000 is still needed for the building fund.

“The Pantry is Jesus’ ministry and He speaks to each heart to give, to help, to donate, and even to my husband Donnie, as he allows me to continue,” said Trish. “May our lord bless each one of you who has given in countless ways to our ever-changing ministry.”




Volunteers welcome at home-building project

The new house on the corner of Magnolia and Bravo near the west bank of Bravo Lake in Woodlake is being constructed at a rapid pace. The house is being built under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity, a Christian organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing.

Like all Habitat for Humanity projects, the house is built through a combination of donations, volunteer labor (including the family selected to live in it), and community business support.

Framing for the first Habitat for Humanity house in Woodlake is complete, and the roof will be shingled tomorrow (March 27). Mayor Jack Ritchie and Police Chief John Zapalac will also be there to install electric wiring throughout the home.

Betsy Murphy, director of Habitat for Humanity in Visalia, announced that the building project is ahead of schedule. She credits the rapid progress to the tremendous volunteer support from Woodlake and the surrounding communities of Three Rivers, Elderwood, Exeter, Visalia, Hanford, and Lemoore Naval Air Station.

After a field trip to the building site Friday, March 19, Zafina McElroy, a four-year-old student at St. Clement’s Preschool, explained the project: “The people that are living in Woodlake that are getting together are building a house for some people who need a house.”

While most of the building labor comes from the community, Habitat for Humanity provides a qualified construction supervisor and trained crew chiefs to direct the volunteers.

When completed, the house will have five bedrooms and two bathrooms. The single-family dwelling will occupy 1,650 square feet in a single story.

The next step in the project is plumbing the house and installing sheet rock. At the current rate of construction, the new owners, the Miranda family, hope to move in to their brand-new home by summer.

Volunteers meet Saturdays at the building site, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; lunch is provided. To volunteer, call 734-4040.




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