this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
13 years worth,
to be exact.
This is the 13th anniversary
edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth, although
the anniversary date occurred two weeks
ago, on March 1.
The deadlines are relentless
and the newspaper pages fill fast each
week, leaving us little time and space
to tout this milestone. In fact, we never
even noticed as anniversary numbers 11
and 12 came and went; we were just too
busy compiling the weekly news.
it is worthy to note that this has been
the greatest length of time that a Three
Rivers newspaper has been continuously
owned and/or published. Again, the blame
for the demise of any previous newspaper
would have to be the deadline constraints,
that or the financial wherewithal.
The equation that has added
up to success this time around is: husband
+ wife = newspaper. Both partners in this
venture are writers and also lend their
talents for a natural division of labor
on the rest of the required tasks to keep
a publication and a small business thriving.
Within the first month of
ownership, we were compelled to change
the publication day of the newspaper from
Wednesday to Friday. We understood that
a Wednesday release might provide for
planning of weekend events, but we made
this decision so that we could have weekends
off with our children.
Honestly, this switch is
beyond a doubt the number-one reason for
our longevity because it allowed us to
effectively balance our personal and professional
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING—
When we published the first Commonwealth
on March 1, 1995, it was still the 20th
century, the area code was 209, gas was
$1.50 a gallon, the cost of a first-class
postage stamp had just been raised from
29 cents to 32 cents, and Bill Clinton
was in the White House. There was no such
thing as Y2K or 9/11 or an Iraq War.
In Kaweah Country, there
was no bike lane, no Wuksachi Village,
no commercial whitewater rafting. We relied
on the U.S. mail and a fax machine more
than email and the Internet. We never
dreamed we’d have a website, and
photos were not yet digital; in fact,
we used to drive to Visalia every Tuesday
evening to develop photos that would be
appearing in the newspaper.
In the past 13 years, we’ve
seen three superintendents at Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks, and Three
Rivers has provided two Miss Tulare County
winners when there had previously been
none. There was a MAC (Municipal Advisory
Committee) and a PTA (founded in 1947),
and dining choices still included the
venerable White Horse Inn, Noisy Water
Café, and The Indian.
Since that time we’ve
reported on births, marriages, deaths,
promotions, awards, graduations, contest
winners, and retirements, the cornerstone
of a small-town newspaper. We’ve
covered drownings, missing persons, lost
hikers, falls, car accidents, pot busts,
ID theft, car clouts, fires, floods, rockslides,
break-ins and thefts, and bank robberies.
Sadly, we’ve written
556 obituaries. But we consider these
life stories among the most important
items on which we report.
None of this would be possible without
our advertisers, many of which have been
with us since day one and have never missed
an issue. A newspaper is only as effective
as its ad base, and The Kaweah Commonwealth
is stellar, if we may say so ourselves.
Please support the advertisers within
as they understand the importance of a
community newspaper and make a weekly
investment in the progress of Three Rivers.
Our subscribers are also
among our most faithful supporters. Our
subscription list has increased 10-fold
from what we inherited from the Sequoia
In 2001, due to increasing
postal rates that, ironically, came with
an obvious decrease in service, we were
forced to discontinue the free distribution
of the newspaper to each post office box
Local subscribers stepped
in, appreciating receiving the newspaper
in their mailbox each Friday. These folks
are amazingly loyal; we have an astounding
99-percent renewal rate among Three Rivers
Currently, we are seeing
a trend among our out-of-town subscribers.
There has been a steady decrease since
the last postal-rate increase (2007) that
forced us to increase the out-of-town
You see, this is where the
“service” is omitted from
U.S. Postal Service. At times, it takes
more than a week for an issue of the newspaper
to arrive to these out-of-town households.
In fact, several subscribers don’t
want to wait and pay first-class rates.
Our first priority is the
people who are reading the newspaper.
Otherwise, why bother?
So we have dropped the price
of the out-of-town subscriptions to see
if we can lure some readers back and others
to stay. We won’t be making a dime
on the mailings; in fact, we’ll
lose money because of also paying for
the labor of labeling, sorting, and delivery
to the post office.
This decline in postal service
and increase in rates (in which there
is another due in May 2008) is completely
beyond our control. All we can ask is
that readers talk to their local post
offices and perhaps their newspaper won’t
be treated as a piece of junk mail.
Also deserving of thanks
is Nancy Brunson. She has been with us,
literally, for better or for worse, in
sickness and in health, for richer or
poorer, in sadness and in joy for just
four months shy of the entire 13 years.
DOCUMENTING LIFE AND TIMES—
We also appreciate our past reporters,
columnists, and freelancers:
Jay O’Connell published
158 articles on local history, first under
the heading of “Colony Corner,”
which ultimately became his first book,
Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the
Kaweah Colony (Raven River Press, 1999).
Then the feature evolved into “The
Corner” and included subjects such
as Captain Young and the Buffalo Soldiers
in Sequoia, Norman Clyde, Everett Ruess,
Mount Whitney Power & Electric, the
CCCs (F.D. Roosevelt’s Civilian
Conservation Corps), the Eagle Squadron
of World War II, and bandits Evans and
Sontag, the subject of Jay’s latest
book, Train Robber’s Daughter: The
Melodramatic Life of Eva Evans, 1876-1970.
Amy Dolcourt-McElroy filed
65 reports before deciding to devote more
time to motherhood. Lisa Lieberman and
Lisa McEwen have also provided substantive
Jean Darsey (1921-2007) wrote
79 “Garden Goodies” columns
for the Commonwealth, but this number
is much greater considering that the column
carried over from the Sequoia Sentinel.
Harry Ison also was a carry-over and contributed
27 “Musings” columns, while
Kaye Cannarozzi continued from the Sentinel
to write four “Heard in Hicksville”
installments before we went our separate
Also in the early years,
Jack Harris wrote 32 “On the Sidelines”
columns that focused on Woodlake High
sports. Mike LaCoss, a retired professional
baseball player residing in Lemon Cove,
wrote 22 columns entitled “The Inside
Jack Slater (1961-2006) was
a correspondent from the high seas, sending
in eight fascinating “Captain’s
Log” reports. Keith Edwards, former
pastor from Community Presbyterian Church,
wrote 17 “A Word on the Word”
We’ve had travel columns
from Tom Marshall, local history by Thelma
Crain and Sophie Britten, health and wellness
from Holly Crain Peltzer, art disciplines
from John Holden and the local Arts Alliance,
and financial advice from an A.G. Edwards
Covering Woodlake High School
were three talented students, who were
also editors-in-chief of the school’s
Tiger Times newspaper. Hijinio Reynoso
Jr. wrote 36 articles, then continued
to write about college life from U.C.
Santa Cruz. Rebecca Godlin and Chris de
Castro followed in Hijinio’s footsteps.
Basically, all of these contributors
had other lives and careers. Most wrote
without compensation, sharing their columns
because they had a passion for their subject,
but the deadline eventually takes its
toll, causing most to leave the fold.
THE SERIALS— Several
features have been created in the past
13 years, including Visiting Around Town
(Sarah) and Makin’ History (John).
Also, we have Finding Flowers, the Best
of Kaweah Country, and the annual Year-in-Review
trilogy. We’ve celebrated many local
milestones with commemorative issues,
such as 100 Years of Three Rivers (2000),
The Power of the Kaweah: 100 Years of
Hydroelectricity (1999), and 50 Years
Ago: The Christmas Flood of 1955 (2005).
Roadside Attractions is an
ongoing series as space and research allows.
And Hiking the Parks, of which there have
been 75 installments, is one of the most
popular features in the newspaper, based
upon the comments we have received. It
is our hope that both of these will be
books someday but, again, there’s
that weekly deadline with which we must
contend that makes it difficult to take
on extra projects.
LOOKING FORWARD— When
we began this newspaper, our children
were ages six and four. At the end of
this school year, we will be “empty
As the children fly, so do
the years. Join us as we embark on number
Roots and Wings:
A New Beginning
The above heading appeared
on Page 3 of the first issue of the new
Commonwealth on Wednesday, March 1, 1995.
The following is how I introduced myself
to the community 13 years ago [anything
in brackets is a new addition]:
Welcome to the first issue
of the rebirth of The Kaweah Commonwealth.
We hope that all who venture into these
pages will find subjects that are of interest
and will soon be better informed about
Three Rivers and its surrounding communities.
With this initial issue comes
a pledge to deliver the news, past and
present. It is important to know the current
events of this community, whether you
live here or are just passing through.
It is of equal value to know the history
of our area, too. Those who reside in
this wonderful place will have pride knowing
its unique past. Visitors may travel on,
knowing they are informed and feeling
they took full advantage of their time
To publish a newspaper has
been a dream of mine since before I even
realized. I have been guided on this path
for over 30 years. The proof is in my
Babar book, dated by my mom in 1964. I
broke the house rules by getting a pencil
and placing punctuation where there was
none, correcting grammar, and improving
on the cursive handwriting in this classic
tale. I will keep this book close to me
(unless my children want to borrow it)
as I work on this newspaper [13 years
later, it is still on display in my office].
It will remind me that this is not a job…
it is a labor of love.
The labor of love is not
only in my work. It is directed toward
this community in which I was raised.
I am the fifth generation of the Barton
family to reside in Three Rivers; my children
are the sixth. Though my name
has changed now, the family pride is stronger
than ever. It’s funny though…
my name had to change for me to appreciate
my heritage. It was something I took for
granted [doesn’t every family stay
in the same town for 130 years?] until
I met and married a historian.
I have lived in several different
places since my upbringing in Three Rivers.
I never felt completely settled, however,
but I never knew why. The answer came
when my two children began approaching
school age. The sense of longing I continually
felt was a strong magnetic pull to return
home. And home I came.
I was finally content. Or
so I thought. Now that I was here, how
could I possibly follow in the footsteps
of four previous generations? It’s
a difficult act to follow; in my family
tree is a Revolutionary War hero (1770s),
a Columbia gold miner (1852), Westward
ho! pioneers (1866), a Tulare County Recorder
(ca. 1860), an owner/publisher of the
Visalia Weekly Delta (1875), a Tulare
County Supervisor (1880s), a great-great
uncle who is said to have milled the first
giant sequoia (1870; felled by natural
causes, by the way), another who named
Lake Isabella (Kern County, 1893), early
settlers and ranchers of Three Rivers
and Mineral King (1870s), two Woodlake
Union High School student body presidents
(1918 and 1942), and other regional accomplishments.
One characteristic that most of these
Bartons had in common was the foresight
to document their activities, somehow
knowing that they were making history.
My husband, John, and I are
committed to continuing the family tradition,
not just writing about our lives, but
yours, too. We have a deep-rooted sense
of purpose to and love of Three Rivers,
Sequoia National Park, Woodlake, and all
of Kaweah Country. We strive for a standard
of excellence that will provide accurate
information in an entertaining format.
All channels of communication
are open, and so is our door. We welcome
your thoughts on what a community newspaper
should be, as well as your letters and
opinions on current events and local affairs.
Enjoy this historic issue
of The Kaweah Commonwealth, and the others
that will follow in the weeks, years,
and decades to come [ain’t that
What a long strange trip
it’s been these last 13 years. Week
in, week out, there’s always something
new and often there’s more news
than we could ever hope to shoe horn into
12 or 16 pages… and the relentless
We’ve gone through
an incredible learning curve catering
to the whims of a fickle coverage area.
But from the outset in March 1995 we —
Sarah and I — made a commitment
to upgrade the local newspaper.
The former newspaper, the
Sequoia Sentinel was certainly entertaining
and informative in its time, but like
any publication that puts itself out there
weekly, it had boosters and detractors.
It was published sporadically in one form
or another from 1971 to 1995.
We knew it was a bold move
to make sweeping changes to a newspaper
folks had become used to, but the changes
were necessary and, in the long run, for
In the big picture of what
a community newspaper might accomplish,
we set some pretty lofty goals. Firstly,
we believed that a quality newspaper is
a pillar of community that can build consensus
and promote the collective interests of
the people it serves.
To achieve these goals, we
needed to determine where we were going
by better understanding where we have
been. In the early days from 1995 to 2000,
the Commonwealth offered a more regular
dose of local history. Some readers told
us we had too much history, others told
us to do even more.
I’ll never forget one
early letter we received. It said we should
feature the people who live here because
there are so many interesting stories.
We took that as a challenge to raise the
bar on doing the very thing we were doing
anyway. Browse any issue past or present
and it is literally bursting with people.
There is a question of the
week feature called “Snapshots”
with at least five people in 665 issues,
less a few score of repeat offenders,
which translates to an archive of several
thousand mug shots.
Then there are the more than
600 Neighbor Profiles who not only share
incredible insight into their personality
and likes and dislikes, but also lend
a photographic image in a place or pose
that might suggest an interest or an activity
that is near or dear.
Today, there is a wait list
for this feature, and the timing is always
right for somebody to put a face on a
good cause or new business.
You get the picture. One
thing a newspaper cannot help but do,
if it’s done professionally and
with integrity, is create a unique and
valuable archive of its community. For
The Kaweah Commonwealth, first published
locally in 1890, that has included the
people of the past and the present.
From the outset, we set out
to devote more of the local newspaper
to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
people, and along the way we would document
some of the best attractions and backcountry
places on the planet. We always took our
kids along on our forays into the parks
and were among the very first to take
digital cameras into the Sequoia backcountry
or to publish on the Internet about backpacking
People, places, events, obituaries,
births, deaths, graduations... and the
archive just keeps growing by leaps and
bounds. With the development of TKC Online
five years ago, there is no limit to what
can be preserved in cyberspace and made
available locally and globally.
When we started this novel
experiment of doing the Commonwealth in
1995, our readers were watching what we
might write about Mike Tollefson, the
new superintendent of Sequoia-Kings Canyon,
who just happened to be the subject of
my first interview for the inaugural March
1, 1995, issue. Now, thanks to the miracle
of the Internet, the whole world is watching
24/7/365, and there are multitudes of
potential visitors wanting to know more
about this little California gateway to
Sequoia National Park.
When you think of all the
towns that no longer have a local paper,
then you may grasp the significance of
these 13 years. The efforts of all of
us — Nancy, who has been with us
for 12 years, eight months, Deborah, Tyler,
and lately son Johnnie and daughter Jennie
— have been outstanding.
It has no doubt exacted a
toll on all who labor under our banner
but with our readers’ support and
encouragement we can continue for a while
longer. How long? Only time will tell,
and in the interim, we promise to take
you along for one very interesting, unpredictable,
ever-changing, fast-moving ride.
trained and on high alert
It’s going to be a
high-water year and that historically
spells disaster for some unsuspecting
recreationists in Three Rivers and Sequoia
National Park. In fact, drowning is the
leading cause of death in the nearby national
Last weekend, five local
emergency responders — Raymond Russell,
Tulare County Fire; David Fireman, National
Park Service; Dennis Villavicencio and
Steve Mayfield, Three Rivers Volunteer
Fire; and Ron Parish, Tulare County Fire
— all completed a two-day training
course and received certification in Swiftwater
Rescue Level 1.
The in-water portion of the
training was conducted in the Middle Fork
of the Kaweah River near the junction
of Hawk Hollow and Sierra drives. The
instructor for the course was Sean Johnson,
a Fresno City firefighter who facilitates
search-and-rescue training for Rescue
The Level 1 course is a preliminary
certification that progresses to advanced
level rescue and technical rope rescue.
Anyone interested in obtaining rescue
certification should contact the Three
Rivers Fire Station, 561-4362.
Also in an effort to avert drownings,
the River Rovers program in Sequoia National
Park is seeking volunteers this spring
to monitor the Kaweah River in the foothills
areas of Sequoia and educate visitors
about the dangers of the rushing water.
The park provides the orientation,
supervision, uniforms, two-way radios,
and all other necessary equipment. Volunteers
are not required to be trained in swift-water
rescue; they are merely a diversion tactic.
To volunteer, call Tim Barrett,
NPS interpretive ranger, at 565-4212.
Town Meeting hosts
Supervisor Allen Ishida told
a packed house who attended last Monday’s
Three Rivers Town Hall meeting that the
county’s new ambulance plan is currently
being reviewed by counsel and should go
to contract by May.
Under the current emergency-response
system, the first responder, especially
in the rural areas like Three Rivers,
is a Tulare County Fire Department engine.
Nothing’s changed with the new fire
department relative to the fact that 70
percent of all fire station calls are
medical aids, Ishida said.
The new ambulance contract
will give all the county’s current
six providers an opportunity to continue
sharing in the emergency services network
while keeping response time under 20 minutes.
“Each ambulance will be equipped
with a GPS [global positioning unit] and
the closest unit will respond,”
Ishida said. “If the new system
doesn’t work, then the only alternative
is to go with one provider.”
Under the terms of the new
contract, the closest county ambulance
to Three Rivers will be stationed in Lemon
Cove. The Three Rivers Ambulance, a volunteer
company — “One of the best
in the county,” Ishida said —
will continue to augment the services
provided under the new contract.
Captain Steve Sullivan, the
Visalia district’s commander of
the California Highway Patrol, spoke briefly
and read a prepared statement in response
to a claim that its officers do not always
act in the best interest of the public
that they serve. Sullivan cited statistics
that area highways were actually safer
“The number of fatalities in Tulare
County declined from 52 in the previous
year to 46 in 2007,” Capt. Sullivan
said. “In the Three Rivers area
during the past year there were 31 collisions
investigated, 1,223 citations issued,
and no fatalities.”
His office, he said, was
sorry to see Officer Greg Fox, Three Rivers
resident CHP officer, retire.
“We’ve offered a similar position
to any officer who might want to live
up here,” Capt. Sullivan said, “but
given the current real estate prices,
nobody has yet expressed an interest in
taking the job.”
Lt. Dave Galloway of the Tulare County
Sheriff’s Department was also on
the agenda and said that the department
could always use more volunteers for the
VIP program. He cited the excellent work
and dedicated service of the Three Rivers
members who patrol locally and in the
Lt. Galloway also detailed
the department’s current efforts
in their war on gangs, many of whom frequent
Lake Kaweah and the recreation sites along
the Kaweah River. The current injunctions
make it illegal for their members to congregate
so they are being encouraged to move away
or else go to jail, Lt. Galloway said.
Lt. Galloway also reminded
the audience that the department offers
“We won’t tolerate gangs in
Tulare County,” he said.
Tom Sparks, who chaired the
meeting on behalf of the Three Rivers
Village Foundation, said the April meeting
will return to its usual first Monday
of the month.
Yellow starthistle, a native
to Eurasia, was introduced to California
around 1850 via South America. It is now
common in open areas on roadsides, rangelands,
wildlands, hayfields, pastures, and waste
The Tulare County Weed Management
Area (TCWMA) will treat small infestations
with “Milestone,” a highly
effective and selective herbicide that
has proven to be effective for the control
of yellow starthistle.
The WMA is charging $50 for
up to three acres. The cost for four or
more acres is $15 per acre.
Recent reports indicate that
Yellow starthistle infests between 10
and 15 million acres in California. It
is a gray-green to blue-green plant with
a deep, vigorous taproot.
It produces bright, thistle-like
yellow flowers with sharp spines surrounding
the base. Yellow starthistle grows to
heights varying from six inches to five
It often forms dense infestations
and rapidly depletes soil moisture, thus
preventing the establishment of other
plants. Infestations may be so dense that
the land is lost to grazing, habitat for
wildlife, and recreation. Many small-acreage
land owners are unable to control yellow
In Three Rivers, treatments
will be made using the spray rig donated
two years ago by the local Century 21
office. The weed hotline number for Three
Rivers residents is 561-4701.
To make other arrangements,
call the U.C. Cooperative Extension at
685-3303 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday
through Friday. After business hours,
leave a message at 685-3309, ext. 236,
and you will be called back.
For more information, contact
Jim Sullins at 685-3303. Indicate you
are calling about Yellow Starthistle control.
This program will be in effect
only through April 2008.
The TCWMA is an organization
of cooperating agencies that has been
formed to reduce the increasing populations
of noxious weeds in Tulare County.
The Tulare County Board of
Supervisors, at their regular meeting
on Tuesday, March 4, certified the results
of the February 5 primary election. There
were no surprises or upsets from the preliminary
The countywide final voter
turnout was 51 percent; 31 percent voted
at polling places while 20 percent voted
via mail. Sixty-two percent of registered
Democrats voted while 55 percent of Republicans
cast their ballots.
Measure C, the Woodlake High
School bond issue to improve school facilities,
received 61.80 percent of the total votes
cast. Fifty-five percent yes votes were
needed to pass the $4.41 million measure.
Tim Hire, superintendent
of the Woodlake school district, said
that although the tax dollars will not
be collected until the next tax year,
some preliminary design work will be starting
“It was a vote for the kids that
will benefit the entire community for
many years to come,” Hire said.
“We are grateful to all who supported
the bond issue and especially to those
community members who worked tirelessly
to get our message out to the voters.”
In the Democratic presidential
race, Senator Hillary Clinton won Tulare
County with 59.36 percent of the vote;
Senator Barack Obama tallied 30.71 percent.
In the Republican primary
for the presidential nomination, Senator
John McCain won the county-wide election
with 37.50 percent; former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney finished second with
In other election news, in
the District 1 (includes Three Rivers)
race for county supervisor, two candidates
will face off on June 3. Allen Ishida
(incumbent) and Guy Christian, a welfare-fraud
investigator who works part-time in the
Tulare County District Attorney’s
office, have filed for the non-partisan
Four candidates have filed
to run in the June 3 Republican primary
for the vacant 34th District seat in the
State Assembly: Rebecca Maze, Connie Conway,
Jon Zellhoefer and Bob Smith. The leading
Republican vote-getter will most likely
win the seat in the majority Republican
district but first must defeat a Democratic
challenger in the November 4 general election.