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In the News - Friday, March 16, 2012



Winter storm due this weekend

  Following those sunny days earlier this week with spring-like temperatures in the 70s, winter returns this weekend to the southern Sierra and Kaweah Country. The wettest and coldest days will be Saturday and Sunday.

  Sunday’s forecast calling for a daytime high temperature of 49 degrees is 20 degrees below normal. All that frigid, cooler air aloft is accompanying a plume of moisture into California, much of which is falling to the ground as snow.

  This round of storminess has already dumped up to five inches of rainfall in some parts of the coastal foothills. At Lake Shasta and in the Lake Tahoe region, elevations above 7,000 feet have received more than two feet of new snow.

  At Lodgepole and Mineral King in the nearby mountains, one to two feet of snow is expected by Sunday night. Forecasters caution that this is still a dry year so conserve water but the current storm is what they call a drought-buster. That’s because it’s so cold that most of the precipitation in the mountain areas will hang around as snowpack with a healthy water content.

  Snow levels will drop by Sunday to 2,500 feet. Sequoia National Park visitors should be prepared to chain up at Hospital Rock. Four-wheel drive vehicles with all-terrain-rated tires should be good to go, but are still required to have chains in the vehicle.

  The heavy snow on top of the two-foot base should produce some of the best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing of the current season. Call the ski shop at Wuksachi Lodge for equipment rentals and the latest conditions: 565-4070.


Orange Blossom Junction to close


  The closing of the Orange Blossom Restaurant first circulated as a rumor two weeks ago on local social media pages. Then Doug and Luci Long, owners and operators since 2004 of the restaurant and music venue on Highway 198 near Spruce Road, confirmed that yes, it’s true.

  The principal reason for the unexpected close is the rising cost of doing business.

  “We are closing and it’s true, but be happy for us,” said Doug. “Since we made the announcement, we’ve received several interesting proposals for the building… nothing firm, but in the meantime we are looking at being the only air-conditioned antique mall in the area.”

  OBJ regulars are well aware of Luci’s penchant for antiques. The décor of the restaurant has a warm, historical character, functional yet appropriate; a new building that had been built to look old with the ambiance of late 19th century Merryman.

  Merryman was named after R.C. Merryman who, in 1896, planted the slopes of nearby Badger Hill in citrus. These early trees came from Riverside root stock developed a few years earlier in Porterville and were believed to be among the earliest navel orange groves in Tulare County.

  A shipping point and packing place grew up around where Orange Blossom Junction now stands. A sign next to the tracks of the former Visalia Electric Railroad simply read “Merryman.”

  The old railroad operated for at least four decades, then it was consolidated into the holdings of the Southern Pacific and later abandoned. The tracks that crossed Highway 198 at that location were removed in the mid 1990s.

  The old Merryman warehouse building was subsequently remodeled as a restaurant and tavern — Merryman Station — featuring live music and hearty comfort food in the 1980s and 1990s.

  In 1999, the wooden restaurant burned down in a suspicious fire and did not reopen until Doug and Luci rebuilt on the site in 2004. Doug said the new mall concept for the restaurant building might even feature some of OBJ’s bottled dressings and sorbets made famous by Chef George Quilty.

  Quilty, a chef for more than 35 years, was a featured chef at the 2012 World Ag Expo, appearing in a dessert demonstration with Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel. Prior to coming to OBJ, he mentored in the chef business at Harris Ranch.

  Doug said he plans to continue to promote and co-promote music productions. He said he is currently looking into some unique venues — places that fans might not expect to see a show.

  Long said what he will miss most is visiting with all the OBJ patrons.

  “There will be some changes in what we do but we will not be retiring any time soon,” said Doug. “And I’m still a lawyer too.”


Jupiter and Venus side-by-side in night sky


  Last week, the early evening sky offered a double treat — the Moon and Mars in the east, and Venus and Jupiter in the west. Venus and Jupiter are quite bright and easy to pick out. Mars stood to the upper left of the Moon, shining like a bright orange star.

  Venus and Jupiter, the brightest pinpoints of light in the night sky, have been lining up like a pair of headlights and will continue to for the next few evenings.

  Venus is the brighter of the two, with Jupiter a little to its left. Venus, the brilliant “evening star,” is one of the solar system’s four inner planets. Jupiter, which lines up to the left of   Venus, is the largest of the four giant outer planets.

  Although the planets are far apart in space, they have appeared during the past week to be separated by only a few degrees.

  They have been visible just after sunset in the western sky. If one knows where to look, Venus can even be currently seen during the day as it has been shining so brightly.

  While Jupiter and Venus will drift apart, Jupiter will be visible for at least another week. In June, Venus will appear to cross in front of the Sun from some positions on Earth. On March 5, Mars made its closest pass of Earth in more than two years.

  For now, look quickly since the approaching storm will allow plenty of cover for most of the coming week behind which the planets will hide.


Preliminary hearing scheduled in 3R assault case


  Joe Sherman, the former Three Rivers resident who was arrested last month on an assault charge, was released from custody on March 2 after posting $50,000 bail.

  Last week, Sherman’s attorney met with the district attorney’s office and it was determined that the stabbing case will take the next step — a preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 27.

  Sherman was arrested February 26 after a fight at the Pizza Factory in Three Rivers in which an Exeter man was stabbed. He is currently facing a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon and a possible state prison sentence.

  A Tulare County Fire Department captain said an incident like this was “most unusual” for Three Rivers. A local firefighter and some department volunteers, he said, helped to treat the victim and secure the scene until Sheriff’s deputies could make an arrest.


CHP updates report

on Sierra Drive rollover


  In a February 19 nighttime accident involving a truck that hit a boulder and overturned on Highway 198 near Pierce Drive and set off two subsequent chain-reaction accidents, the Visalia CHP office corrected some information and released an updated accident report.

  The driver in that accident was named Douglas Giles, not Gillis, as stated in the preliminary accident report.

  Giles 60, who gave a Sierra Drive address in Three Rivers but was driving with an Arizona license, was arrested and charged with DUI. Two other drivers collided with road debris at the accident scene but were not injured or arrested.

  “Apparently, another vehicle that came up on the scene immediately after the first solo vehicle accident collided with the overturned vehicle, and another vehicle following the second vehicle collided with the truck box of the first vehicle that was smashed in the roadway,” said Officer Wright of the Visalia CHP office.

  Officer Wright said the driver of the second vehicle remained at the scene until a CHP officer arrived; the driver of the third vehicle left the scene and was not contacted as a part of the accident investigation.




Death by a thousand cuts: State budget

reduces funding to rural health clinics


By Harry Foster


  Just as we are poised to deliver on the promise of providing health care for millions of Californians, the Governor’s proposed budget would dramatically cut funding to health centers in needy communities like those in Tulare and Kings counties. 

  Because California has the lowest Medicaid (Medi-Cal) reimbursement rates in the country, federally qualified health centers like Family HealthCare Network have always had a federal mandate to serve uninsured and under-insured patients that many other local providers refuse to serve. FHCN provides health care in one of the most impoverished areas in the state, where staggering unemployment rates have caused many to lose health insurance or not be able to afford coverage.

  Our federally defined reimbursement rate takes into consideration our unique delivery system that provides comprehensive primary care services that include chronic disease management, mental health, integrated behavioral health, dental services, health education, community health care, transportation, and translation services. 

  So-called “trailer language” in the Governor’s budget would require us to continue to provide care to the uninsured and under-insured — and to do so with 10 percent less funding. That is simply impossible given our mission to serve all who come through our doors. 

  The proposed budget cuts would shred the safety net. California’s Community Health Centers have lost over $100 million in the last three years due to harmful state budget cuts and we cannot survive further cuts. The Governor’s proposal, which would force some health centers to close, is simply the wrong prescription for the health of California.

FHCN provides cost-effective services to our community and while we feel we must continue this mission-based approach to care, the current state administration appears to not agree.  Yet the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has determined the Federally   Qualified Health Center Program to be one of the 10 most effective federal grant programs currently in existence. We take pride in our role as a great steward of the taxpayers’ money — and as an economic engine in our community.

  Now the Governor is proposing to reimburse federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics on a “value” rather than “volume” basis. Family HealthCare is also interested in value, which is what our new patient-centered health home system is all about. And we have indicated that we are willing to sit down and negotiate patient reform after this bill is withdrawn from the current calendar.

  But the legislative process is not the place to negotiate. The transition from volume to value has to be such that it does not destroy the safety net.

  Looking to the future, we cannot deliver on the full promise of health care reform while our funding continues to be cut. Just as health centers begin moving toward the goal of serving the millions of additional patients anticipated with health insurance expansions in 2014, the   Governor proposes essentially eliminating the safety net.

  This proposal is not payment reform; it is simply a budget cut. Countless studies have concluded that health centers provide high-quality and cost-effective health care to the most vulnerable populations in our state, while reducing overall costs to the health care system.

  This is what we do well and we must not let the Governor interfere in this mission. I urge you to call the Governor and tell him that our health care system is fragile enough without this additional devastating cut. Tell him to let our health centers do the important work they do in keeping our families and communities healthy.

  Harry Foster is the president and CEO of Family HealthCare Network.


Run for your life: Local spring events


  For the all the runners and walkers out there, here is the latest on the Kaweah Country series of running/walking events. The inaugural Shepherd’s Saddle Half Marathon will have to wait until the early spring of 2013.

  Coming off the success of the second Kaweah Country Run, held the Saturday after Thanksgiving (November 26, 2011) at Lake Kaweah (10K run and 5K walk) the event organizers had hoped to be ready to add a half marathon to the series in 2012. As it turned out, the available dates just weren’t working for this season.

  There was already something scheduled for the best spring weekends that worked for Three Rivers. Add to a busy local events calendar that includes Jazzaffair and the Roping, a number of nearby running events compete for sign-ups —  the Sanger Blossom Trail 10K on March 3; End of the Trail (Visalia) Half Marathon on March 24; the Visalia Triathlon (Vi Tri) on March 31; the inaugural San Luis Obispo Earth Day Marathon (April 22); and Woodlake’s Run for Hunger 5K (May 5). It became apparent that a Three Rivers half marathon would be a no-go in 2012.

  But, prospective entrants, keep the faith for 2013. There are some challenging logistics to holding an event in a national park but well worth jumping through the hoops of the permit process (there’s a fee just to apply).

  The last two 10K/5K run and walk events at Lake Kaweah have shown excellent growth in sign-ups and made possible the donation of more than $1,000 to local charitable causes. This year’s 2012 Kaweah Country 10K/5K event will be held Saturday, Nov. 24.

  Mark your calendars now for this annual fun fitness fest for a good cause. Discounted sign-ups will be available starting late summer. For more information, or to volunteer as a member of the events planning committee, call John Elliott, 561-3627.


Effort underway in Congress to reinstate ban

on firearms in national parks


  A group of congressmen, led by two members of Washington state’s delegation, is attempting to reinstate a ban against visitors carrying firearms in national parks.   Representative Jim McDermott reported he and Rep. Norm Dicks decided to introduce legislation that would ban guns in the parks in the wake of the New Year’s Day 2012 murder of a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park.

  Margaret Anderson, a 34-year-old law enforcement ranger, was shot and killed when she tried to intercept a suspect wanted in connection with a shooting in Seattle earlier that day. Benjamin Colton Barnes had fled a routine checkpoint where park visitors were checked to see if they had snow-chains for their tires.

  The controversial rule change that allowed park visitors to both openly carry weapons, carry concealed weapons, and carry rifles in national parks took effect two years ago. Under the change, firearm regulations in a specific park resemble those of the state in which the park is located except, however, when it comes to federal facilities. They are still off-limits to visitors with guns.

  Previously, gun owners could bring their weapons into national parks, but the firearms had to be unloaded, dismantled, and out of reach. Hunting remains illegal in national parks.


Half Dome permit process:

Changes in the works… again


  An online campaign to end Yosemite’s Half Dome Trail permitting program is the latest voice in a clamor of opinions on the subject. About 530 people signed the Save HalfDome.com petition that was sent this week to Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park superintendent, asking officials to do away with the permitting system.

  The petition also calls for an additional cable to be added to the two existing cables, which help hikers on the final 400-foot steep ascent to the summit of Half Dome.

  The petition comes just days before the public comment period closes for the environmental assessment of the Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan. The environmental assessment looked at the various impacts of allowing 140, 300, and 400 daily hikers on the trail, as well as the effects of doing away with the permit system altogether.

  The assessment also studied the impacts of removing the cables. The petition’s suggestion to add a cable to relieve congestion won’t be considered as it would be against the Wilderness Act.

  Officials concluded from the study that the cables should remain and that a 300-people-a-day permitting process would provide the “optimum visitor experience while protecting wilderness character along the trail,” according to the park’s website.

  In 2010, park officials started limiting the daily number of people allowed to climb Half Dome. Over the last two years, the process has undergone several changes.

  Starting this year, the park instituted a lottery system. To be in the drawing, people must submit an application in March. Half Dome hiking permits will be issued April 13 for the May 25 to October 8 hiking season.

  About 50 permits a day are reserved for people who make online reservations two days in advance. And 100 permits are set aside for backcountry hikers whose itinerary reasonably includes the Half Dome Trail.


Road construction extended to August


  Coming up will be the third consecutive busy visitor season with delays due to road construction on the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park. The current phase of road construction is a 1.75-mile stretch from Amphitheater Point to Eleven Range that was originally scheduled to be completed in May 2012.

  At the Town Hall meeting earlier this month it was announced by a park spokesperson that the construction would now continue into August.

  Currently delays on the Generals Highway, the only road to access Sequoia from Three Rivers, range from 20 minutes to two hours during daytime hours. As the busy season approaches, traffic will be let through on the hour, every hour, during the workday. Park personnel at visitor centers and the Sequoia entrance station assist visitors in how to best minimize their wait times in a road construction lineup.

  This long-term construction project has been ongoing intermittently since 1996 with the ultimate goal to widen the Generals Highway from Ash Mountain to Giant Forest.  Initial press releases about the project said the seasonal project was estimated to take 10 years to complete.


SAVE THE DATE: TRUS Graduates Reunion


A TRUS all-alumni reunion will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, at Lions Arena. The event will include dinner, music, and auctions that will raise money for Three Rivers School. To be placed on the email list and receive updates regarding the event, send your name, year of TRUS graduation, and email address to: ThreeRiversGraduates@yahoo.com




Food adventures in the Caribbean


By Allison Sherwood Millner



  The sun had disappeared beyond the farthest reaches of the ocean horizon, sky changing from orange to red and eventually to deep purple before fading into jet black.  Dane and I settled into a pair of frozen rum mojitos that tasted innocent but would sneak up on us later. We were sailing east toward Curacao, eager for the unknown, excited for the exotic and ready for adventure.

  The next day as we stepped off the boat and onto the grand new esplanade in Willemstad we are immediately hit with color.  Houses, storefronts and stands are painted different bright hues of blue, yellow, green, and red.  The contrast of the bright colors reflecting off of the dull gray, stormy water is breathtaking.  The main bridge that connects the port with the capital city is long and offers a wonderful view of the waterfront.

  Having forgone the tours offered by the boat, we decide to walk around town and visit the few sights I’ve picked out on the map. Luckily, Dane and I travel well together, although our approach to discovering new cities is different. 

  I like to consult the map and know what street I’m on and where I’m going while he’s happy to wander around, turning down whatever alley or cobblestone street looks interesting.  Together we are a successful combination of what I like to call “knowledgeably lost,” where the ultimate destination is always reached, but never by the quickest, most efficient route.

  Today, we crossed the bridge into Willemstad with a few objectives in mind; find the floating market, tour the Curacao liqueur factory, and see the Hato caves. The market was first on the agenda, and I could tell from my map that it was within walking distance. We arrived quickly and started down the row of vendors selling fruits, spices and vegetables. 

  What Dane and I had envisioned as a floating market was a grand assembly of small boats, walkways, and paths that crisscrossed together; similar to something you might see in the Far East.  It’s safe to say that this was not that market and, in fact, we decided for future reference we would just leave the word “floating” out of it. Regardless, we perused the assortment of produce that lined the sidewalk next to the water and continued on our way.   Adjusted expectations... check.

  Now we were at a crossroads, the Hato caves were a pricey taxi ride across the island and it was entirely possible they might not live up to our ideals. So, after much debate, we settled on the Curacao factory and an afternoon at a popular beach. We haggled with a taxi driver and set off for the afternoon.

  I’m not going to go into much detail about the next hour of our lives before we reached the beach, but I’ll give you the highlights:

  —Our taxi driver stopped in our travels to get him self a beer

  —The Curacao factory wasn’t where they made the actual liqueur, just where you could taste it. 

  —I was sprayed with a florescent green liquid (by our taxi driver) that would make me “relax”... it burned.

  —The famous blue Curacao liqueur was only for purchase, no tastes were given out. However, if you wanted to try delicious flavors such as rum raisin and chocolate, help yourself.

  Finally we arrived at the beach, hungry, burning, and a little weary, just as it started to downpour.  But all was not lost, stretched out on the beach in front of us were cabanas, as far as the eye could see, full of cold drinks and local eats. We decided to walk in the warm tropical rain down the length of the sand to peruse our offerings and make a plan. 

If you are not familiar with the island of Curacao, it would behoove you to know that it is Dutch. The beach that we were on was lined with Dutch resorts, offering traditional drink and food.

  Our first stop was at one of the nicer restaurants and since the rain had temporarily abated, we sat at a wicker table right above the sand. Dane ordered a trio of skewers with different flavors and I decided to go with the famous Dutch fries. 

  Accompanied by a beer, the fries dipped in the offered mayo hit the spot. Dane’s skewers proved to be a delicious assortment of beef with peanut sauce, chicken with teriyaki, and shrimp swimming in a garlic-lemongrass bath.

  Our next choice proved to be more of a challenge. The refrigerated glass case in a very small shack held a large variety of breaded items.  Each was labeled in Dutch and went straight into the deep fryer; different sauces were available for dipping. 

  While waiting in line I figured out that the word kaas meant cheese and felt safe ordering a nice fried hunk of it.  Dane threw caution to the wind and ordered two sausage-shaped pieces.

  After a few minutes we had our fried food in hand and some spicy ketchup and garlic sauce to dip it in. My cheese was deliciously hot, salty and wonderfully stringy. 

  Dane’s mystery meal was a combination of some sort of shredded meat, vegetables, and a creamy sauce. While he conceded that the taste was fine, it was incredibly rich. 

  What I didn’t tell him until he was done was that I overheard one of the ladies explaining that some of the meat in the items was horse. I wasn’t quite sure it was in reference to what Dane had selected, so I kept quiet; I certainly didn’t want to dash his sense of adventure. 

  And so our day ended much as it had the day before, sitting on the beach, bellies full and somewhat content. We watched the rainstorms pass from the shelter of our cabana and soaked up the warmth of the sun in between showers.

  Our day on Curacao had been memorable but we were eager to set sail and see what awaited us across the brilliant aquamarine ocean.

  Allison Millner and her husband, Dane, own and operate Sierra Subs and Salads in Three Rivers. They incorporate many  of the exotic flavors discovered during their international travels into their weekly specials.




Spring means new beginnings


By Charlene Vartanian


  Spring. Fabulous spring. 

  Spring brings life back into balance. The gray of winter transformed into green abundance. Tender new leaves popping and full of life.  

   It can be helpful to remember at the beginning of each new season  what is its opposite. Spring turns into summer, turns into fall,  turns into winter again.  

   Grounding ourselves in the awareness of cycles helps place ourselves within the cycle. We become part of the process of life as it moves through and around us. 

  Embracing this awareness keeps us soft. We can enjoy the moment for just what it is. We must enjoy the moment, as it too shall pass.

  Our bodies also function in rhythm with this truth. Our bodies relax when given the opportunity. 

  Our bodies know and can teach us that wholeness includes the whole cycle. Wholeness is made up of parts. When we embrace our parts, we facilitate balance.

   Connecting with our bodies allows spring to happen everyday. New things emerge: new thoughts, new ideas new growth.  Spring, the season of new beginnings.

  Charlene Vartanian, R.N., has offered CranioSacral massage and bodywork in Three Rivers for 10 years. Visit www.charlenevartanian.com or call 561-4215.






Rebirth of the violin recital


By Bill Haxton


The Instrument

  From the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th centuries, the virtuoso violin recital was arguably the most popular music event in the western world.  Violinists were as popular as presidents, which may not say much in the 21st century but it really meant something then.

  But in the post-World War II era, the violin recital entered something of a slump. The ascent  of the big sound of the symphony might have been partly responsible, or perhaps economics had something to do with it, as top violinists increasingly chose high-profile performances with big orchestras.

  Today, with the help of Robert Lipsett, who many believe to be the world’s preeminent teacher of violin, the virtuoso violin recital is making a comeback. For decades, Professor Lipsett’s students have won major competitions and now make up a who’s who of international violin stars and major orchestra concertmasters: Leila Josefowicz, Hahn Bin, Elizabeth Pitcairn, Lindsay Deutsch, Jennifer Frautschi, Robert Chen, and Danielle Belen.


The Musician

  Violinist Jeffrey Myers is no exception. Last year, he won the Grand Prize at the Fischoff Competition as part of the acclaimed Calidore Quartet of which he is a founding member. During the summer, he served as co-Concertmaster of the National Repertory Orchestra. 

When Jeffrey performs, he produces a luscious violin sound that is a riveting blend of refined precision, nuanced emotion, and impeccable timing.


The Music

  The music program Jeffrey will perform has historical roots, too. The compositions are taken from the Golden Age of virtuoso recitals — Corelli, Brahms, Dvo?ák, Saint-Saëns.  Occupying the centerpiece is Brahms’s famously expansive Sonata No. 3 in D Minor.  The composition is sinewy and athletic but achieves real heights of poetry.

  The Allegro opens with a pleading violin over a piano that churns underneath like fast water over stones. The theme develops into something epic, Shakespearean, King Lear on the heath perhaps, an unrestrained storm of passion, followed by deep melancholy. The piano closes the Allegro tenderly on a rising figure of few single notes that are nothing short of ephemeral.

  The Adagio introduces a gorgeous melody then expands briefly into all-encompassing majesty. From here, Brahms seamlessly goes introspective, like a treasured memory you behold for the last time. 

  The Scherzo is effervescent, sometimes mischievous, delightfully unpredictable, but several instances of violin double-stopping, when two strings are played simultaneously, add mystery and depth to it.

  In the fourth movement, the high passion and drama of the first movement return, only now the pleading comes with a sense of intense, turbulent striving.   Brahms always seems to have another gear.

  Accompanying Mr. Myers is Juilliard alumna Pauline Yang on piano.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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