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In the News -

Friday, March 28, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Woman rescued

at Slick Rock

   Some early morning fishing on Thursday, March 20, at the Slick Rock Recreation Area nearly ended in tragedy for a woman identified as Marcie Montelius. The woman and a companion were fishing from the rocky shore where the river channel is becoming more treacherous each day as snowmelt increases the river level and the spring runoff begins to fill the Lake Kaweah basin.
   The woman told her rescuers that she slipped and fell into the river channel and was pushed by a strong eddy into a rock where she found herself trapped in four feet of water. After the victim tried unsuccessfully to climb out, her companion was able to jump several rocks to perch just above the shivering victim.
   The companion extended a dog leash to the woman to hang on to so she would not be swept down the river into deeper water. Tulare County Fire Department personnel were able to use ropes to rescue the victim without entering the water.
   After pulling the victim ashore, she was warmed, examined at the scene, and then transported via ambulance to Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia where she was treated for hypothermia.

Sign sealed and delivered

  Did anyone notice that the town of Three Rivers recently got larger? Cal Trans relocated the population sign to 1.4 miles west of its previous location to more accurately delineate the county’s “urban development boundaries.” The sign on the Sequoia side of town was also relocated east, closer to the park entrance.

New ranger to

oversee Sequoia district

   In some ways, Dan Pontbriand, Sequoia National Park’s new district ranger is an enigma. He took a demotion to land his new job and, he said, in a career that’s all about service, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
   In his last job, as the Chief of Emergency Services in Washington, D.C., he supervised the search-and-rescue (SAR) programs in all the national parks.  Obviously, any individual in that position must be well versed in all the SAR disciplines, and Ranger Dan is; he’s an expert diver, river rafter, climber, skier, hiker, and backpacker.
   In 2005, as part of the federal government’s response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Pontbriand joined Sequoia’s Chief Ranger J.D. Swed in coordinating the cleanup and restoration of the NPS New Orleans-area units.  The two became fast friends and a seed was planted.
   Now, just a few years later, Pontbriand is second in the chain of ranger command to J.D. Swed at Sequoia.

  “I politicked for this position because I longed to return to the field,” Pontbriand said. “I really wanted to work in a large park with the complete breadth of SAR disciplines.”
   One might say when describing Ranger Dan: You can take the ranger out of the field, but you can’t take the field out of the ranger.

  “After three years in Washington, D.C., I started to lose my connection with the field,” he said.
   That connection, Dan said, was instilled as a boy growing up in Maine. In those days, he and his identical twin brother spent most of their time in the outdoors, and much of that in the company of their father. Their father, who passed away not too long ago, taught his sons the rudimentary skills that the twins have parlayed into NPS careers.

  “Imagine siblings being very close as family members,” Pontbriand explained. “With my twin brother, I’m 100 times closer. Now we even do the same job. He’s the district ranger in Acadia National Park, and I’m the district ranger at Sequoia.”
   Dan said growing up in Auburn, Maine, with a population of 25,000, finding some kind of work in the great outdoors was all he and his brother ever wanted to do.
   Along the way, the twins worked in the family hardware business that like so many other small businesses, eventually succumbed to the Home Depot and Lowe’s chain store syndrome.

  “My dad was the guy in the corner hardware store who could fix anything and enjoyed explaining to his customers how they could do it themselves,” Dan recalled. “After 79 years, it was a sad day when the family had to finally quit the business.”
   After graduating from high school in 1973, Dan enrolled at the University of Maine, majoring in recreational management and business administration. In the summers, he worked as a lifeguard in the state parks and guided canoe trips.
   His first seasonal appointments with the National Park Service were in 1979 to 1982 at Grand Teton where he worked as a river patrol ranger. In the off-season, he worked on ski patrol back home in Maine.

  “In Maine, it wasn’t practical to live there if you didn’t ski and enjoy the extended winters,” Dan said.
   In the 1980s he became full-time, working his way up the ranger ranks, first at Boston National Historical Park and then at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Early in his career, he said, he wanted to experience as many types of the parks as practical.
   The largest part of his 28 years with the NPS were the 15 years from 1990 to 2005 spent at Olympic National Park. While an Olympic district ranger, Dan recovered data from a dive site where he helped identify a crash victim from a submerged 1927 Chevrolet that had been a mystery for nearly eight decades.
   That case was similar to the recovery of Kings Canyon National Park’s lost World War II airmen that with positive identification finally provided the families with some semblance of closure. Being able to be proficient and use those SAR skills is what Dan refers to as the ranger’s greatest challenge.
   Dan, who is single, says Three Rivers already feels like home, so he’ll spend some spare time house-hunting for just the right opportunity.

  “I really value being a citizen of the community, so wherever I go I like to get involved,” Dan said. “To serve the resource and the people is what makes a career with the NPS most meaningful to me.”

Wilderness rules

announced for local parks

   There are no places more special on the planet than the backcountry of this nation’s national parks. The wilderness areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are certainly among the best of these backcountry treasures, and to ensure that they stay that way some new regulations will be implemented for 2008.
   Specific meadows have grazing restrictions to minimize impacts. Stock use is generally allowed in all areas, even those with restrictions, provided that the stock are held and fed or led to nearby open areas to graze. Stock users need to be aware of the new restrictions in the Kern Canyon to prevent the spread of the invasive velvet grass.
   Ongoing campfire restrictions are in place to allow for the continued recovery of park resources. These typically heavily-used areas have been closed due to lack of dead and downed wood.
   A new voluntary restriction on campfires above 10,000 feet in the Kern Canyon will most likely be made mandatory in 2009. These new restrictions are aimed at protecting the foxtail pine.
   To promote visitor safety and the preservation of natural bear behavior, park-approved food storage containers are required for all overnight campers (May 23-Oct. 31) in three specific areas: Rae Lakes Loop area and the Dusy Basin vicinity in Kings Canyon National Park and the Rock Creek area of Sequoia National Park.
   In 2009, the recommendation that all wilderness campers carry bear-proof food storage containers is expected to become mandatory. For hikers that are cited under the provision of failure to comply with permit regulations, the minimum fine with administrative costs will be in excess of $150.
   The annual limit restrictions from May 15 to September 30 will remain in effect for the popular Pear Lake and Emerald Lake basins. Wilderness permits for these trails will be administered by the Lodgepole ranger station and are available only on a first-come, first-serve basis.
   Due to the heavy snowpack from this past winter that is currently lingering due to cool weather, many passes will remain clogged with snow into the summer and water-crossings will remain high. At this time, any trails above 6,000 feet are snow-covered.
   For more information, contact the Wilderness Office at 559-565-3766, or visit: www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wilderness.htm

WHS girls’ basketball

receives accolades

   As if winning a league title for the first time in more than two decades wasn’t enough for the Lady Tigers basketball team, the recognition just keeps on coming. Last week, senior Alley Reeves was named the Tulare County Girls Basketball “Player of the Year” by the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance Register.
   Reeves finished her career as Woodlake’s third all-time scorer but it was her relentless style that really won over coaches, opposing fans, and sports writers everywhere the Tigers played.
   In a season that will always be remembered by Tiger fans, Reeves put up some unreal numbers. Need some scoring? Alley averaged 19.7 points per game, second in the Central Section among all divisions. A LOT of her points came on put-backs while she was averaging 15.9 rebounds a game, also second in the section.
   But this all-league co-MVP also played defense, averaging six steals and forcing numerous turnovers that led to easy baskets for Alley and her teammates. She made everyone around her a better player by also leading her team in assists.

  “Alley really matured and has become a complete player,” said Kris Schlossin, Woodlake’s first year head coach. “She realized to help her team win, she had to be disciplined on both ends of the court and limit her fouls.”
   It was Alley’s energy and intensity that fueled Woodlake’s title run. Right from the outset, Coach Schlossin asked Alley and her teammates to give 100 percent and then he asked them to reach down deep for a little more.

  “I like to think that my team reflects my approach to the game,” Coach Schlossin said. “The way I coach is the same style that I learned to play, first in National Junior Basketball (NJB) and then as a high school player in Southern California.”
   Coach Schlossin, 31, was also named Tulare County’s Girls Basketball “Coach of the Year” by the Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance Register. He said he hopes his first season at Woodlake is a start of rebuilding a program that will bring back the glory days of 1985 when the Lady Tigers won a state championship.
   Both coach and player have roots in Three Rivers. Coach Schlossin’s parents own and operate the Sequoia Motel in Three Rivers.
   Alley is a Three Rivers School alum whose mother, Michelle, resides in Three Rivers. Alley hopes to be playing next year for a college team.

Woodlake High seeks veterans

   Woodlake High students and advisors are currently planning the school’s fourth annual Veterans Honor Day. The purpose of the event is twofold: (1) To educate the students about the sacrifice of those who have served in this country’s military; and (2) To personally honor the veterans.
   This year’s WHS Veterans Honor Day is scheduled for Friday, May 2. Any veteran from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, or the Iraq War is invited to attend.
   The exhibition will begin at 9:30 a.m. and continue until noon. Lunch will immediately follow.
   Tables will be set up so that veterans may create a display of their mementos, including photos, maps, uniforms, insignias, dog tags, medals, correspondence, and more. The students will tour the displays and talk with veterans.
   All veterans and their guests are invited. To receive more information or to register to attend, call Scott Hernandez, advisor, 564-3307, ext. 193.

Soy candles:
Make ‘em and take ‘em

Eco-friendly… easy to make…

eye-catching… business opportunity…

   Living green or just being committed to a healthy lifestyle is a work in progress. One can never learn enough.
   So who knew? The paraffin candles that are so prevalent in homes and on retailers’ shelves are made from a byproduct of petroleum, not exactly clean-burning nor a renewable resource.
   Mostly likely you’ve noticed one or more of the following when burning a candle: The black residue. The strong odor emitted after blowing it out. Or how hard it is to remove candle wax from a surface or tablecloth.
   In fact, according to the American Lung Association, paraffin candles are one of the worst sources of indoor air pollution, even when not burning! This is all due to the oil sludge — literally, the bottom of the barrel — from which paraffin is derived.
   Candles are a $6 billion annual industry; 98 percent of which are paraffin candle sales. But Nikki Crain of Three Rivers and the Nu Soy company are on a mission to educate the public about the many benefits of soy candles.
Perhaps the most positive aspect of soy candles is that you can make them yourself. It’s fun, easy, and nontoxic.
   And if you discover that making soy candles is an enjoyable pastime, then perhaps you should consider burning the candle at both ends by selling your creations while also ensuring that you become an important part of the movement that is working to change the world’s most popular candles from paraffin to soy.
   Why? Because Nu Soy candle wax is all-natural and created from a renewable resource: soybeans. The wax burns clean and at a lower temperature — which means reduced risk of burns and accidental fires — and wipes up with soap and warm water.
   The main difference in the look of a soy candle compared to a paraffin one is that due to the softer wax, soy candles are not freestanding; the wax is poured into tealights or decorative containers of any size and shape.
   THE RECIPE— Melt wax in a pot inside a water pot (double boiler), add color and fragrance. Ready a container, select the correct size of wick and center it in the container using a wick sticker and wick clip, pour in the wax, cool briefly, and decorate with ribbons, dried flowers, beads, stickers, or any other type of adornment.
   That’s it. The soy candle is complete and ready to light and decorate your home while saving the world from the evils of paraffin.
   To register for the upcoming soy candle class in Three Rivers on Sunday, April 6, or for information about how to earn income by selling your soy candles, call Nikki Crain, 561-4048.

Sew much ‘Comfort for Kids’

   In 1997, when Jack and Joyce Nielsen of Three Rivers started their quilt-making project for terminally-ill children — today known as Comfort for Kids — they had no idea that the group would average more than 1,000 finished comforters each season for more than a decade. On Tuesday, March 25, this week’s all-volunteer work crew took a brief timeout from their labor of love to commemorate the 12,000th quilt of the project.

  “Oh, the stories we could tell of the faces that light up when we make our annual delivery to Children’s Hospital of Central California,” said Jack.

Local candidates finalized

for June primary

   Although the Democrats have yet to select a presidential candidate to appear on the ballot in November, Tulare County has its ballot set for the upcoming June 3 election.
   OUT OF THE 435 members in the House of Representatives, California has the most, 53. In this strongly conservative county where registered Republican voters outnumber Democrats by nearly 20,000, the U.S. Representative race for the 21st District could be a lock for incumbent Devin G. Nunes.
Nunes, a resident of Visalia and a member of the House since 2002, is seeking his fourth two-year term. His only opponent is Larry Johnson, a Democrat and retired business owner from Clovis.
   PROPOSITION 93, WHICH was on the February 2008 ballot, would have allowed Bill Maze, 34th District assemblyman from Visalia, and other state legislators to serve a total of 12 years in the house in which they are currently serving, but the measure was defeated. Maze, a former Tulare County supervisor from Visalia, has now served in the state Legislature for three two-year terms and, according to California law, cannot run for re-election.
   The vast 34th District encompasses Tulare, Kern, Inyo, and San Bernardino counties. Desmond Farrelly, a teacher from Visalia, is the only Democrat on the ballot this race. He will be running against one of four Republican candidates during the November presidential election.
   The four Republicans contesting Bill Maze’s vacant seat include his wife, Becky Maze, who wants to build on the legacy her husband began; Connie Conway, a second-term Tulare County supervisor for District 2 (Tulare); Bob Smith, a retired deputy sheriff from San Bernardino County; and Jon Zellhoefer of Tecopa in Inyo County.
   ALLEN ISHIDA, 1ST District county supervisor and a citrus rancher from Lindsay, is running for his second four-year term. In this nonpartisan race, he will face opponent Guy Christian, a district attorney investigator from Visalia.
District 1 encompasses northeastern Tulare County, including Three Rivers, Lemon Cove, portions of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Giant Sequoia National Monument, Exeter, Farmersville, Lindsay, Strathmore, and east Visalia.
   The deadline to register to vote for the June 3 primary election is Monday, May 19. For more information, visit www.tularecoelections.org.



THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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