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In the News - Friday, APRIL 6, 2007

Fisherman hurt in fall

   The area around the Oak Grove bridge on the East Fork of the Kaweah River is some of the steepest and most treacherous canyon to be found anywhere. The turgid pools below the sheer cliffs have been the scene of recurring tragedy for as long as anyone in Kaweah Country can remember.
   As recently as last June, Chasity Dorn, 20, of Tulare slipped while wading in a shallow pool at the very same location as the incident that occurred this week. She immediately disappeared into the whitewater. Her body was recovered three weeks later.
   On Tuesday, April 3, Curtis Morgan of Exeter was a victim of a more fortunate fate. Based on evidence gathered at the scene, he was in the company of his teenage son, and from the cliffs high above the river, the duo were looking for a potential fishing spot.
   Prior to moving to Exeter, the Morgans lived in Three Rivers, so Curtis, 52, is no stranger to the river. Apparently, he lost his footing as he tried to find a way down and tumbled 80 feet down an embankment into a rock-lined pool below.
   Although injured, the victim was able to pull himself out of the water, but he was too injured to attempt to climb out. Within minutes, Jim Fansett, Three Rivers resident deputy, who was investigating a burglary near Oak Grove, happened on the scene.
   Deputy Fansett was able to reassure the frantic son and muster a rescue team of local firefighters who, within the next hour, mobilized at the scene six miles up the Mineral King Road.
   A team of rescuers, aided by Deputy Fansett, rappelled down to the victim and carried him up the steep slope to a waiting ambulance.
   Medical personnel examined the victim at the scene, then he was airlifted by helicopter to University Medical Center in Fresno. On Wednesday evening, the victim remained hospitalized, although the extent of his injuries was unknown.

County sales tax increases

   As of Sunday, April 1, sales tax in Tulare County increased by a half cent. The tax hike is a result of Measure R, which was passed by voters in November 2006.
   In the unincorporated areas of Tulare County, the sales tax is now 7.75 percent. In Visalia, the sales tax increased to 8 percent.
   The additional monies collected on sales of taxable goods and services will be used for road and transportation improvements throughout the county. The added revenue will be divided among four categories:
   50 percent for regional projects, including major transportation routes.
   35 percent for local transportation work, which will be divided between cities and the county.
   14 percent for transit, light rail, bike, and pedestrian projects.
   1 percent for administrative costs.
   The half-cent tax will remain in effect for 30 years. Projections show it could bring in about $21 million per year or $652 million total.

BLM proposes ending

North Fork fee program

   Following significant progress the last few years with law enforcement at three Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recreation sites on the North Fork of the Kaweah River, funding cuts now dictate that the ranger presence be reduced. The BLM is currently seeking public input on proposed management alternatives.
   According to a recreation planner from the Bakersfield regional office, rangers will no longer collect parking fees for the three area sites — Cherry Falls, Advance, and Paradise — because of problems inherent in trying to enforce the fee program. The new 2007-08 budget directs that the resources be used elsewhere.
   That leaves the responsibility for law enforcement in the current season up to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department already stretched thin in the foothills.
   Three Rivers and foothills residents will have two opportunities to furnish public comment relative to the policy changes at the North Fork sites. The first is Saturday, April 21, when the BLM Central California Advisory Committee concludes its regular meeting at the U.C. Experiment Station in Lindcove with a public comment period. That portion of the meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.
   BLM planners have also scheduled a Three Rivers meeting to specifically discuss the pending changes for the North Fork sites for Thursday, April 26. More details as to location and time will be made public as they become available. For information, call Steve Larson at (661) 391-6000.

Lions honor local caregivers

Recognition Night kicks off Jazzaffair

   Since 1995, the Three Rivers Lions Club has used the eve before the official opening of Jazzaffair to honor members of the community for outstanding service. The out-of-doors evening at Lions Arena has experienced some interesting weather, presented deserving honorees and, from an entertainment standpoint, has evolved as a unique celebration for musicians to play in combinations not possible during the busy Jazzaffair schedule.
   The more than 500 who attend the fete now look forward to the annual jazz kickoff with great anticipation. It is a chance for fellowship between the locals who stage the festival and the badge holders who support Jazzaffair year after year. Above all, the event is about people who care about each other and the people who serve — a fitting stage to honor a host of local Three Rivers people who serve as team members of the Hospice of Tulare County.
   The 2007 Recognition Night honorees are: Vera Brochini, Mary Cabello, Judy Fiscus, Janne Harlow, Martha Kalivas, Charlene Natoli, Carol Nickel, Pam Smera, Paul and Nancy Smith, and Virpi Takala.
   Carol Nickel, a career nurse and local coordinator of the program, receives a paycheck from Tulare County Hospice as does Charlene Natoli, also a nurse. The two nurses are on call 24/7 to assure that the medical standards of the program are always maintained.
   The other members of the group come from the medical and other professions to volunteer a range of services that add more to each day, providing comfort, kindness, dignity and a choice to people who are nearing the end of life’s journey.

  “I think most people traditionally associate hospice with cancer patients,” Nickel said. “We are here for all patients. It is truly a blessing for the good souls of Three Rivers to have these caring, compassionate people as a local support network.”
   Though hospice in concept has existed for centuries, its modern organization did not take root until 1967. This early hospice, St. Christopher’s, opened in London due to the efforts of Dr. Cicely Saunders. Dr. Saunders believed that the control of pain was possible for all patients, and then a supportive, palliative regime could enable patients to be comfortable and alert right up to the time of death.
   The atmosphere of loving care established by the staff and volunteers provided a model of humane care not only for the dying patient but for the family as well. Family members, friends, children, and pets could visit as often and as long as the patient wished.
   These early hospices were pleasant and homelike, more like a club than a hospital. Loved ones could stay as long as they liked and some even were encouraged to be live-ins. There were a variety of activities for the able and interested.
   It was in this context that a national program developed in this country, Nickel said. The Hospice of Tulare County was founded in 1979.

  “Since the 1950s and until hospice care developed, I think we had a tendency to rely on doctors who were taught to treat but did not prepare the patient for what’s next,” Nickel said. “Hospice is all about choices and a more holistic approach to care.”
   Nurse Nickel believes that hospice and the palliative care movement is the sign of cultural change. It is specialized care given to the seriously ill and their families beyond the scope of what’s available from the traditional doctor’s office.

  “It takes teamwork by nurses, physicians, social workers, chaplains, and caregivers who work together to decrease the suffering,” Nickel said. “This approach can be used whether the goal is a cure or for patients at the end of their lives.”
   In her eight years as the local program coordinator, Nickel has seen a lot of love and caring especially on the part of the Three Rivers volunteers.

  “The program is not just about the volunteers because it can’t be,” Nickel said. “We’re blessed to have these caring volunteers because without them there couldn’t be a local hospice.”

Buckeye Flatts’ bluegrass
to blossom at River View


   In Three Rivers, there’s never been a want for creative characters who find one outlet or another for their true artistry. Some paint, some sculpt, some throw pots, some write, some act, some play Dixieland jazz, some rock and roll, while Buckeye Flatts prefers to jam a la bluegrass.

  “I guess growing up a Buckeye in Ohio it was hard for me not to be influenced by bluegrass music living nearby where so much of the music originated,” said Tim Chansler, the group’s guitar player. “After I did the teenage rock thing these old classic jams of the pickers were what I wanted to learn.”
   Tim had some accomplished bluegrass players in the family who played with some bluegrass heavyweights. He has been influenced, he said, by finger-picking icons like Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, and others.
   The band, Buckeye Flatts, came together over the past five years by one happenstance after another. Tim and Chris Miles (mandolin), who both formerly worked as Sequoia Park seasonals, began to cultivate a reputation for some extended jam sessions that paid homage to the folksy music rooted in the Appalachian country of Kentucky and Tennessee. After one season five years ago, Billy Moore (banjo) and his wife, Erica (stand-up bass), came up from Visalia looking for Tim and Miles in Sequoia Park but they didn’t make a connection.

  “We were long gone to our winter jobs that year,” Tim recalled, “but finally one night two years later they showed up at the River View and it was the start of our relationship.”
   Now Chris and Billy write the group’s original material, but the band also plays lots of standards. Each of the players contributes to a rich level of harmonizing vocals, a Buckeye Flatts trademark.

  “The feeling for bluegrass music is something you can play or not,” Tim said. “Miles can play anything and really has it down. Billy grew up picking this music so together they really add something very special.”
   Eight months ago, Buckeye Flatts added Paul Lee on fiddle. Paul hails from Santa Maria but commutes from Santa Cruz to play with the band.

  “He’s a really remarkable fiddler,” Tim said, “and we’re thrilled to have him.”
   And so are the band’s legion of fans. Tim estimates that they have played the River View 60 or 70 times so in the process they have built a huge local following. And even though each member has a day job, one day they hope to take their unique brand of music on the road and live on a steady diet of paying gigs.
   In the meantime, all you have to do is come on down to the River View tonight (Friday, April 6). The music begins at 9:30 p.m.

Haircut for a worthy cause… again

   Two years ago, when Hannah Roberts was just 3½ years old, her mother took her to a local salon for her first haircut. Now this is not usually a newsworthy event, that is, unless a donation is being made to charity.
   While still just a toddler, Hannah learned about giving when she donated 12 inches of her thick, black hair to Locks of Love.
   This nonprofit organization, based in Florida, has been accepting donated hair for 10 years now, creating and providing free of charge authentic hairpieces for children who are afflicted by longterm, medical hair loss for reasons such as chemotherapy or alopecia. The minimum hair length accepted is 10 inches.
   Well, she did it again. It’s been two years and Hannah again had enough hair to give away. Now five years old and a kindergartner at Three Rivers School, this week she cut 10 inches of her long, beautiful hair and will be sending it to Locks of Love.

The weeds are growing

like, well, WEEDS:

Take action now

against invasives

   Three Rivers is still under attack, even after last year's prodigious invasive-weed campaign.
   Noxious weeds have few natural enemies, nothing to slow their relentless capture of new territory. When they take over, ranchers lose terrain for grazing and we all lose the natural beauty that brought us here and keeps us here.
   There are many non-native thistles and the worst of them is yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis). In California, yellow star thistle has choked the indigenous life out of 15 million acres, rendering the land useless for grazing, natural habitat, or recreation. This virulent weed has now spread into Woodlake, Lemon Cove, and Three Rivers. It’s not alone.
   Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus), milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and Arundo donax are attacking, too. These are the Big Four. Wherever these invaders take hold little else thrives. If not stopped, they’ll take over whole sections of the community.
   One large yellow star thistle plant can produce 100,000 seeds and there are thousands of plants in Three Rivers. Italian thistle is already widespread, with millions of plants all over town.
   Thistle seeds survive up to seven years in the ground before sprouting. When they do sprout, they out-compete native plants.
   Along the Kaweah, Arundo has been spreading its rhizomic tentacles into the flood plain for years. In Ventura County, Arundo has completely choked the lower part of the Ojai River.
   But there is hope. Three Rivers is fighting back.
   Our local Weed Management Group is beginning its second year of this ongoing effort to preserve our community's natural beauty. Century 21 Three Rivers has again donated generously to the cause. This time the office is sponsoring a full-time community coordinator for the six weeks of this year's thistle campaign.
   Already the group has planned a strategic counterattack for this season and is ready to start beating back the invasion. The group is well armed with equipment, state and federal support, and a small battalion of determined neighbors who won’t quit until Three Rivers forces these uninvited weeds into full retreat.
   Even so, without your help this fight can’t be won. You don’t have to do much. Just call to set up an appointment for a field biologist to visit your property. The survey is free. If your property has been invaded, the Weed Management Group will coordinate an appropriate response, or help you do it yourself.
   This year, Tulare County is providing spray service in collaboration with the Tulare County Weed Management Area: $50 for the first acre, $25 for each additional acre, up to a limit of about 10 acres actually sprayed.
   The hotline number is 561-4701. Call now. We only have a few weeks.
   The thistle has already sprouted. We need to hit it before it goes to seed.
Bill Haxton of Three Rivers contributed this article.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Remember ‘15-5-21’

  This is the first in a month-long series about underage drinking, contributed by the Outreach Committee of the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers.
   Everywhere teenagers look, they are bombarded with messages about drinking alcohol. Teen drinking is a hot topic these days: advertisements, television programs, movies, and news reports all frequently feature underage consumption of alcohol.
   Underage drinking is a serious and deadly problem, and it is imperative that we know the facts about alcohol, especially since many young people and their parents mistakenly believe that underage alcohol consumption is a harmless rite of passage.
   According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, almost half of all teenagers have had at least one drink by the time they reach eighth grade; over 20 percent report having been drunk. This number rises sharply in high school with 80 percent of high school seniors reporting having used alcohol.
   Teen drinkers make up a major portion of total consumers of alcohol. In fact, 25 percent of all alcohol sold in the United States is consumed by those under age 21. And 35 percent of wine coolers sold in the U.S. are consumed by middle and high school students.
   Underage drinking is far from an innocent rite of passage. Studies have shown that teens are drinking to get drunk. This excessive attitude puts teenagers at high risk.
   Alcohol is implicated in many accidents, injuries, assaults, and deaths among young people; teens that drink put their lives on the line. The Centers for Disease Control report that alcohol is often involved in each of the top four leading causes of death for those under age 20: car crashes, homicide, suicide, and drowning. In the U.S., alcohol-related car crashes claim the lives of approximately 8,000 15-to-20-year-olds each year.
   In addition, alcohol use is reported in 67 percent of all homicides. Suicide is connected to alcohol as well; when drinking is combined with depression, it can act to push a young person over the edge.
   And 68 percent of drowning deaths are alcohol-related. In addition, drinkers are 16 times more likely than non-drinkers to die in a fall and 10 times more likely to be burn victims than non-drinkers.
   All in all, alcohol kills 6.5 times more teens than all other drugs combined.
   Drinking alcohol plays a large role in sexual assault and high-risk sex. One study found that 58 percent of females and 75 percent of males involved in date rape had been drinking or using drugs.
   Alcohol poisoning is another serious risk confronted by teen drinkers. Hundreds of young people under the age of 15 go to the emergency room each year for alcohol poisoning.
   When large amounts of alcohol are drunk in a short time, the body’s involuntary processes like breathing and heartbeat can slow or stop. Even if a victim becomes unconscious from drinking too much, the alcohol continues to circulate in his or her system and can lead to cardiac arrest.
   Coma and death are possible if the blood alcohol concentration reaches 0.3 percent or higher.
   15-5-21— Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to become alcoholics than those who begin at the age of 21 or older.
   Knowledge of the dangers of underage drinking is a key weapon in the fight against the damage, injury, and death associated with underage drinking.
   The more we know, the better prepared we will be to prevent alcohol-related disasters from occurring in our community.

OBITUARIES

Ruth Moore
1912 ~ 2007

   Ruth Myrle Moore, a former resident of Three Rivers, died of cancer on Monday, April 2, 2007, in Chula Vista. She was 95.
   Ruth was born in Muskogee, Okla., to Hiram Grant Gorton and Nellie Gorton.
   Ruth retired as a chief operator with the Pacific Telephone Company in Los Angeles.
   She and her husband, Arthur, moved to Three Rivers, where they built their home at the age of 75.
   Arthur preceded Ruth in death 16 years ago. Until February of this year, Ruth lived alone in Three Rivers.
   Upon being diagnosed with cancer, Ruth moved to Bonita, Calif., to reside near her son.
   Ruth outlived her siblings by at least 25 years, including her brothers, John and Dewey Gorton, and sisters Fawnie Swisher, Edna Ford, Helen O’Dell, and Syble House.
   Ruth is survived by her son, Norman Rains, and wife Shirley of Bonita; her grandson, David Rains, and wife Connie Jo, and their children, Audrey and Amelia Rains, of San Diego; her granddaughter, Susan Rains, of San Diego; her beloved dog, Rosie; and her nieces, Dolores Grober and Joyce McCormick of Oklahoma, and nephew Raymond Ford of Texas.
   Per Ruth’s wishes there will be no memorial service. After cremation, she will join her husband at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.

MILITARY DEATHS
   The following are California residents killed in Iraq as announced by the governor’s office this week:
   U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Daniel R. Olsen, 20, of Eagan, Minn., stationed at Twentynine Palms, died Monday, April 2, 2007, as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.


—Total U.S. deaths—
Iraq area: 3,243
(as of Friday, March 30)
Afghanistan area: 310
(as of Saturday, March 31)

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