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In the News - Friday, April 15, 2011



One last look back at JAZZAFFAIR 2011 (Photo Gallery)


April snowstorm hits Sierra

  After the Farewell Gap station survey was completed April 3, the data was forwarded to the California Department of Water Resources and confirmed why local weather watchers are so elated. The Kaweah drainage holds tons of snow, enough to call it 175 percent of normal for the entire season.
   It’s not all the powdery, fluffy variety that the cold storms have brought measured in several feet during three major storm cycles in December, February, and March. Because of the intermittent warmer period between storms this season, the pack contains layers of ice and a water content that averages 44 percent at four of the five Kaweah collection stations.
   Only Giant Forest measures less at 21 percent. At least one local forecaster has stated that may be erroneous content data because of, in part, when it was collected (March 25).
   If the April 1 Giant Forest numbers are adjusted, the actual figures recorded in the season’s annals could top 180 percent. The Tulare Lake basin has weighed in at 180 percent as these stats include both the Kaweah and the Tule River numbers.
   However the season’s snow statistics are sliced and diced, that’s a lot of water that will be coming down the Kaweah drainage on its annual journey to Lake Kaweah. In terms of the April 1 snow, the current season will rank among the top two or three in the last 50 years.
   The Three Rivers season total after that Jazzaffair snow at 1,500 feet and .99 inches of rainfall during April 7-8, is 30.21 inches of rainfall at 1,000 feet. Only four other years in the last 50 (1966-67, 34.50; 1968-69, 36.78; 1977-78, 34.45; and 1982-83, 44.25) ended with more rainfall.
   One year (1996-97) ended with a season total of 29.94 so it doesn’t qualify for the exclusive so-called 30 inches or more club. What’s really uncanny this year is that there is no end in sight.
   One year ago the total was 23.12 but on April 21 another two inches were recorded; that season totaled 25.95. What will this year bring?
   The cooler April weather now means more storms are possible. Even the wildflowers are confused. Fiddleneck is still in bloom when Farewell to Spring is often waning by this date in other, drier seasons.
   Pristine air quality in mid-April, eight feet of snow still on the ground in the Mineral King Valley, and more rain in the 30-day weather forecast? Something strange and exceptionally beautiful is coming this way and it’s called more of the same.

Freebie Alert!

National parks waive entry fees

  Not only are the national parks open (thanks to a buzzer-beating budget deal by Congress late last Friday), but next week they’re free, too.
   April 16 to 24 is National Park Week, and in its honor, entrance fees are being waived at all national parks that charge such fees (and more than 100 units of the National Park System do). The deal applies only to entrance fees. Other charges, including campground fees, reservation fees, permit fees, tour fees, and concession fees will still be collected.
   The theme of the week is “Healthy Parks, Healthy People.” Accordingly, April 16 is Volunteer Day.
   In Sequoia National Park, Junior Ranger Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 16, at Hospital Rock. This educational event is geared toward families.

In-park shuttle
   In keeping with the Healthy Parks, Healthy People theme, park your car (at Lodgepole or Wuksachi) and ride public transportation while visiting Sequoia National Park during Spring Break.
   Through Sunday, May 1, shuttles are operating daily every 15 to 20 minutes from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. The shuttles will have three stops: Wuksachi Lodge, the General Sherman Tree, and the Lodgepole Visitor Center.

Road construction
   The rehabilitation work on the historic Generals Highway in Sequoia continues. However, from April 18 to 29 during the Monday-through-Friday workweek, traffic will be allowed to pass through the zone on the hour (which is reduced from every two hours).
   On weekends, holidays, and other non-work hours, traffic lights, timed at 20 minutes between green lights, will guide drivers.
   If unsure about the construction schedule, stop in at the Foothills Visitor Center. The staff will assist visitors in getting to the roadwork with a minimal amount of waiting.

Gas prices on the rise

  Blame it on the unrest in the Middle East, which was the impetus for this recent increase in prices at the pump, which has resulted in the highest gas prices since 2008.
   But the reason that the cost is steadily continuing its upward trend is because Americans have reduced their demand by driving less. Well, now that’s a nice Catch-22 we find ourselves in: We quit driving and, if provided with the opportunity, take public transportation to save money, but when we do drive, it will cost us more.
   Death Valley National Park retains the lead as having the highest gas prices in the nation. As of Wednesday, April 13, it was $5.35 for a gallon of regular at the Furnace Creek Chevron.

Public input wanted on wilderness use

  The National Park Service is seeking comments from the public regarding the development of the “Wilderness Stewardship Plan and Environmental Impact Statement” for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   Several public meetings are planned to gather input, although none were scheduled in Three Rivers. The closest meeting will be held in Visalia on Friday, April 29, from 6 to 8 pm, at the Tulare County Office of Education, 2637 W. Burrel Ave.
   Other meetings are scheduled in Fresno, Bishop, Oakland, and Los Angeles.
   Potential issues that may be addressed in the plan include day and overnight use, wilderness permits, use of campfires, wildlife and food storage, party sizes, campsites, human-waste management, stock use, meadow management, research activities, wildlife management, cultural resources, trails and infrastructure maintenance, and commercial services.
   This plan is pertinent because over 96 percent of the land within the boundaries of Sequoia-Kings Canyon is wilderness.
   Comments may be submitted online to the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/sekiwild. On the website are explanations about the plan process, additional meeting dates and locations, as well as additional instructions on how to provide input. Written comments will also be accepted.
   The deadline for submitting comments is Thursday, Sept. 1.

3R residents honored for exemplary service

  Bob Burke of Three Rivers, a social studies teacher for the past 31 years at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, was honored as the 2011 History-Social Studies Teacher of the Year at an awards banquet held Thursday, April 7, at the Spike and Rail Restaurant in Selma.
   Bob was chosen for the Educator of the Year award from a six-county field of several finalists by the San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies. Mr. Burke, beloved by two generation of Tulare County students, is known for his circular discussion groups where his students come face to face with each other to confront the issues of the day.
   Next on Bob’s award-winning agenda is a statewide competition where he will vie against the best educators in California for yet another award in his distinguished teaching career that began in 1976.

                             * * *
Gary Whitney was honored Thursday, April 7, for outstanding community service at the annual Recognition Night hosted by the Three Rivers Lions Club. Whitney was honored for his volunteer work in the preservation and restoration of Three Rivers Cemetery.
   The plaque was presented by Christine Burns, 2011 Lions president, and Rusty Crain, Jazzaffair director.

Town Hall meeting highlights census data

  Looking inside the recently released 2010 Census data, there are lots of ways to interpret the numbers, according to Barbara Pilegard, Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) planner and Census liaison. Pilegard’s presentation topped the Monday, April 4, Town Hall meeting agenda.
   Pilegard came armed with pages of data, the bulk of which she provided in a series of handouts. Among all the county data, the population and housing narrative profile for Three Rivers had the most relevance for the local audience.
   In the years 2005-2009, within the community development boundaries (CDP) for Three Rivers, there were 870 households. The average household size was 2.2 persons.
According to the American Community Survey data, families made up 68 percent of local households. This figure includes both married couple families (60 percent) and other families (eight percent).
   Non-family households made up 32 percent of all households in Three Rivers with the majority of these being people living alone (26 percent). A sizable number of the others (six percent) were those people living with roommates in which nobody was related to the householder.
   Four percent of the people living in Three Rivers (2005-2009) were foreign born. Ninety-six percent were native; this number included 52 percent native-born Californians.
   Among people at least five years of age, six percent spoke a language other than English in the home. Of those speaking a language other than English, 74 percent spoke Spanish and 26 percent spoke another language; 33 percent reported that they were not proficient in English.
   Ninety-four percent of people 25 years and older who lived in Three Rivers (2005-2009) had graduated from high school; 37 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher. The total school enrollment was 290 (2005-2009); pre-school and kindergarten enrollment was 12 and for grades K-12 it was 190. In college or graduate school, there were 85 enrolled.
   The education numbers correlate directly to those over the age of 16 who were employed (2006-2009) because many of the local jobs were part-time, especially where students are employed. The leading industries in Three Rivers are arts, entertainment, recreation, food and accommodation services (21 percent) and educational, health care, social assistance (17 percent).
   The median income of local households was $74,609. Forty-one percent of the local households receive Social Security. The average Social Security income was $16,393.
   While the flatland areas of the county and eight incorporated cities grew (20.2 percent), foothills areas like Three Rivers declined (2.9 percent) in population. Of Tulare County’s overall population growth, three percent occurred in the unincorporated areas outside the boundaries of the eight incorporated cities.
   Tom Sparks, a local resident who serves as a board member of TCAG, reported that there is a group in the Central Valley that is working to extend broadband Internet service to remote parts of Three Rivers. Representatives of the Central Valley Independent Network, he said, will be at the May Town Hall meeting to explain how the program works.
   Supervisor Allen Ishida said that since his current term began in 2008, the number of county employees has been reduced from 4,000 to 3,500. Also, he is looking for suggestions for which county department representatives would be relevant for Three Rivers so he might schedule some specific county topics for upcoming meetings.
   The next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 2. For information, call Marge Ewen of the Three Rivers Village Foundation, 561-0123.

Redbud Garden Club celebrates 60

  It’s official. The Redbud Garden Club is 60 years old.
   That means this group of gardening enthusiasts has been contributing to the beauty of Three Rivers since 1951.
   On Monday, April 11, club members gathered at St. Anthony Retreat to celebrate this milestone with a “Victorian High Tea” that would have made Jane Austen proud. The afternoon tea was highlighted by the current members welcoming 11 former members who totaled 248 years of membership combined.
   Take, for instance, Cleo White of Three Rivers. She joined the Redbud Garden Club in 1972, was a member of the club for 38 years, and served as president three times.
   Also in attendance were two representatives of the California Garden Club’s Sequoia Foothills District. Jana Botkin, Three Rivers artist, presented a program on how to draw, what else?, flowers. In addition, she donated one of her original drawings as a door prize.
   The club has done a good job at documenting their history through the decades. Members and guests reminisced with 60 years worth of scrapbooks.
   In the past, the club has been responsible for providing property owners, home owners, and business owners along Sierra Drive in Three Rivers with trees and others plants to aid in its mission of beautifying Three Rivers. In recent years, the club has concentrated its efforts on five public gardens, located at the Three Rivers Post Office, Cal Fire Station, Tulare County Fire Station, Three Rivers Library, and Three Rivers Memorial Building. This year’s projects include the phase-two expansion of the Memorial Building garden and a redesign and installation of the Cal Fire Station garden.
   In addition, members participate in their new Garden Watchers program to monitor the gardens and ensure upkeep.
   Club members will be on duty this weekend, assisting the Three Rivers Union School Foundation with its inaugural Hidden Gardens of Three Rivers Tour. They will serve as docents, donating their time and expertise at each of the six gardens that are included on the tour in support of Three Rivers School.
   This year, the club is in the capable hands of Marcia Goldstein, president. The club meets on the first Monday of the month, October through June. For membership information, call Marcia at 561-3204.

Three Rivers students excel at County Science Fair

  Three Rivers School students who advanced to the Tulare County Science and Engineering Fair were victorious in their methods of investigations of various phenomena. After seven local projects were deemed eligible to advance to the county level from the TRUS Science Fair by a National Park Service team of scientists who serve each year as local judges, the seventh and eighth-graders’ work was among the 175 projects on display for a week at the Sequoia Mall (March 28-April 1).

  While there, they were judged by a team of experts appointed by the county Office of Education, as well as their peers and the public. At an awards ceremony, several TRUS students emerged victorious: Terran Brown and Gunnar Little’s project that studied the effect of music on their subjects is one of six that will advance to the California State Science Fair in May. Hannah Wood, eighth grade, studied “The Best Fishing Line” and won first place in the Product Testing Category. Henry Pfaff and Michael Howell, seventh grade, and their project that tested memory won first place in the Behavioral and Social Science category.

  Andy Garcia, seventh grade, won the People’s Choice award for Best Presentation for his project “Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion.” Eighth-grader Abbie Friel placed in the top 30 of all projects with her “Scented vs. Unscented” project.


The path to professional

By Jana Botkin

  Becoming a professional artist takes more than talent, training, and desire. It requires a plan, because one’s art can be the best in the world, but if it isn’t seen, it won’t be purchased.
   The traditional method of “making it” in the art world is through galleries. An artist can build a professional reputation by entering and placing in juried and judged competitions and by studying under professionals who are known in the art world.
   These artists prepare an artist statement and a biography that lists shows, prizes, galleries, professionals studied under, and other art training. These types of documents are very important in the formal art world and are often the key to opening doors.
   It is more convenient to make it in this traditional manner if the artist lives near cities where shows, master artists, and galleries are available. Since each gallery has its own personality, it can take awhile to find the right match between artist and gallery. Between Internet sales and the stalled economy, this traditional road is no longer the automatic route for artists to pursue.
   The less traditional method of making it is to be self-representing. These artists seek direct contact with buyers through weekend festivals, commissions, selling on consignment in local shops, and by opening their studios to the public. Instead of making art to fit the personality of a gallery, they are making art based on knowledge of their buying public.
   These artists tend to have plain-speaking, loyal customers who say, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like!”
   Their customers might be impressed by shows entered and prizes won, but often are not familiar with the shows. They may find it interesting to know an artist’s training, but usually haven’t ever heard the names over which other artists go gaga.
   Now that the Internet provides direct access to millions of people, many artists are following the less traditional route. There are artists who sell all their work through eBay.   There are several artists’ groups that specialize in completing a painting per day, and these are selling steadily.
   There is a site called Etsy that sells handmade goods, and another called Cafe Press which will reproduce artwork on merchandise for the artist to sell. Most serious artists have a website for direct sales to customers.
   In Three Rivers, I know several artists who haven’t found it lucrative to sell in Tulare County; they have gallery representation in cities and are building their reputations by entering shows around the country. There are also artists who prefer to stay local and sell directly to the public.
   All are friendly, helpful, supportive, respectful, and genuinely excited to see one another succeed at earning a living through art regardless of the road chosen.
   Jana Botkin of Three Rivers is a professional artist. Her website is www.cabinart.net.


‘Gasland’ is a must-see film

by Andrew Glazier

  It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and I just finished watching Gasland, a film I have been hounding Chump’s Video to hold for me. As it was, numerous people were waiting for it also and I had to beg Jeremy for it.
   Gasland is a documentary about a process in natural gas drilling called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), where water and numerous toxic chemicals are pumped into the ground to force fractures in the earth, releasing natural gas but contaminating groundwater. Dick Cheney wrote laws specifically precluding the gas industry from liability.
   While one might expect a David vs. Goliath scenario with the good guys winning, we get a film about the steam-rolling of public safety and numerous images of people lighting their faucet water on fire while the gas companies hire big lawyers to say there is no connection.
   In California, we are familiar with water wars, but here there is no winner after the oil companies leave. The water is gone forever as toxic sludge seeps out for generations to come.
   I give this film a “Three Rivers” and advise that it’s a must see.
   Andrew Glazier is a resident of Exeter and an avid supporter of Chump’s Videos and DVDs.

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