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Three Rivers,
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Kaweah Kam

  In the News - Friday, april 16, 2004


Mountains of music and all that’s jazz
Only in the April 16 print edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth, photos of some of the highlights and most memorable moments of the 31st annual Jazzaffair, held in Three Rivers on April 2,3, and 4. If you’re not reading it in print, you’re also missing Letters to the Editor, Neighbor Profile, Kaweah Classifieds, Night Sky Viewing Guide, and more. Subscribe online today!

Teen takes terrifying tumble

River drownings became the norm rather than the exception for Kaweah novices during last year’s high-water season. Last week, during Spring Break, a visitor’s brush with the rising, frigid Kaweah was the onset of what may be shaping up to be another deadly whitewater season.

by John Elliott
On Wednesday, April 7, a bizarre rescue in the chilly Middle Fork of the Kaweah River near the boundary of Sequoia National Park had Frank Root, owner of Kaweah White Water Adventures, breathing a sigh of relief, but also bracing himself for what could prove to be a very dangerous season. Being the only local rafting outfitter, Root and his guides spend at least part of every day rafting or kayaking in the river.
Every season since 1995, when commercial rafting began on the Kaweah River, Root has been involved in numerous Kaweah River and Lake Kaweah rescues.
“I guess it was lucky that we had just finished a full-day trip,” recalled Root. “We were returning from a take-out at Lake Kaweah and all our gear was still loaded on the vehicles when we got the emergency call.”
That call came in to Root’s rafting company shortly after 5 p.m., and it only took 15 minutes to launch an inflatable kayak at the scene where a 13-year-old boy was yelling for help. A report that 911 was called could not be confirmed.
But, according to at least two witnesses, the victim was near panic and appeared to be trying to re-enter the water. The boy was in some state of shock after tumbling through what Root calls a huge “rock garden” below the Indian Head swimming hole at the Sequoia National Park entrance. After his bumpy river ride, the young teen managed to grab onto a large boulder to wait for help.
Root said the youth was smart to hold on until rescuers arrived because just below where he was hung up are falls with a serious “keeper.”
“If the current would have swept him into those rapids, there is no telling how long he would have been in there.”
After sizing up the scene, Root tied off a safety line and then dispatched Josh Blaine, one of the company’s whitewater guides, to paddle a kayak across the channel to make contact with the shivering victim.
“We could see he was pretty banged up and was suffering from the early stages of hypothermia,” Root said.
Once Blaine reached the rock where the victim was located, he helped him into his boat and paddled safely to shore. Root said the boy wasn’t more than 10 feet from shore, but the higher late-afternoon water levels made the area difficult to negotiate, even for experienced guides.
According to information furnished by the boy’s mother, who was staying with her son at the Buckeye Tree Lodge near the park entrance, her son had gone to check out the river. The boy told Root that he had gone for a swim in the pool above SCE’s Powerhouse 3, about one-quarter of a mile upstream, when he was caught in the current and swept down the river.
The swiftly moving water swept the victim into boulders and past any obstructions the channel contained to his boulder perch, located just upriver from the motel where he began his journey.
“We then drove the boy back to the Buckeye Tree to his mother where there were big hugs all around,” Root said. “We all realized that a terrible tragedy had been avoided. This young boy could very easily have been the season’s first drowning.”
Root said the water temperature is currently about 50 degrees and flows have remained constant in the 800 to 1,000 cubic feet per second range.
“As temperatures rise, flows will increase and so will the number of swimmers who enter the river,” said Root. “Always use safety equipment or, better yet, let us show you an exciting river experience.”

TRUS dodges layoff dilemma

At the Wednesday, April 14, board of trustees meeting, three personnel changes were made official, ending speculation that layoffs would be necessary for the 2004-2005 school year.
Kim Bollens, an instructional aide for three years, resigned effective April 2 to assume a full-time position in resource management at Sequoia National Park.
Denise Griego, an instructional aide for 17 years, also informed the board that she is retiring at the end of the current school year.
Jesse Wittenstein, a certificated teacher who has taught math and physical education for the past three years, also resigned effective July 1.
“The staffing changes and other cuts helped us reduce our projected budget by $100,000,” said Sue Sherwood, superintendent at the 180-student elementary school. “We thought we might lose another teacher, but now no layoffs are necessary.”
Sherwood also said that even with a declining enrollment, layoffs shouldn’t be necessary in 2005-2006 either. That’s because a longtime teacher is expected to retire at the end of next year.
The board also approved what Sherwood called a “slight” increase to $2.24 per square foot and $.36 for residential and commercial development fees, respectively, within the TRUS district. Those increases were necessary, she said, to keep up with inflation and may be used for funding the construction or reconstruction of school facilities.

The writing on the wall:
Park Service crew assaults North Fork graffiti
When it comes to graffiti removal and restoration of resources, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks maintenance workers have lots of experience. So a couple of days before the start of Jazzaffair, when some painted lettering appeared overnight on the North Fork Bridge, a call for help went to Superintendent Dick Martin at nearby Ash Mountain headquarters.
On the receiving end of that call was Maureen “Mo” Basham, Sequoia’s safety officer, who was fielding calls for Superintendent Martin. After a quick check of schedules, Basham reported that the National Park Service would be willing to help by sending a crew within 24 hours.
On Thursday, April 1, only hours before hundreds of visitors would be driving back and forth across the North Fork Bridge to the Jazzaffair venues, park painters Jim Dennis and Bill Robertson completed the graffiti removal.
“We see a lot of this type of graffiti,” said Bill Robertson. “We begin by using a solvent to loosen the paint, then we spray the treated area with a pressurized mixture of water and sand.”
After about an hour of onsite work, the job was complete. The park crew also removed old paint that had been used to cover previous graffiti, restoring the surface of the 1957 concrete used in the original construction.

Speaking Out
Child abuse hurts us all
An opinion-editorial by Phil Cline, County of Tulare district attorney
April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness month, which is a reminder of the children among us. There are the ones we see and hear every day as they go their happy, noisy ways, but there are others, too, often more quiet, whom we don’t see and hear as readily.
We should, but we don’t.
These children have found that it’s better to fade into the background, because to be noticed means to be hurt. They are victims of the kind of violence that erupts from a mindless anger against the innocent.
We can’t, in a moral universe, overlook these suffering children. They need our help. They desperately hope someone will come to their rescue.
To not intervene or break the cycle makes the spread of hurt inevitable and an awful redundancy occurs, generation after generation.
Children need our protection — the entire community’s protection. No one is entitled by right or law to hurt them. It is right to intervene. Society has an interest in that child.
So what should we do?
First, listen to and see the children around you. Look for any change in behavior that may signal a traumatic event has occurred.
Report abuse, don’t ignore it. Rich or poor; priest, parent, or teacher; no one is above the law. An abuser will repeat his behavior until stopped.
Listen to children. Abusers come from all walks of life and can hold positions of respect in the community.
False charges surely can harm people, and they are to be guarded against, but are usually quickly discovered.
Many people think that most child molesters are strangers. But a September 1991 study found that 47 percent of sexual assaults on children were committed by relatives; 49 percent by acquaintances such as a teacher, coach, or neighbor; and four percent by strangers.
And, if something is not done to help victims of abuse get through their ordeal, not only will that person have to deal with the consequences, we as a society will. A 1999 study found that over half of the women in prison are victims of abuse; the percentage for men is believed to be higher.
Child abuse can be stopped. But it will take a commitment by each and every one of us to become involved, understand the problem, and be resolved to do something about it.

Fundraisers spring to life

As the weather warms and the wildflowers bloom, Three Rivers folks are springing back to life with a variety of activities to benefit schools and kids.
Three Rivers Union School Foundation— Buy a duck or three or more and then watch them negotiate the rapids of the Kaweah River during the Foundation’s “Dinely Rubber Duck Derby.” The ducks will take to the water on Saturday, May 1, during the event that is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Rubber ducks may be purchased for $5 or three for $10 from any Foundation board member or at the TRUS office. Cash prizes will be awarded for first, second, and third-lace finishers — $100, $50, and $25, respectively.
Information: 561-4466.
Woodlake High School Foundation— Handmade by Helen Bauer of Three Rivers, a WHS-themed quilt is up for grabs to one lucky winner. Tickets are now on sale for $2 each or three for $5; the drawing will be held at the Foundation’s ninth annual Reverse Drawing Dinner on Friday, May 7, 6 p.m., at the Woodlake Memorial Building. Tickets are also currently available for the dinner/drawing in which one ticket-holder will win $1,000, and winners need not be present to win for either fundraiser.
Information: 564-3307.
First Baptist Church Youth— It’s become an annual event with all proceeds going toward sending FBC youth to summer camp. This year, the church’s “Giant Yard Sale” will be held Saturday, May 1, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot.
There are several ways to participate. Spaces are available for sellers and donations are being accepted with free pickup available. In addition to the yard sale, there will be coffee and doughnuts for breakfast and a barbecued lunch for sale and a “Pick-a-Prize” drawing. Information: 561-4228; 561-4816.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
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