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In the News - Friday, APRIL 20, 2007



Park roadwork on schedule
Traffic delays minimal if planned

   Due largely to a cooperating mild winter, the current phase of Generals Highway reconstruction in Sequoia National Park is on schedule and now more than 50 percent complete. The roadwork, which began last year, is occurring on a 1.5-mile stretch of the park’s highway between Big Fern Springs and Amphitheater Point, the steepest stretch along the entire road.
   According to project engineer Scott Wolfert, the current contracted work should be completed by the fall of 2007. Most of the construction thus far has consisted of shoring slopes and building the retaining walls that will keep the 81-year-old roadway from slipping down the steep canyon walls.
   Wolfert, who is employed by the Federal Highways Administration, is currently dividing his time overseeing projects in Yosemite and Sequoia national parks. Sequoia National Park, he said, has been very fortunate in that they have not had to deal with the problems that Yosemite has had in the Merced River canyon.
   Because of several slides, Highway 140 into Yosemite has been subject to extended closures. To prevent slides on the Generals Highway, the current project is dealing with some of the most at-risk portions of the roadway. The retaining walls are carefully being rebuilt to make the slopes more stable while preserving the historic appearance.
   The rest of the current project, Wolfert said, will consist of removing the old asphalt, earthwork, widening some narrow curves, and then spreading the gravel base and finish asphalt.

  “Sequoia Park officials have done an excellent job of keeping the visitors informed as to when the delays are coming,” Wolfert said. “We haven’t received a single complaint because motorists in the construction zone know what to expect.”
   The construction work is ongoing Monday through Fridays, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Traffic is allowed to pass through the area once an hour.
   Uphill traffic passes through on the hour. Downhill traffic follows the uphill traffic.
   There is no construction work on weekends or federal holidays.

Indoor 3R pot garden busted

   Frequently, when sheriff’s deputies are trying to locate a suspect or check a lead, they uncover additional criminal activity. That was the case in Three Rivers on Wednesday, April 11, when a sheriff’s deputy visited a Blossom Drive residence.
   The deputy noticed evidence suggesting that a portion of the property was being used for a hydroponics pot-growing operation. A short time later, Tulare County narcotics detectives returned with sheriff’s tactical personnel and served a search warrant at the residence.
   Detectives discovered an indoor marijuana garden with 202 plants ranging in height from a few inches to more than four feet tall. If the plants had reached full maturity, the processed crop could have an estimated street value of more than $800,000.
   A pound of processed marijuana valued at $4,000 was also seized during the bust. A 39-year-old Three Rivers man was arrested and later booked into the Tulare County Main Jail.
   The man was charged with felony cultivation of marijuana and possession for sale. The case has been submitted to the district attorney for review.

Spring is here, so are bears

By Rachel Mazur

   Suddenly, seasonal changes are evident throughout Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Flowers are blooming, birds are returning, the rivers are rising (a little) with melting snow, and black bear sightings are abundant.
   After a long winter’s sleep, bears are hungry. Natural food in the spring consists of grasses, forbs, and roots. When these items are not available, such as during a dry year, bears look for alternate sources of calories.
   Bears that obtain a food reward from an overflowing dumpster soon learn that human food is high in fat and calories and seek more. With strength, sharp teeth, and claws that are designed to rip logs open, bears easily rip open trash cans, cars, and sheds for food.
   Bears that get human food can become so bold, destructive, and potentially dangerous that they must be destroyed. But whose fault is this behavior?
   Bears only develop these behaviors after they have obtained human food, but there are simple ways to keep human food away from bears.

  In the parks-- During a dry year like this, proper food storage is especially important. When visiting the parks, only bring the food that is necessary for your trip.
   Unless you are preparing, consuming, or transporting food, it must be stored at all times. In campgrounds and at trailheads, use the food lockers provided.
Backcountry travelers must follow special regulations (visit the parks’ website at for details).

  “Food” includes food, trash, recyclables, toiletries, candles, first-aid kits, window cleaner, pet food, dirty dishes, baby wipes, scented tissue, air freshener, bottled and canned beverages, canned food, coolers, mosquito repellent, lipstick, tobacco products, and any other items with a scent.
   In Three Rivers-- The biggest bear attractant is garbage. Other attractants are birdfeeders, pet food, fruit trees, and compost piles. Every year, bears that receive human food in Three Rivers are killed on depredation permits and others are hit by cars as they forage in roadside trash cans.
   There are several simple ways to prevent these needless deaths:
—Take garbage out the morning of collection or invest in a bear-proof garbage can.
—If you store your garbage, pet food, or other attractants in a shed, invest in a strong door and keep it closed. Sheds made of lightweight wood are easily ripped apart.
—Regularly wash your garbage cans with ammonia to cut down on odors.
—Hang curtains over windows that have a view of your kitchen, pantry, or garbage.
—Feed pets inside and take down birdfeeders during the summer (or at least at night). If you do have birdfeeders, use a millet-free mix and do not use peanut butter or suet.
—Replace lever-style door handles with round knobs that bears can’t open.
—Close and lock all doors and windows when you are out of the house or in bed.
—If you are going to leave a window open (when it is 117 degrees, for example), leave an upstairs window open that doesn’t have easy access for a bear, but remember that bears climb. Trees, stairs, and railings all make great ladders for bears.
—Gather fruit from fruit trees as soon as it is ripe.
—Consider inventing a bear-proof composter; there is a market for such a thing!
   In addition to keeping food away from bears, we also need to keep ourselves away from bears. It is important to remember that bears will change their behavior if they become habituated to humans (get used to our presence), which will happen if we crowd them or observe them too closely.
   So what should you do if you encounter a bear? If it is in a natural area, consider yourself lucky! But, also, stay together (especially small children), give the bears lots of room (50 yards or more), don’t ever get between a mother and her cubs, and don’t linger too long.
   If in a developed area, you are still lucky, but the bears need to be “hazed” out of the area so they don’t get habituated or get food.
   First, check to see that all of your food is stored properly. Then get everyone together and make LOTS of noise (kids are especially good at this part) to scare it away.
   Remember to never surround a bear, never separate a mother from her cubs, and never try to take food back from a bear (yes, people do try this).
   Thank you for your help in keeping bears wild and alive.
   Rachel Mazur is a wildlife biologist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Alcohol and the developing teen brain

   This is the second in a four-part series about underage alcohol abuse, contributed by the Outreach Committee of the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers.
   The dangers of underage drinking go beyond the risk of injury and death. Recent research suggests that drinking alcohol during the teen years can result in irreparable brain damage and an increased likelihood for alcoholism.
   We used to think that adolescents’ brains were fully developed, but new research shows that the human brain continues its basic development into the 20s. Brain development during the first 21 to 24 years of life provides the foundation for our development the rest of our lives.
   Because the teen brain is still developing, and because it takes half as much alcohol to damage the brain of a teen than it does to damage the brain of an adult, alcohol has a much greater effect on the adolescent brain than it does on the mature brain.
   During adolescence, hormones shift quickly and new networks are formed in the brain. If alcohol plays a role during this developmental period, cognitive impairment could result.
   Recent studies have found that the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex are the areas most at risk for an underage drinker. The hippocampus is involved in learning and memory, and the prefrontal cortex is involved in decision-making.
   Excessive alcohol consumption could cause young people to lose motor skills, lower their ability to perform on tests, and increase the difficulty of learning new things... permanently.
   This damage is physically detectable. A study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that the hippocampus of an underage drinker is, on average, 10 percent smaller than that of a non-drinker.
   Besides being vulnerable to damage from alcohol, teen drinkers are also more likely to become alcoholics later in life. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that the adolescent brain “is organized for highly motivated exploration of the world in order to learn how to live as an adult.”
   Therefore, new experiences are especially motivating to teens. Teen brains are also very plastic, meaning they can change in response to exposure to certain elements, like alcohol.
   The adolescent attraction to new experiences combined with the plastic nature of the brain can make the teen brain more vulnerable to addiction.
   In short, chemical changes resulting from alcohol can hardwire the teen brain for alcoholism. The numbers support these ideas: studies show that people who begin drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to become alcoholics than those who begin at age 20 or older.

It takes a village to

launch a thistle attack

   It is with guarded enthusiasm that the Weed Management Group reports that last year’s spray program seems to have had some impact on Italian and Yellow Star thistle growth in Three Rivers. The group met last week and was encouraged to hear botanists and community volunteers exclaiming that some of the areas that were sprayed last year are showing minimal thistle growth so far this season.
   The thistle problem is so huge that there is no hope that the non-native thistle can be eradicated from Three Rivers, but the spray program can help curb the spread of thistles.
WMG is looking for the cooperation of everyone in Three Rivers to check if there is Yellow Star or Italian thistle spreading on their property. David Ramirez, owner of the Sierra Garden Center, has volunteered to assist local residents with invasive thistle identification.
   Bring in a sample thistle to David. He has information packets available and contact information for treatment if the species is determined to be a threat.
   Those who participated in the program last year are encouraged to re-survey their property to see what has occurred in the spray areas. Dave Dunham, WMG coordinator, will also contact participants to get an update on the progress of the treatment.
   There are several ways that property owners can treat the thistle on their own:
—Hand-pull the thistle.
—Weedeating the thistle before it flowers will deter its spread.
—Goats will eat the thistle.
—Spray the property or call the Weed Management Group to arrange for them to spray the thistle areas.
   There is currently a six-week window of opportunity for an all-out attack on this year’s thistle crop. The WMG urges everyone to be vigilant and proactive in stopping Yellow Star and Italian thistle from spreading through the Three Rivers landscape.


Lauretta Pierpoint
1916 ~ 2007

   Lauretta Pierpoint died Saturday, April 14, 2007, at her Three Rivers home. She was 90.
   A graveside service is scheduled for today (Friday, April 20) at 2 p.m. at Exeter Cemetery. A memorial service will follow at 3 p.m., at Smith Family Chapel, 505 E. Pine St., Exeter.
   Lauretta was born Nov. 21, 1916, in Miami, Okla., to Mary Grace (Johnson) King and Claud C. King. She was the oldest in a family of seven children.
   Her earliest memories were of living in a very small home with gravel roads in the mining town of Picher, Okla. Lauretta’s father was a miner who died when she was 13. At that time, her mother packed up the family and moved to Oxnard, Calif.
   In Lauretta’s senior year at Ventura High School, she met the love of her life, James W. Pierpoint. A year later, in 1935, they were married in Oxnard, which is where they raised their children, Bill and Suzanne and resided for 65 years.
   Lauretta was a medical secretary until her retirement in 1981. Then she began her volunteer career at St. John’s Hospital.
   She was an active member of the Oxnard Seventh-day Adventist Church, often helping with visitations, the children’s ministries, and donating her secretarial skills. She also loved to make flower arrangements for the church.
   In 1999, Lauretta and Jim relocated to Three Rivers to be near their daughter, Suzanne Rich, and her husband, Darrell. Lauretta was a familiar sight in her North Fork neighborhood, where she looked forward to and immensely enjoyed her daily outings.
   Lauretta was preceded in death by her husband of 68 years, Jim Pierpoint (1914-2003).
   She is survived by her son, James William (Bill) Pierpoint Jr. and wife Lynda of Auburn; her daughter, Suzanne Rich, and husband Darrell of Three Rivers; grandchildren Thomas Pierpoint, Diane Goetsch and husband Kevin, Darla Rich, Darren Rich and wife Steffani, and Laurienne Norton and husband Jaison; step-grandsons Tim and Mark Hudson and families; great-granddaughters Haven Rich and Cascade Norton; sisters Jo Sheckells and Betty Nieman and her husband, Stuart; brother Don King and wife Donna; and many nieces and nephews.

Mary Boydston-Miksch
1909 ~ 2007

   Mary Austine Boydston-Miksch, a resident of Three Rivers, died Sunday, April 15, 2007, in Visalia. She was 97.
Mary was born Aug. 19, 1909, in Burbank.
   She was preceded in death by her daughter, Betty Burton; her first husband, Milton Boydston; and second husband Byron Miksch (1916-2001).
   Mary is survived by her son, Lee Boydston, and wife Gail of Orange County; granddaughters Lori Resinger of Three Rivers, Tammy Gora of Plano, Texas, and Lori Hamilton of Orange County; grandsons Bob Burton, Darryl McArthur, Jerry Burton, and Erv Burton; 17 great-grandchildren; five great-great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
   A service was held yesterday (Thursday, April 19) at Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers.
   A graveside service will be held today at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Kenneth Fields
1931 ~ 2007

   Kenneth Fields, a 27-year resident of Three Rivers, died Monday, April 9, 2007, due to complications from congestive heart failure after battling heart and circulatory problems for nearly 30 years.
   Ken was born July 16, 1931, in Bronx, N.Y. He moved to California at the age of three and was raised in Twain Harte, Calif., on an 80-acre apple ranch.
   He attended the Seventh-day Adventist Laurelwood Academy in Oregon. At Pacific Union College near Napa Valley, he studied Theology, then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a teaching career.
   He was a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District before obtaining his Master’s degree at Cal State L.A. and bcoming a school administrator.
   He retired in 1990 after more than 30 years as a teacher and administrator for LAUSD, receiving many commendations during his career, including being honored as a Distinguished National Educator. After his retirement, he became affiliated with the University of Phoenix, the nation’s largest accredited private university.
   In 1978, Ken married his true love, Zoila. In 1980, the couple moved to Three Rivers.
   At his Three Rivers home, Ken collected koi, designed bonsai, and completed many waterscape and landscape projects. Ken and Zoila created one of the largest private arboretums in the nation, as well as built two private observatories to pursue astrophotography (see their work at:
   Ken is survived by his wife of 29 years, Zoila; his children, Renny, Tom, and Stacy; and grandchildren Lauren, Kelly, JJ, Eric, Michael, Tatiana, Aniella, David, James, and Max.
   A private service was held in Southern California.
   Donations in Ken’s name may be made to the American Heart Association:

   The following are California residents killed in Iraq as announced by the governor’s office this week:
   U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jesse L. Williams, 25, of Santa Rosa, died Sunday, April 8, 2007, as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire while conducting combat operations in Baqubah, Iraq.

—Total U.S. deaths—

Iraq area: 3,309 (as of April 16)

—U.S. wounded (seriously)—
24,476 (as of April 4)

—Iraqi civilian deaths—
61,728 (min.)-67,703 (max.)
This is an estimate; some
figures estimate over 100,000 killed.

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