In the News - Friday, April 30,
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
2010 photos (PDF)
At the top of the May agenda for the Three Rivers
Town Hall meeting is a candidates’ forum featuring
Sheriff Bill Wittman (incumbent) and John Zapalac,
Woodlake Police chief (challenger). The meeting will
be held Monday, May 3, 7 p.m., at the Three Rivers
The two candidates are both tough on
crime but have some basic differences in law enforcement
styles and philosophies about being Tulare County’s
top cop. Sheriff Wittman is hoping that his experience
of more than a decade as county sheriff will be a
deciding factor in the Tuesday, June 8, election.
Wittman, who attended high school in
Tulare and College of the Sequoias in Visalia, served
as a City of Visalia policeman for 25 years prior
to joining the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.
He has served as Sheriff since 1995.
Under Sheriff Wittman the department
has completed a modernization program that has seen
a drop in agricultural-related crime and what his
supporters describe as a successful war on gangs and
In 2008, Sheriff Wittman was instrumental
in coordinating a multi-agency task force that eradicated
record amounts of illicit marijuana growing in the
foothills of Tulare County. Since Wittman has been
the county’s sheriff, the department has garnered
more than $50 million in law enforcement grants.
Zapalac attended school in Santa Ana
in Orange County and attended COS and Chapman University
before earning a master’s degree from Fresno
Pacific. He continued his advanced education while
he became a career cop. He served as a Tulare County
Sheriff’s Department officer from 1981 to 1997,
which included a stint as a Three Rivers resident
One of the basic differences that Zapalac
sees in his candidacy is that he would like to promote
a higher standard of education for the department.
He has served as the chief of the Woodlake Police
Department since 1998.
“I’m not looking for a new job, I have
a good job” Zapalac told a Three Rivers audience
at his last appearance at a candidates’ forum.
“But I would like the opportunity to reduce
crime in the county just like we have done in Woodlake.”
In Woodlake, Chief Zapalac’s proactive
programs for dealing with youth and gang members has
had a significant impact on reducing crime. His Camp
Zap, an overnight camp he operates for area youth
at his Lemon Cove ranch, has helped lots of local
youth make the right choices to avoid becoming entangled
in the legal system.
The Three Rivers audience will have some
tough questions for both candidates. For example:
How do they propose to deal with the ongoing trespassing
and river-use issue that seems to become potentially
more explosive with each summer season?
Underscoring that issue is the response
time on 911 calls for Sheriff’s deputies that
can be an hour or more or, on some occasions, not
until the next day. Chief Zapalac has said that response
time is totally unacceptable; Wittman has responded
in the past by assigning more deputies locally during
certain periods of the tourist season.
One possible solution that’s been
offered is that during the peak visitor season, Three
Rivers could have two resident deputies that would
spell each other. Of course, that would take more
revenue to pay for an additional officer.
The money could be made available from
Three Rivers transient occupancy tax revenue that
currently is being used elsewhere in the county. Three
Rivers generates approximately 75 percent of all the
transient occupancy tax that is collected in unincorporated
Also on the evening’s agenda is
a presentation by David Mills on the activities of
the Community Services District (CSD). Mills, a current
board member, will also answer questions on the Alta
Acres project and other water quality-related issues.
Bill Haxton, who is the director of the
annual Concert on the Grass, has requested time to
announce details about a performing arts camp to held
in June in Three Rivers. The classical music camp
will bring world-class soloists to Three Rivers, a
series of concerts, and some students and visitors
too, he said.
For information on the upcoming meeting,
which is sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation,
call Marge Ewen, 561-0123.
rafting season underway
Although a few rafting companies have tried to get
a jump start on the local commercial season, the sporadic
April trips have been made mostly during less than
ideal conditions. With temperatures flirting with
the 90-degree mark for the first time this year, that
really big snow will finally start a more dramatic
flow down the Kaweah drainage.
By Mother’s Day, look for lots
of rafters and some tricky whitewater that should
be ideal for rafting as peak daytime flows should
eclipse 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) with some
late afternoon water approaching 2,500 cfs.
The companies permitted to conduct commercial
trips under the County of Tulare’s whitewater
rafting ordinance are listed as follows: All-Outdoors
Whitewater Rafting, American River Recreation, Adventure
Connection, Gold Rush Whitewater Rafting, Kaweah White
Water Adventures (No. 1 and No. 2), Whitewater Voyages,
and Whitewater Connection.
Private rafting is legal but is subject
to all trespass and applicable county laws. Only experienced
rafters should attempt to raft the Kaweah River; all
others should do so in the company of a professional
Even when the water appears to be safe
for river swimming, don’t even think about it.
The current water temperatures remain in the upper
40s and can immobilize a swimmer in less than a minute.
wakeup call for all
For folks attending last Friday’s TRUS softball/baseball
games, there was a cruel dose of reality for those
who take their security in Three Rivers as a given.
That’s because while dozens of local parents
and fans from visiting Sequoia Union School were watching
games nearby someone was breaking into a car parked
on the street by the driveway of the First Baptist
“It was bizarre that my window was smashed and
they took my briefcase that was on the floor,”
said Esther Zurcher of Three Rivers, who was the victim
of the crime. “My purse was on the front seat
but they never saw it under a jacket.”
There was little of monetary value in
the stolen briefcase but lots of paperwork, notebooks,
and cosmetics important in keeping a Visalia music
teacher tracking on a busy schedule.
Others who were at the game expressed
disbelief when they heard about the crime. Several
parents said their keys and other valuables were in
their cars that could have easily been targeted.
The smashed window will cost $200 out
of pocket to repair, Esther said.
Deputy Al Brockman filed the incident
report. A witness reported seeing a white Toyota pickup
with two male occupants leave the scene about the
time the smash-and-dash occurred.
“It’s crazy,” said Sue Sherwood,
superintendent of the 160-student Three Rivers School.
“But the time has come that we all need to secure
our valuables and lock our vehicles.”
Sue said other than some sporadic vandalism,
there really hasn’t been any recent crimes reported
at or near the school.
Deputy Brockman said there are a lot
of desperate individuals out there so everyone needs
to be vigilant to avoid becoming a victim. Anyone
who has information in this case or any crime may
call the Sheriff’s dispatch, 733-6221.
opens in Woodlake
City officials hailed the grand opening of Woodlake’s
new Subway restaurant on East Antelope, just east
of Valencia Blvd., on Thursday April 22. Subway brings
a variety of fresh sandwiches and other nutritious
alternatives as well as more job opportunities.
Owner Cody Goswick looks forward to serving
the community and praised his relationship with the
City of Woodlake.
“I couldn’t have asked for better hospitality,”
he said of the gracious hand extended by Mayor Raul
Gonzales and the people of Woodlake in making the
opening a resounding success.
Woodlake resident Sarah Medrano had managed
the Farmersville location since it opened and is now
manager of the sparkling new store. Twelve new jobs
have been created with Goswick and Medrano optimistic
about the location’s future growth.
All sandwiches are made to order on oven-baked
bread and are hot or cold, per the customer’s
preference. Subway also offers personal-sized pizza,
salads, flat bread, wraps, and kids’ meals ideally
suited for a school lunch break. Naturally, they have
drinks and sides that include apple juice, fresh brewed
iced tea in various flavors, milk, and sodas.
Catering services are also available
as are vegetarian platters. The new Woodlake Subway
even offers a selection of quick, fresh breakfast
items for a healthy morning boost.
The Subway brand was ranked as the number-one
franchise of 2010 by Entrepreneur magazine.
There are 32,791 Subway restaurants in 91 countries.
Rancho Gradne and
Though some of our neighbors may speak a different
language, our dreams for ourselves and our children
are much the same. That’s what Pam Lockhart
of Three Rivers discovered when, in 2007, she took
over management of the largest outdoor market in Tulare
The El Rancho Grande Swap Meet takes
place every Sunday at Road 152 and the Tulare-Lindsay
highway. There are pony rides, snow cones, nursery
stock, produce of all kinds, and a lot of original
Mexican food served at old-fashioned cantinas (and
the swap meet is proud of their kitchen’s 100-percent
approval rating with the County of Tulare Department
of Environmental Health).
Spending nearly every weekend there,
Pam has discovered “a world of seriously hardworking,
respectful, close-knit families.” Impressed
by the way the families work together and respect
one another, and having a daughter of her own in college,
she decided as one of her many upgrades at the swap
meet to initiate a scholarship program to benefit
employees and students of vendors.
The El Rancho Grande Swap Meet is a place
where vendors come to sell their wares and, thanks
in part to this scholarship program, their children
come to dream big dreams. Those dreams are pictorially
represented by a large mural in a “green area”
newly developed at the swap meet. The mural depicts
traditional Mexican folk dancers, transitions into
farm workers picking oranges, and concludes with two
graduates in caps and gowns.
“The mural focuses on the rich heritage, shows
the journey to new opportunity, and stars education
as the key to more opportunity,” explained Lockhart.
To apply for scholarships, students submit
letters about their experience working at the swap
meet and their educational goals. The letters reveal
hardworking children rising at the crack of dawn,
loading produce for long days of outdoor vending,
and enduring freezing cold Tule fog in the winter
and the searing heat of summer.
While many of their peers may be enjoying
their weekends off, these students are working hard.
This determination also shows in their grade point
averages, which are impressively high.
The success stories inspired Lockhart
to turn the grounds of the swap meet into a park so
working conditions would be improved. She began to
offer scholarships to give new hope to those who feel
like their family can’t afford the cost of college.
Federal aid programs only cover a fraction of the
cost of higher education, and there is a continuing
need to raise funding for El Rancho scholarships.
In the future, the park will feature
a wall that lists scholarships given to memorialize
family members or friends, and there will also be
memorial plaques on benches.
“This group is working hard, and facilitating
the educational process will only elevate society
as a whole,” said Pam. “The opportunity
and process is deeply rewarding.”
The renovation of the grounds has been
led by Pam’s husband Greg Lockhart with the
assistance of local artisans Jean Roy and Zach Zachary
and many family members, who all have contributed
their expertise, artistic talent, and/or hard work.
Pam considers the work to be a large and challenging
art project and strives to make it the best it can
be, so that all who visit and work there will benefit.
“To follow the Swap and be a part of the fun,
become a fan on Facebook,” invited Pam. “We
are listed as El Rancho Grande Swap Meet. To participate
in funding scholarships in the name of loved ones
or organizations, contact us at 471-6624. We award
scholarships in $250 increments, but 100 percent of
any donation will be directed toward these scholarships.”
can't stop the
of the Roping
Prospects for the 60th annual Three Rivers Lions Team
Roping looked bleak after the heavy rains of Wednesday,
April 21. Jim and Karen Waggoner, the stock contractors
for the event, received several phone calls inquiring
as to whether some or all of the ropings would be
cancelled, but the arena was dry enough Thursday morning
to get things underway.
After low turnouts on Thursday and Friday,
attendance began to improve and sign-ups for Saturday
and Sunday almost eclipsed last year’s totals.
When all was said and done, over 1,200 teams roped
at this year’s event.
High money saddle winners were Matt Alger
(2.5 & under) and Jordan Warrack (3 & over).
Dozens of barrel racers and pee-wee ropers competed
as well, and 147 youngsters scrambled after some pretty
Live music Thursday through Saturday
night kept the excitement going into the evening,
and competitors and spectators alike enjoyed the picture-perfect
weather throughout the weekend. Local volunteers and
students earning community service hours turned out
in record numbers to help the Three Rivers Lions Club
keep services running smoothly.
Difficult economic conditions have had
a negative impact on roping events throughout the
western states over the last year, but the Three Rivers
Lions Team Roping is a favorite for many of the participants.
Plans are already underway for 61st annual event.
Nancy Brunson is an organizer
of the Three Rivers Roping.
1982 - 2010
Levi Gilton, a former resident of Three
Rivers, died Monday, April 26, 2010. He was 27.
Levi was currently living in Hutchinson,
Kan. He is survived by his wife, Kim, and two daughters,
Saundy, 6, and Neva, 2.
A fund to assist Levi’s family has been set
up at Valley Oak Credit Union.
A local memorial service is being planned,
date and time to be announced.