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In the News - Friday, May 1, 2009

—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Branding is tribute to fallen cowboy

   It’s always a bittersweet moment at the annual Three Rivers Roping when members of the Thorn family present the trophy and buckles to the winners of the Craig S. Thorn III Memorial Branding. Craig died 20 years ago at the age of 35. The presentation was especially emotional this year as word spread throughout the event that the matriarch of the family, Shirley Thorn (Craig’s mother), had passed away Friday, April 24.
   This year’s Memorial Branding winners were Brent Lockett, Leroy Chico, Jordan Ketcher, and Blaine Ketcher. This is the third consecutive year that Brent and Leroy have been members of the winning team. Representing the Thorn family by presenting buckles and a trophy to the winners were Craig’s daughters, Megan Thorn of Three Rivers and Heather (Thorn) Stieler, and grandchildren Craig Stieler, Avery Thorn, Alijah Thorn, and Kelsie Stieler.

Local parks share in

federal stimulus package

   When President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package into law in February, $750 million was designated for use at national parks all across the U.S. from the Statue of Liberty to Death Valley. As a result, more than 20,000 jobs are expected to be created.
The park projects reflect a huge investment in the Park System under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, part of more than $3 billion that the Department of the Interior is investing in the nation’s economy under President Obama’s recovery plan.
   Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks officials attended a special meeting in Clovis last week to hear how the initial appropriations will be spent. Many of the funding requests for stimulus cash have been on wish lists for nearly a decade.
“We’re really excited and are fortunate that we’ve got the funding to move forward on the first round of projects,” said Deb Schweizer, fire education specialist with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Schweizer also said that more money may be forthcoming later this summer. In the first go-round, five projects have been approved in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for a total of $14 million.

  —Replace potable water tanks and improve fire suppression at Ash Mountain headquarters, $10.3 million.

  —Replace propane generator with hybrid photovoltaic system at Crystal Cave, $3 million.

  —Replace wastewater monitoring components at five wastewater treatment plants and 17 potable water systems throughout the parks, $345,000.

  —Rebuild storm-damaged portions of Kennedy Pass trail, $84,000.

  —Rebuild trails damaged during Tehipite Fire, $75,000.

Vehicle stop on South Fork leads to arrest

   When the calendar says springtime, traffic generally picks up in the more remote areas of Sequoia National Park; so do the patrols of park rangers who with the change in weather are on the lookout for suspicious persons who might be trying to establish marijuana planting locales.

  “We know what’s going on this time of the year so we are stepping up our traffic checks on all park roads and in areas nearby the parks,” said one law enforcement ranger who requested anonymity. “In the past couple of weeks we’ve made several stops in an ongoing effort to send a message to these growers.”
   On Thursday, April 23, a suspicious vehicle was stopped on South Fork Drive near the Sequoia Park entrance. There were five adults in the vehicle; one female and four males and only one of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt.
   A cursory search revealed that Miguel Rafael Lopez, 21, of Woodville was in possession of a firearm. With an arrest imminent, the rangers called for assistance from the Tulare County’s Sheriff’s Department.
   The subjects were detained by the NPS rangers until a Sheriff’s detective arrived at the scene. Lopez was arrested and charged with the firearms violation and being in possession of stolen property — the firearm.
   Lopez is currently in custody and awaiting trial on the charges.
It is important for Three Rivers residents to be watchful and alert to any suspicious activity on local roads and around their property in an effort to impede the activity of the pot growers. However, never approach anyone who may be in the act of a crime, instead call law-enforcement authorities.
   Anyone with information on any park crime or suspicious activity in or nearby the local parks is asked to call the anonymous hotline: 888-NPS-CRIME.

3R Golf Course reopens

   After closing without notice on March 31, the Three Rivers Golf Course reopened Tuesday, April 28. As expected, a new manager was hired to oversee the daily operation of the scenic nine-hole course.
   A source close to property owner Steve Oh, who owns and operates another course in Los Angeles County, said it will be business as usual at the local course. No reason was given for the closure other than some maintenance was needed at various locales around the grounds.
   At least two of the former starters, Ted Faris and Ted Hiltel, were rehired. Several Three Rivers golfers expressed relief that the course was reopened.
   While Three Rivers was closed, some local players said they were making the 70-minute drive to the new Dinuba course. But to play 18 holes at Dinuba, one golfer said, required most of the day.
Lots of visitors also enjoy playing Three Rivers many of whom come up from the Valley to spend the day and play a round or two of golf.

Family reunion celebrates local history

by Brian Rothhammer

   They came from Washington, Oregon, Utah and from California. They came seeking to learn what life was like in Kaweah.
   As their ancestors had more than a century ago, members of one of the founding families of the original Kaweah Colony assembled in Kaweah Country on Saturday, April 25. Attendees of the Clark/Dillon/Purdy reunion arrived by automobile and one by motorcycle, although that was not the case with George and Betsy Purdy.
   George Alonzo Purdy was a veteran of the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War. Betsy Purdy was a reformer who championed women’s rights, temperance, and a philosophy simply called “New Thought.”
Both George and Betsy had been active in the famed Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses and escape routes employed at great risk to smuggle slaves north to freedom during the Civil War.
   Answering the call to “go west,” the Purdy family joined a wagon train bound for Colorado. It was there in the 1880s that they learned of the Kaweah Colony.
   The colony, which was based on ideals of a utopian society free of the injustices that they had fought against so vigorously, held great appeal for George and Betsy. Their combined strength of will and moral character made them ideal colony comrades.
   So it was then how the Purdy family found their way to the Kaweah Colony in 1889. So it is now — 120 years later — that their descendants retrace some of their steps and find their way back.
   Meeting in Visalia, the reunion split into three groups, following an itinerary of computer-generated maps guiding the groups first to the Visalia Cemetery, then on to the Three Rivers Cemetery, the Three Rivers Historical Society, and that quaint vestige of the old colony, the Kaweah Post Office (this writers’ great-grandmother worked for Postmistress Ida Purdy there from 1946-1955).
   While at the Three Rivers Historical Society Museum, the family donated copies of historical photographs of the Purdys, Dillons, Clarks, and of Uncle Armin’s (Armin Von Grunigen) stagecoach to Sequoia, which operated on the North Fork. Included in the collection were photos of the Dillon tent home at Kaweah, and of Myrl Dillon, and the seventh-grade class at Three Rivers School ca. 1910.
   Afterward, the reunion of several dozen family members, including Matt Murphy, a Lake Kaweah park ranger who lives in Visalia, gathered at the Gateway Restaurant, near the Ash Mountain entrance to Sequoia National Park.
   The North Fork road had its origins with the Kaweah Colony as a means to transport supplies to, and finished goods from, the settlement. For decades, it was the only road to the Giant Forest and after the park’s creation in 1890 the main road entering Sequoia National Park.
   One stonemason who came to work on the new Generals Highway in 1924 was George E. Clark. Soon after, he met and married Myrl Dillon.
   Copies of an old postcard were distributed to the descendants with a photo of Tunnel Rock (1.5 miles beyond Ash Mountain entrance to park) on one side, and an inscription from Clark on the other. It reads:
“I stood on this rock … before road was built. Old road went around rock to the right.”
   What was old is new again as the Generals Highway, built in 1926, has been again rerouted around Tunnel Rock rather than under it.
In Jay O’Connell’s book, Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony (Raven River Press, 1999), there is a poem written by Will Purdy (son of George and Betsy). It reads:

  “Ideals, like beauty, are eternal joys; Their images our vision never cloys; Fair progeny of the aspiring mind, round all her projects re their arms entwined.”

Earth Day event planned for Three Rivers

   In cooperation with the nonprofit Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth, Carole Clum of Three Rivers has been working for the past several months to organize Earth Day. Granted, Three Rivers Earth Day is being held a week-and-a-half after the nationwide commemoration of Earth, but there’s a good reason for that: Jazzaffair and Roping pretty much have a lock on the April weekends, so other major events need to schedule elsewhere.
   Here is how Carole explains what will be at this Saturday’s Earth Day event:
   Have fun while learning how to grow organic vegetables with compost you can make with an assist from worms.
Shrink your carbon footprint while lowering your home-energy bill.
   Make your yard wildlife-friendly with food, water, cover, and places for birds and animals
to raise their young.
   See the Earth Day art created by Three Rivers School students.
   Discover ways you and your family can reduce air pollution and water pollution.
   Learn how to conserve water.
   Find out how to reduce fire hazards and home and wildfires in our woodlands.
   Participate in the Environmental Scavenger Hunt for youth and earn an Earth Day T-shirt. (This challenge actually begins prior to Three Rivers Earth Day as students at Three Rivers School have been given a list of 21 environmentally-friendly things to find in Three Rivers, such as a compost pile, a clothesline, a hybrid car, and a straw-bale house. The students are to bring their filled-in lists to the Earth Day event and a T-shirt will be ordered for them.)

  “The people of Three Rivers have the opportunity to work together to improve our lives and the environment,” said Carole. “We can reduce our consumption, recycle our waste, reuse our possessions, and repair instead of buying new.”

  “Come to this free event where so many members of our community are involved. We are working to bring you the most up-to-date information.” she said.
   Earth Day will be held Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.

3R movie is labor of love

‘Where in the world would you find a place like this?’

   In the real estate world, they are known as Team Diana. But Diana Jules and Diana Glass, who often utter the above quote, have teamed up for a totally different project that is solely by them as Three Rivers residents for the enjoyment of all other Three Rivers residents.
   They have made a movie of Three Rivers, featuring stunning photos set to music.

  “With all the chaos in the world, it struck us again how fortunate we are to live in Three Rivers,” said Diana… and Diana. “We thought this was a good time to stop and be thankful for where we live.”
   They also said that one longtime Three Rivers resident who saw an excerpt of the movie said it made her “so proud to live in Three Rivers.”
   Included in the movie will be unique aerial shots of the Kaweah canyon. In fact, the entire movie is composed of never-before-seen photographs.
   Everyone is invited to come and celebrate Three Rivers during this world premiere of “The Seasons of Three Rivers.” 

  “The Seasons of Three Rivers” will be shown Sunday, May 3, 4 p.m., at St. Anthony Retreat. Admission is free.

Community Calendars now on sale

   An annual fundraiser for 40 years, Three Rivers School seventh-graders are currently taking orders for the 2009-2010 Community Calendars. The proceeds from this project help send the students to San Francisco for their eighth-grade trip.
   Birthdays and anniversaries may be listed, as well as other important dates. The deadline for orders is Tuesday, May 26.
   To place an order, call Sylvia Diaz, 561-4280; Lisa Vawter, 561-2001; or the TRUS office, 561-4466.

Stamp prices to increase

   The price of a first-class postage stamp will increase two cents to 44 cents starting Monday, May 11.
   The Postal Service said the price increase was necessary because of rising production costs. Under law, the price of stamps is not allowed to rise faster than the U.S. consumer price index, which measures inflation.
   Until the new prices go into effect, customers can buy “Forever Stamps” at the current 42-cent rate.

Dance company performs

traditional Mexican ballet

by Yvonne Arroyo Sweeney

   I am the director of and instructor for Ballet Folklorico Sierra Linda, a children’s Mexican folk dance group.
   I was raised in Woodlake, attended Woodlake schools, and know first-hand that Woodlake has a long history of Mexican folk dance. But it wasn’t until I attended Woodlake High School that I became interested in participating in ballet folklorico (Mexican folk dance).
   While dancing in high school, I had the opportunity to dance under Emilio Rivas with an advanced folklorico company, Cuicacalli, based out of Los Angeles. To this day, he remains involved, teaches, and is held in high regard in the folklorico community.
   It was with Cuicacalli that I had the honor of performing for Pope John Paul II in Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles in 1987. It remains my most memorable dance experience.
   Upon graduation from Woodlake High in 1988, I continued to dance, though just for a short time longer. But I stayed connected to the dance community through my dear friends Lisa Perez and John Gonzales, also Woodlake High School alum.
   In 2006, my good friend and former classmate Venicia Cardenas approached me about starting a dance group in Woodlake after learning that the small group her daughter danced with was disbanding. She, too, remembered seeing folklorico groups in Woodlake in her younger years.
   She mentioned there was still a great deal of interest in our area for a children's dance group. She and I agreed to work together and, as a result, formed Ballet Folklorico Sierra Linda.
   I am the director/instructor and Venicia is our booking coordinator. Together we have completed three successful dance seasons.
   Our dancers range in age from six to 12 years of age. They come from Woodlake and nearby communities. We are currently 18 members strong.
   We've performed at festivals, private parties, fundraisers, and various other community events. In 2006, five of our dancers had roles and performed in the Enchanted Playhouse production of Pedro: The Angel of Olvera Street.
   Ballet Folklorico Sierra Linda prides itself on being a community service effort. Tuition is kept low in order to encourage as many children as possible to participate.
   We do not deny practices or performances due to inability to pay tuition in a timely manner or for lack of dance supplies. Our dancers are not required to purchase costumes, and we try to keep the out-of-pocket expenses to parents to a minimum.
   Ballet Folklorico Sierra Linda does not receive any funding from outside sources. All monies used to support our group come from tuition, fundraising, and the occasional donation for performances.
I, as well as my partner Venicia, provide all direction and management on a volunteer basis. Weekly practices are held at Castle Rock Elementary school in Woodlake.
   To see a performance by the Ballet Folklorico Sierra Linda, attend the Cinco de Mayo Festival at the Woodlake City Park on Sunday, May 3. For more information on the dance troupe, contact Yvonne at 901-6240.

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