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In the News - Friday, MAY 4, 2007

BLM closes

North Fork recreation sites

   Effective Thursday, May 24, just in time for the first big holiday weekend of the 2007 summer visitor season, the Bureau of Land Management is closing its three recreation areas on the North Fork of the Kaweah River. The impending closures of Paradise, Advance, and Cherry Falls are the latest round in a management tug-of-war that has been going on for more than a decade.
   BLM officials used a public meeting held Thursday, April 26, at the Three Rivers Memorial Building to make the announcement. Steve Larson, assistant field manager with the Bakersfield office, said that he hopes the closures are only temporary while the BLM searches for a long-term management strategy.

  “We’ll be conducting meetings sometime this summer to seek public input on what should be done with the management of these sites,” Larson said.”
   Citing public safety, parking, and sanitation issues, it just isn’t feasible to manage the popular river access sites for the upcoming summer. The last straw, he said, was when the fee box at the area’s entrance was vandalized.

  “In the three years that fees were being collected, only about 10 percent of the users were actually paying,” Larson said.
   Compounding the problems at the sites is that Paradise, the most popular area with the best parking, was recently surveyed and found to actually be on private property. So for the time being, Larson said, all three sites will be fenced and gated.
   During the busy Memorial Day weekend, BLM will have recreation staff and law-enforcement rangers at the sites to inform the public of the closures. Signs will also be installed on Highway 198 in the Lake Kaweah vicinity and on North Fork Drive to deter motorists from driving the seven miles up the narrow road.

  “We don’t really want to see the sites closed permanently,” said Diane Simpson, a BLM recreation planner. “But on a busy weekend there would be hundreds of vehicles and visitors trying to access sites that might reasonably handle 40 or 50. With the extreme fire danger and sanitation issues, we need to rethink what we are doing out there.”
   The closures underscore a problem that has been escalating for quite some time. Where and how will visitors lawfully access river swimming that becomes more inviting as temperatures rise?
   There was also discussion at the recent meeting on some of the problems at the Case Mountain area that is currently accessed by mountain bikers and hikers via Skyline Drive in Three Rivers.

  “We are looking for ways to improve access to that area but no closures are being considered for the immediate future,” Larson said. “The biggest problem in that area is the limited parking.”
   BLM officials said they are also planning another controlled burn for 2007 in the vicinity of the giant sequoia grove that they manage as a part of the Case Mountain area. The BLM will coordinate the fire plans with the NPS, Larson said, and inform the community prior to any ignitions.
   For more information or to report problems at the BLM sites, call the Bakersfield field office, (661) 391-6000.

Rescuers called to

East Fork… again

   In June 2006, a 20-year-old Tulare woman tumbled down the gorge below the Oak Grove Bridge on the Kaweah River’s East Fork and drowned. Her body was recovered three weeks later.
   Last month, it was an Exeter fisherman who fell down a steep embankment below the bridge six miles up the Mineral King Road. Last Saturday (April 28), there was another near-tragedy as a Malibu couple barely escaped becoming the latest river statistics.
   The most recent incident, according to a report by Cal Fire, began when dispatchers received an emergency call at 3:15 p.m. Rescue units from Three Rivers, Exeter, and Woodlake responded to the call for help at the Mineral King Road locale that is becoming all too familiar to Tulare County rescuers.
   Last Saturday’s incident began when an unidentified male who had been camping in the area slipped and fell into the icy whitewater near the Oak Grove Bridge. His 28-year-old girlfriend immediately entered the water in attempt to rescue the man.
   Both were swept downstream more than 200 feet in the steep gorge. The boyfriend was able to pull himself out on the south bank and climbed up to the road to summon help.
   The female climbed out on the opposite bank on a small rock shelf with no apparent escape.
   Pete Gonzales, an apparatus engineer from the Exeter Fire Station, rappelled over the edge of the granite wall and reached the stranded female victim below. He secured her in a rescue harness and attached multiple ropes, then hoisted her to safety.
   The female victim was examined by Three Rivers Ambulance personnel and released at the scene. She was shivering and cold but admitted that she was very lucky to be alive.
   Kirk Gramberg, a Tulare County fire captain who has responded to numerous Kaweah River rescues in the past, said the latest incident is already the third local river rescue of the current season.

  “Those polished granite rocks can make for treacherous footing,” said Gramberg. “When the water is like this, don’t go near the river unless you are with a professional guide and have all the safety gear.”

Sierra snowpack at

29 percent of average

   It’s difficult to conceptualize any weather relative to normal in a wacky climate-challenged world, but the state Department of Water Resources announced earlier this week that the May 1 snowpack measurements indicate that, statewide, the water content is 29 percent of normal. Farewell Gap, with its remote Kaweah River (East Fork) sensors at 9,500 feet elevation, measured three feet of snow still at the stake.
   That translates roughly to 41 percent of the May 1 average and indicates that there won’t be runoff anywhere near the levels that were experienced last year during the month of May. The above-normal temperatures that will return by Monday will keep the Middle Fork of the Kaweah churning but don’t expect the rolling thunder revues of recent high water years like 1995, 1998, and to a lesser extent 2006.
   The recent storm that blew through Wednesday brought only trace amounts of precipitation to Three Rivers. A gauge at the 1,000-foot level recorded .07 for the last storm and 11.40 inches for the year.
   At Lake Kaweah, since Oct. 1, dam tenders have measured 9.09 inches of rainfall.
   As of Thursday, May 3, the storage at Lake Kaweah surpassed 91,632 acre feet and is gradually rising. By the second week of June, Lake Kaweah will reach its high water mark for 2007, at or slightly below the old fill level of 145,000 acre feet.

  “The silver lining in this lower water year is that we will have both boat ramps for the busiest holiday weekends and a greater window of opportunity to build the new one at Slick Rock,” reported Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general manager.
   The low statewide water totals also provided political capital for advocates of Sacramento’s water program.

  “The latest survey results show why we need a comprehensive water plan, including conservation and drought-planning programs and additional water storage for California,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “As we experience climate change and the resulting lower snowpacks, it is critical that we increase the amount of runoff captured by building additional storage.”

3R women make

strategic business moves

MOUNTAIN HEALERS ASSOCIATION-- Last month, a small group of local health and wellness practitioners gathered to discuss the development of a local network to define and promote the healing arts of mind, body, and spirit. During this meeting, it became evident that there is a need and desire to formalize an association to allow the sharing of specialties with each other and the public.
   The mission is to promote the services available within the community, provide education, increase awareness, and publicize the availability of services in Three Rivers and surrounding areas.
   Those currently participating in this groundbreaking project are: Charlene Natoli (R.N., owner of CranioSacral Therapy), Kay Packard (hand analyst, life coach), Jalene Vincent-Welch (Pilates instructor, massage therapist), Sage Lee (deep tissue massage), Kristi Tilchen (deep tissue massage), Janene Lasswell (natural body products), Deborah Warren (hypnotherapy, Reiki, astrology), Brenda Proudfoot (Thai massage, yoga), and Cathy Franklin (owner of Living Well Oasis).
   Another meeting is scheduled for Friday, May 11, from 1 to 3 p.m., at 41695 Sierra Drive (next to Chump’s). All who are interested in the healing arts are welcome to attend to socially connect and brainstorm future health and wellness activities.
   TEAM DIANA-- Two Three Rivers real estate agents will be combining their talents to work together to assist clients in buying and selling local properties. And since they share the same first name, they’ve come up with a catchy name for their venture: “Team Diana.”

  “When Diana Glass mentioned that she would like a business partner, the timing could not have been better,” said Diana Jules, who will be returning to Century 21 Three Rivers after more than a decade hiatus.
   Diana Glass has been with the local Century 21 office for many years. She is a perennial recipient of the Centurion Award, which honors the corporation’s top producers.
   Diana Jules has devoted the past 15 years to homeschooling her two daughters, the youngest of who will be graduating high school this month. When Glass proposed the partnership, Jules said she jumped at the opportunity.

  “My background is in real estate,” she explained. “Also, our family has owned and operated a successful construction company for the last 25 years, so the transition seems natural.”
   Together, Team Diana is looking forward to helping people make their dreams come true in Three Rivers, Jules said.
    MY SISTER’S CLOSET-- A shuffling of women-owned businesses has taken place in the past few months as Charlotte Little moved her Creekside Yarns into the recently-remodeled triplex between Sierra Subs & Salads and Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs. Taking advantage of this, Cindy Skeen has moved her clothing and collectibles shop — My Sister’s Closet — from the former Sierra Shan office to the recently vacated Creekside Yarns location.
   The “Closet” is now located at 41667 Sierra Drive between Laura Olson’s Cutting Room and Sandra Hodge’s River of Life. In addition to new and gently-used clothing, jewelry, and accessories, the Closet is also now the exclusive retail outlet for Janene Lasswell’s natural body products.
   My Sister’s Closet is open Tuesday through Saturday. Information: 561-4940.

Three Rivers and

the Special Olympics

Everybody wins at Tulare event

  The Special Olympics of Tulare County was held Friday, April 27, at Bob Mathias Stadium in Tulare. Competing from Exeter was the Big Bad Wolves team, led by their teacher, Irene Barba of Three Rivers, with the assistance of her instructional aide, Pam Kambourian, also of Three Rivers.
   Seven students, ages nine to 12, from the Tulare County Office of Education’s “Severely Handicapped Special Day Class,” located at Rocky Hill Elementary School in Exeter, competed in the event. About 350 children, ages eight and older, from throughout Tulare County attended the daylong competition.
   Kevin Conover of Three Rivers, who was born with Down syndrome and will celebrate his 13th birthday on Sunday, May 6, competed in the 25M Assisted Walk.
   Ashlee Nelson, also of Three Rivers, was on the Exeter High School team. She competed in the 100M Run and the Softball Throw.
   Abraham Castro, a 10-year-old in Irene’s class, uses a walker to assist with his mobility. He trained diligently for his event and successfully reached his goal of competing in the 25M Assisted Walk without the use of his equipment. He also entered the Tennis Ball Throw.
   The Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1962. She was inspired by her intellectually disabled sister, the late Rosemary Kennedy.
   Events are geared to accommodate a variety of levels of ability so that athletes can compete with others who have similar capabilities.
   Three Rivers participants and volunteers on the Big Bad Wolves team include Irene and Pam; Kevin Conover; and student volunteers Lyell Griswold, Jonathan Kambourian, Kayla and Kenny Conover, and Johnnie Elliott. Meaghan Swinney, Miss Tulare County 2007, was in attendance and presented medals to the competitors.

  “For participating and giving it their best, they are all winners,” said Irene.

Woodlake homeowners

receive upgrade options

   Thanks to a new program called “The Home Team,” Woodlake residents who qualify can remodel, repair, or even raze and build anew while not having to make a single payment on the construction. That’s because Self-Help Enterprises, in partnership with the City of Woodlake, handles the funding and then offers repayment options tailored to each client’s circumstances.
   The story of Ralph and Irene Zavala, who recently moved into their new home at 492 N. Palm, illustrates how the program works. Their former home was built in the 1930s and urgently needed repairs.
   Working with Suzanne Garcia, the program’s administrator at Self-Help Enterprises, the Zavalas decided to demolish their old structures and build a totally new 1,280 square-foot home.

  “When we looked at this project, the house was on a low-lying lot in the flood zone and would have not been cost effective to repair or remodel,” said Garcia. “By building the new home, we were able to correct the flood problem and create some new equity in the property.”
   The cost of the new construction was approximately $140,000. Garcia said the new home is probably worth at least $250,000 if it were to go on the current market.
   The Zavalas have several repayment options but technically don’t have to make a single payment unless they decide to sell. Self-Help, by placing a lien on the deed, retains ownership equivalent to their expenses in the rehabilitation of the property. The owners can choose to buy out the lien at anytime interest-free or pay nothing as long as they remain the owners of the property.

  “This program is a win-win for the community and low-income persons who otherwise would not be able to upgrade their homes,” said Garcia.
   Residents of Woodlake who own a home in need of new roof, handicap modifications or other upgrades may call Suzanne Garcia 651-1000, ext. 659.


Rodeo Queen will be crowned Saturday

  FOR MORE THAN a half century, Woodlake cowboys have paid tribute to the young horsewomen of the community by crowning a Rodeo Queen. On Saturday, May 5, the Woodlake Lions will crown this year’s Rodeo Queen, who will reign over the 54th annual Woodlake Lions Rodeo.
   As always, the Rodeo will be held Mother’s Day weekend, May 12 and 13, 2007.
   The five women vying for this year’s crown are (in alphabetical order):
   Laurabelle Burns— A 21-year-old sophomore at College of the Sequoias, Laurabelle is a former resident of Three Rivers who currently lives in Lemon Cove. Her parents are Christine and Joey Burns.

  “I’m most interested in showing livestock and working on my sheep farm. In my free time, I like to go barrel racing and trail riding.”
   Alex Cervantes— A 19-year-old sophomore at College of the Sequoias, Alex resides in Tulare. Her parents are Ruben and Leo Cervantes.

  “I stay busy with barrel racing, pleasure riding, going to the beach, and helping my parents with the family business.”
   Mindy Garrison— A 17-year-old junior at Exeter Union High School, Mindy’s parents are David and Dawn Garrison of Visalia.

  “My hobbies include soccer, tennis, barrel racing, trail riding, and FFA. My interests include animals, animal science, and going to Cal Poly or UC Davis for vet school.”
   Linzy Morris— A 19-year-old freshman at College of the Sequoias, Linzy lives in Exeter. Her parents are Mike Morris and Karen Barrett.

  “I enjoy riding horses and competing in rodeos. I also show sheep and dairy heifers.”
   Heather Rivas— A 19-year-old freshman at College of the Sequoias, Heather graduated from Woodlake High School in 2006. Her parents are Mike and Leslie Rivas of Woodlake.

  “I enjoy coaching and playing sports. I am very active in the FFA showing and raising market and breeding beef.”
   The winning contestant will be honored with a sparkling tiara, a beautiful belt buckle, and a finely-tooled saddle, donated by Valley Business Bank.
   The Rodeo Queen reigns at the Woodlake Lions Rodeo and represents the Rodeo at events throughout the year. The court of four horsewomen will accompany the Rodeo Queen in the Woodlake Parade and at the Rodeo.
   Queen contestants will be judged on three criteria: horsemanship, poise and personality, and ticket sales. Young women from throughout the area are encouraged to apply.
   To be eligible, applicants must be between 16 and 24 years old and unmarried. The deadline for entry each year is January 31.
   For more information or to receive an application, call the Woodlake Lions office, 564-8555, or log onto:

Schedule: From high-flying to deep-pit

Saturday, May 5
   8 a.m.-2 p.m.— Woodlake Aviation Day. Activity: Airplane rides. Sponsor: Woodlake Flying Tigers and EAA Chapter 1292. Location: Woodlake Airport (south on Valencia Blvd.). Donation: $10 for approximately 10 minutes ($5 for children under 12).
   11 a.m.-5 p.m.— Activity: Western Week Kickoff Celebration; Cinco de Mayo Party; Chili, Ribs and Salsa Cookoff; Firemen’s Mini-Muster; Games, Competitions, and Food. Sponsor: Woodlake Volunteer Fire Department. Location: Woodlake City Park. Cost: Free.
   6-10 p.m.— Activity: Street Dance. Sponsor: Woodlake Volunteer Fire Department. Location: City Park. Donation: Free.

Monday, May 7
   4-6 p.m.— Activity: Bicycle Rally and Safety Tips. Sponsor: Friday Night Live, Kiwanis of Woodlake, Woodlake Police Department. Location: City Park. Donation: Free.

Wednesday, May 9
   5:30-8:30 p.m.— Activity: Soapbox Derby (registration 5 p.m.). Sponsor: Kiwanis of Woodlake. Location: Corner of Valencia and Lakeview (by Woodlake Post Office). Donation: Free.
   5:30-7:30 p.m.— Activity: Community Barbecue Dinner. Sponsor: Woodlake Presbyterian Church. Location: Community Center adjacent to the City Park. Information: 564-3377.
Thursday, May 10
   5:30-8 p.m.— Activity: Family Carnival with rock wall, bounce house, dunk tank, games, and food. Sponsor: Woodlake YMCA. Location: City Park.

Friday, May 11

   10 a.m.-2 p.m.— Activity: Customer Appreciation Day with food and hayrides. Sponsor: Fruit Growers Supply. Location: 131 S. Blair. Donation: Free.
   6 p.m.— Activity: Dinner and Silent Auction. Sponsor: Woodlake High School Foundation. Location: Woodlake Memorial Building. Donation: $40 (includes dinner and raffle). Proceeds go toward local scholarship funds for WHS graduates. Information: 564-2054.

Saturday, May 12
   7-10 a.m.— Activity: All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast. Sponsor: Kiwanis of Woodlake. Location: Paradise Video parking lot. Donation: $5, adults ($3 for children under 12).
   10 a.m.— Activity: Rodeo Parade. Sponsor: Woodlake Lions Club. Location: On Valencia Blvd., Whitney to Naranjo. Donation: Free.
   11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.— Activity: Deep-pit Barbecue. Sponsor: Woodlake Lions Club. Location: BBQ Barn, Rodeo arena, Elderwood. Information: 564-8555.
   1:30 p.m.— Activity: Woodlake Rodeo. Sponsor: Woodlake Lions Club. Location: Rodeo arena, Elderwood (follow the signs north from Woodlake). Donation: $12 (presale at; $14 (at the gate). Information: 564-8555.

Sunday, May 13
   11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.— Activity: Deep-pit Barbecue. Sponsor: Woodlake Lions Club. Location: BBQ Barn, Rodeo arena. Information: 564-8555.
   1:30 p.m.— Activity: Woodlake Rodeo. Sponsor: Woodlake Lions Club. Location: Rodeo arena, Elderwood (follow the signs north from Woodlake). Donation: $12 (presale at; $14 (at the gate). Information: 564-8555.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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