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In the News - Friday, MAY 11, 2007

Rangers raid

Marble Fork

pot garden

   They’re back! But this year they’ve got a new hybrid strain of cannabis that grows faster and produces a higher yield with even more profit potential if the thousands of pot plants that are currently growing can be harvested and transported to market.
   These Mexican cartel growers are refining their methods for producing the illicit marijuana crop and changing garden locations. But in response to the latest threat to the local parks, National Park Service rangers are fighting back with more manpower and, hopefully, will make even more key arrests.
   On Tuesday, May 8, a team of NPS rangers made their first major raid of the season, taking out a large garden complex in the Marble Fork drainage. The garden was in steep, rugged terrain about a mile from the nearest road.
   According to an NPS news release, rangers eradicated 17,300 immature plants and also destroyed a nursery capable of producing thousands of more plants. Evidence of weapons and large supplies of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides were also found.

  “As the growers have changed their tactics so have we,” said J.D. Swed, Sequoia’s chief ranger. “These parks have a focused strategy that involves more personnel and a narcotics-detection dog.”
   The events that led to Tuesday’s raid were set in motion after a suspect was arrested Sunday outside the park. No details relating to the arrest were made public, but the man was believed to be connected to a second suspect who was also taken into custody.
   An NPS tactical team made up of rangers from several parks assisted in Tuesday’s raid. A helicopter unit from U.S. Customs and Border Protection provided air support.
   Although encounters between growers and visitors have been rare, a few years ago a fisherman reported seeing armed operatives in dense brush near a remote trail leading from the Mineral King Road to a fishing hole on the East Fork of the Kaweah River. The fisherman became suspicious and reported the individuals to park rangers.
   That tip led to one of the first big raids in the East Fork area. Now it appears that much of the illicit activity has relocated from the Mineral King area to the South Fork and Middle Fork areas like the one that was raided earlier this week.
   Since 2001, more than 141,000 plants have been eradicated from within the boundaries of Sequoia National Park.

  “I can’t say enough about how important the vigilance of the Three Rivers community has been in getting a handle on these problems, “ said Alex Picavet, parks spokesperson. “Anyone with information about illegal activity or would like to report something suspicious may speak directly to a ranger or remain anonymous.”
   To report criminal activity in the parks, call 1-888-NPS-CRIME.

3R man sentenced

in burglaries

   Following a bizarre series of events that began when the defendant allegedly fired a shotgun on New Years Eve in 2005 at a Three Rivers residence, Stan McDowall was sentenced on Thursday, May 3, to five years, four months, in prison. Because of pre-sentencing delays in the case, McDowall was immediately handcuffed and taken to county jail.
   After a Department of Corrections evaluation, McDowall, 67, will be assigned to a California state prison. McDowall, who represented himself on the burglary charges, could still file an appeal of the conviction.
   His initial motion for a new trial at a March hearing was denied by Judge Patrick J. O’Hara, who presided in the case. During testimony, prosecutors described McDowall as a “crime boss” who conspired and committed burglaries, used illicit drugs, and influenced other persons to engage in criminal activities.
   Tulare County Sheriff’s Department personnel expressed relief that McDowall was finally off the streets. One investigator said that McDowall’s house was being checked out for health department violations, including the illegal discharge of sewage and chemical waste into the North Fork of the Kaweah River.

Stamp prices

take a hike

   The cost of mailing a letter will go up on Monday, May 14. A first-class stamp will rise in price from 39 cents to 41 cents, a penny less than the Postal Service had originally requested.
   There is good news, however. The price of heavier letters will go down, which means 41 cents for the first ounce of first-class mail but each additional ounce will cost 17 cents, down from the current 24 cents.
   To avoid further price increases, consumers have the option of purchasing a “forever” stamp. This stamp will always be valid for mailing a letter no matter how much rates increase.

Valley shuttle

headlines Town Meeting

   Long-range planners realize that the key to preserving quality of life in California’s future is developing alternative modes of transportation. The introduction of the new Visalia-Sequoia National Park shuttle service is a giant step and, planners are hopeful, in the right direction for the future of Tulare County.
   The seasonal bus service (May 24 to Sept. 3) is expected to relieve congestion that has long plagued the most popular Giant Forest attractions in Sequoia. The free in-park shuttle is viable, park officials believe, because it will get visitors out of their cars and be a more enjoyable way to see Sequoia’s sights.
   But what are the implications for those who pay to use the service from Visalia and Three Rivers? Here’s where the three-year grant-demonstration program, which is intended to also help improve the Valley’s woeful air quality, has many unanswered questions.
   At Monday’s Town Hall Meeting, Leslie Caviglia, Visalia’s deputy city manager, will be in Three Rivers to address some of those questions.

  “We’re going to be playing it by ear and there will be plenty of opportunities to fine-tune the service and the schedule,” Caviglia said. “To begin, it’s important to meet the road construction schedule so shuttles reach the construction zone at the top of the hour.”
   Initially, the service will include five buses daily to and from Visalia, stopping in and departing Three Rivers eastbound for Giant Forest at 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 2 p.m. Five return buses will depart Three Rivers westbound for Visalia on the hour from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.
   What is certain is that the Visalia buses are going to become a familiar site in the Kaweah canyon. A roundtrip from Visalia or Three Rivers will cost $10 (includes park entrance fee).
The Three Rivers stops will be at Comfort Inn & Suites and the Memorial Building.
   Monday’s meeting will also have several other agenda items, including a look at the various agencies and organizations that furnish emergency services in Three Rivers. Supervisor Allen Ishida plans to attend and will address some county prospects relative to the new fire department and sheriff’s department services.
   For more information, call Tom Sparks at 561-0406.

Grassroots boycott

of gas underway

   Gas prices are at record highs across the country. The nationwide average is at $3.07, up 20 cents from two weeks ago. In San Francisco, prices have eclipsed the $4 threshold.
   The rising cost is being blamed on refineries that are shut down for repairs as well as America’s dependence on foreign oil. But as gas prices are soaring, oil companies are enjoying record prices. It is estimated that about five percent of the average annual household income goes to buy gasoline.
   This has all spurred a grassroots effort for a gas boycott. Consumers are asked to refuse to go to the pumps Tuesday, May 15.


Humble origins of

the Redbud Festival

by Rod Simonian

   RE: History of the Redbud Festival: “3R Golf Course was the first venue,” April 13, 2007.
   Here is the history of the early Redbud Festival as I recall it. Folks, this is firsthand information.
   At the time of the first festival, I was creating silver jewelry in a little shop on 198. The first Redbud Festival was started by Dennis White and held at Ard Farkle’s Restaurant, which was located at the Three Rivers Golf Course. It was sometime in the early 1970s, on the second weekend of April (before Jazzaffair also chose this date). I am staying away from exact years because I am not sure of them.
   Dennis’s idea was very good and quite successful, for both the restaurant and the Three Rivers artists.
   The following year, Dennis sold the restaurant to Troy Raynor. Early the next year, I started thinking about how to organize the next Redbud Festival because it was just too good of an idea to let die.
   After talking with a few artists who participated in the first one, we decided to hold a meeting at the Three Rivers Library (then located on Highway 198). A plan was made and I was chosen to put it all together.
   The first thing was to ask Mr. Raynor if he would lend us the space around his restaurant. He agreed.
   Then we put out the word that we were going to have another Redbud Festival on the second weekend in April. We were only looking for 40 artists; about 30 to 35 from Three Rivers and five to 10 from outside the area. The booth fee was $5.
   I thought things were going just fine but the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce got wind of what was going on and brought me before the board. I was still fairly new to Three Rivers and I guess they just needed to know that I was going to do this right.
   I cannot remember how it happened — it may have been an insurance matter — but somehow the Redbud Festival was placed under the wings of the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce with me still doing the legwork. They got something for nothing.
The second Redbud Festival went off as planned and all were very happy.
   I was able to nurture the Redbud Festival and establish a good reputation for another eight years. I would have done more but I was elected president of the Three Rivers C of C and had to hand over the Festival to someone else, which was Cathy Hunt.
   I still live in Three Rivers. I do a little silversmithing, but now have Simonian’s Saw Service, which supports the community with the parts needed to have top-quality outdoor power products and service.


Thwarting the thisle epidemic

   The thistles have bloomed in Three Rivers and are ready to go to seed, of which they have 30,000 to 50,000 per plant. If anyone feels unable to control the thistle on their own, call the local Weed Hotline for assistance: 561-4701.
   Here is a report of this year’s activity submitted by the Weed Management Group:

  —There have been 15 new calls to the hotline and all sites have been serviced; six were sprayed by the WMG program and nine sites were eradicated by pulling and spot-spraying.

  —Thirty-five percent of last year’s contacts have been called for an informal survey of progress.

  —A total of 14 sites have been sprayed by the WMG program; six were the new contacts, four were properties carried over from 2006, and four were identified as yellow star thistle sites that were re-sprayed.

  “We are trying to target thick patches where the thistle is taking over an area when we use the spray rig,” explained Diana Glass, a Weed Management Group member. “Smaller and scattered areas and areas accessible only on foot are best treated by owners using a backpack sprayer.”
   The “spray season” will soon end due to the quickly-drying vegetation. To effectively transport the chemical spray throughout the plant, it has to be alive.

  “Thank you, everyone, for your participation in this valiant effort,” said Diana.

Service dog teams to

graduate next month

   On Friday, June 15, the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center will hold its third ever commencement service for Woodlake High students and their golden retriever trainees. Throughout a two-year commitment on the part of the students, the dogs are taught more than 90 commands and all the skills necessary to assist a person with special needs. And the students learn valuable lessons of compassion and responsibility as well.
   Last week, the two senior teams — Jamie and dog Cadi and Sarah and Cami — were joined by the first-year team members — Katie and Daya and Jesse and Dusty — to discuss the ASDEC and give a presentation at the monthly Three Rivers Woman’s Club meeting. Kathy Bohl, club member, shared the experiences of her grandson, Tyler, and his ASDEC dog.
   The club in turn presented the nonprofit ASDEC program with a generous contribution.
   The ASDEC was founded by Gerald and Donna Whittaker of Woodlake. They are assisted by Dave and Barbara Sandberg of Three Rivers.
   The graduation ceremony will be held at the Woodlake Memorial Building. All are welcome to attend.

WHS wins

free country concert

   Woodlake High School students were more than generous during a recent fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They gave $2,800 over a nine-day period.
   In addition to greatly assisting the cancer research hospital, which cares for all children with cancer regardless of their ability to pay, the students will receive a concert, sponsored by KJUG radio.
   Taylor Swift, 17, a country music star best known for her hit single “Tim McGraw” will perform Thursday, May 17, at 10 a.m., in Robinson-Painter Memorial Stadium. In honor of her visit, the City of Woodlake has proclaimed May 17 as “Taylor Swift Day.”
John Werner’s AVID class raised the most funds out of the 24 participating classes, so they will receive front-row seating and personally meet the singer.
   For additional information, call Tony Casares, WHS athletics/activities director, at 564-3307, ext. 115.


Decisions, decisions

by Sally Pace

   May 1 was the deadline for high school seniors to make their final decision on where they will attend college next year. This is often the first BIG decision that students have to make on their own.
   I like to equate it with who you will marry for the next two to four years. I also encourage all students who are planning on going away to school to register for classes at College of the Sequoias as an “insurance policy” in case something does not work out in the fall.
   If your child is going away to school in the fall, it is time to start talking to them about the most common mistakes that first year college students make.
   Preaching will just roll off their backs, but subtle suggestions do sink in over time.
   College is not an extension of high school. The workload is at least twice as hard in most cases. Students have to realize that they will only be with the top students in California.
   If they attend the University of California system, they will be competing with the top 12 percent of California students.
   If they attend UCLA or UC Berkeley they could be competing with the top five percent of the entire world.
   The California State University system selects students from the top 20 percent of high school students. This is a huge leap from being at the top of your class in high school.
   Parents and students need to remember that getting a grade of a “C” in a very competitive college class could be a great accomplishment at a major university. This is a hard thing for high school honor students to realize.
   Students need to establish new study habits and be willing to seek help when they first feel they need it — don’t wait until the midterm exam grade comes back.
   Every college has a great tutoring program and many are not used to their potential. College students seem to think that they can do it on their own because they could do it in high school and were usually the ones who helped other students.
   Most tutorial centers are staffed with students who were successful in the subject they are tutoring from the same instructors that are currently teaching. The tutors can also give some great advice on what a specific instructor feels is important.
   If your child calls saying they are struggling in a class, then encourage them to find out where the tutorial center is located and go! Forming a study group with other students will also help most students to find out they are not alone in feeling lost in a class.
   Sally Pace is retired after more than 30 years as a teacher, counselor, and dean of students at Woodlake High School.

Underage drinking

and the law

   This is the final in a four-part series about underage alcohol abuse, provided by the Outreach Committee of Community Presbyterian Church.
   According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, almost seven million people ages 12 to 20 binge drink at least once a month. Another survey found that about one-third of high school seniors reported at least one occasion of binge drinking in the past two weeks. (Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in a row for boys; four or more drinks for girls.)
   Teens don’t drink for “social reasons,” they drink to get drunk. Unfortunately, consuming drink after drink or shot after shot can be considered normal, rather than harmful, behavior among teens.
   It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink, purchase, or possess alcohol in the United States. Penalties vary from state to state, but underage drinking is a crime throughout the country.
   In some states, many of these offenses are misdemeanors, but in others they are felonies. Being criminally charged for alcohol use not only results in the loss of the teen’s drivers license, it can have a major effect on a teen’s life. Criminal charges have severe consequences for the future, especially if they are at the felony level: for being able to go to college, for being able to get a job.
   Teens must also count being charged with a civil offense among the risks of underage drinking. If someone injures or kills someone because he/she is intoxicated or if they damage someone’s property because they are intoxicated, they can be sued.
   Teen drinkers are not the only ones who are impacted; their parents can also face severe consequences. Parents who provide teens with alcohol and/or a place to consume it can be arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
   PARENTS AND PREVENTION— Parents may not realize it, but they exert ongoing influence over their children’s choice to drink alcohol. Studies have shown that the number-one influence in young people’s lives is their parents and their parents’ expectations of them.
   The best way to prevent teens from underage drinking is for their parents to discuss the topic with them honestly, set ground rules and stick to them, and be good role models themselves. Parents should recognize that they are the number-one influence on their children’s behavior and take full advantage of their power to ensure a healthy, happy life for their teens.
   Parents should spend time talking with their children each day and be involved in their children’s lives. By letting their children know that their interests and activities are worthwhile, they set the stage for the development of strong self-esteem.
   Teens should know that they can call their parents if they end up at a party where alcohol is available; parents should be thankful that their children made the decision to call them rather than get in the car with an intoxicated friend.
   Parents who want to discourage underage drinking need to be good role models for their teens; by not drinking or drinking in a responsible manner. Teens are more likely to respect the wishes of parents who consistently model good behavior and establish and enforce family rules.
   EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the April 27 alcohol awareness article — entitled “Alcohol Marketing and Teens,” which described various alcoholic beverages on the market targeted toward underage consumers — the malt beverage “Spykes,” produced by Anheuser-Busch, has been ordered to be pulled from shelves because the warning labels do not comply with the Federal Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau regulations.

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