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In the News - Friday, May 15, 2009

—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

A WORKER CONDUCTS a final inspection of the new boat ramp at Slick Rock on Wednesday, May 13, where the first ever user of the facility

launched a ski boat at 3:30 p.m. User fees will be collected here:

$4 for day use or $30 for an annual pass.

The area also features a parking lot, restrooms,

and a year-round volunteer host.

Near drowning

underscores river danger

   Mother’s Day in Kaweah Country can be one of the most memorable and pleasant times of the year. Scores of families gather annually for one of the first outdoor outings of the season.
   But warming temperatures and melting snow combine to swell the forks of the Kaweah River this time of the year, and at any of the area swimming holes or river access places that deadly recipe can lead to tragedy. Arguably, there is no pain greater than a mom who suddenly loses a child on Mother’s Day.
   On May 11, 2003, an 11-year-old Hanford boy wandered away from a Mother’s Day picnic at Hospital Rock. When the boy tried to cross the narrow river channel below the picnic area, he slipped on a rock and was swept away by the rushing river.
   The frantic family spent all that day and the next several searching miles of river but to no avail. The boy’s body was recovered many weeks later and several miles downstream, but now the family is haunted every Mother’s Day by a senseless river tragedy.
   Last Sunday, on Mother’s Day, the unthinkable nearly occurred again but this time the scene was the Edison swimming hole on Kaweah River Drive. A large group of an extended Visalia family was chilling out on the rocks near the popular sandy beach on the Edison property.
   Folks were lounging up and down the river bank; the Kaweah’s turgid water was far too chilly and swift to do much more. An eight-year-old boy was petting a dog at water’s edge when he slipped into the water and immediately found himself in the clutches of the powerful current.
   The frightened boy began to flail against the current while calling out for help. Nearby were Mark Baribeault, 40, and Tim Kenealy, 33, who are both Three Rivers residents and grew up hanging out at the river. Mark went in after the boy and grabbed him before he disappeared into the rapids just downstream.
   Almost as fast as it had happened, Tim was helping pull the rescuer and victim back onto the safety of the shore. The boy’s family was, of course, grateful and bought the rescuers a 12-pack of beer.
   Last week, in a separate incident, an elderly couple used an inflatable raft to float past Slicky, currently one of the most dangerous rapids on the river. According to unconfirmed reports, the raft was turned upside down and caught in a relentless strainer.
   The man was able to make it to shore but the unidentified woman had to be pulled out by another local who undoubtedly saved her life.
   With temperatures forecast to climb into triple digits this weekend, the river will be swollen with snowmelt. Everyone should exercise extreme caution near the wateryways or, better yet, enjoy a whitewater rafting trip in the company of a responsible professional.

New chief ranger

is serious on crime

   In these tough times when violence is an ever present danger and marijuana growers pose a huge law enforcement challenge, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks has appointed Kevin Hendricks as its new chief ranger. Hendricks, who since 2004 has worked at Olympic National Park, served as that park’s chief ranger since 2006.
   But it was the new chief’s 14-year tenure at Lake Mead National Recreation Area that was equally impressive on a National Park Service resume that began in 1987. At Lake Mead, Ranger Hendricks gained valuable experience while developing the full complement of ranger skills.

  “At Lake Mead we dealt with numerous search-and-rescues and emergency medicals with multiple fatalities,” Hendricks recalled. “There was some serious crime and, in most cases, alcohol was a big part of the problem.”
   Hendricks said when he was growing up in Fullerton, his first passion was wildlife. As a student at Brea-Olinda High School he enjoyed hiking the High Sierra, but like most Southern Californians, he initially experienced the east side of the range.
   After high school he earned an Associate of Arts degree at Fullerton College then transferred to Cal where he majored in Zoology. Hendricks earned a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) degree from the Berkeley campus.
   In the summers of those college years he volunteered as a bear tech at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. In his spare time, he hiked the John Muir trail in sections while dreaming about a career in wildlife management where he could work outside.
   For the next few years, Hendricks worked seasonal positions in recreational management and in the salmon industry in Alaska. He also worked briefly for the Parks and Recreation Department at the City of South Lake Tahoe and the Bureau of Reclamation at New Melones.
   In the latter part of 1986, the now aspiring ranger completed the academy training at Santa Rosa. In 1987, Ranger Hendricks landed his first seasonal position at Lake Mead.

  “Most rangers enter the service through a seasonal position,” Hendricks said. “It’s a good way to see if a ranger has what it takes and a way for the NPS to evaluate performance.”
   That 1987 experience at Lake Mead was life-changing in a number of ways.

  “That’s where I met my wife Nancy,” said Hendricks.
   For the next couple of years, Hendricks worked seasonally at Fort Pulaski National Monument, a coastal Civil War-era historic site south of Charleston, S.C. The biggest problem there was poaching by hunters who wandered onto park land.
   Ranger Hendricks liked the East Coast but said he yearned to return west. A permanent ranger for the previous two years, in 1991 he was able to transfer back to Lake Mead where he worked for the next 14 years.
   After doing just about everything there was to do at Lake Mead, Hendricks was promoted to deputy chief ranger at Olympic National Park, a place he describes in a category with Sequoia as “spectacular.”    In 2006, at Olympic, he was promoted to his first chief ranger position.
   In addition to the regular ranger activities, at Olympic he had some unique responsibilities in overseeing the treaty rights with Native Americans.

  “A big factor in Olympic is that these tribal groups, three of which occupy lands that are totally surrounded by the national park, must be treated as separate governments,” he said. “It was a very interesting part of the job.”
   Now at age 49, Sequoia’s new chief ranger relishes the opportunity of shifting career gears.

  “I’ve always loved the Sierra and here the priorities of the rangers, fire, wilderness, and the marijuana issue will present new challenges,” Hendricks said.
   It was also important that Sequoia-Kings Canyon had a position for wife Nancy, who fit right into the vacancy as NPS environmental compliance officer. So in all appearances, these latest transfers to Ash Mountain will be a good fit in the local NPS family and a welcome addition to Three Rivers.

Low turnout expected

for May 19 election

   With only the six budget-related propositions and no local candidates, Tulare County election officials are predicting a disappointing turnout in Tuesday’s special election that may not eclipse 20 percent. But to state lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tuesday’s vote is critical because California’s budget and the challenges of its balancing act hang in the balance.
   Proposition 1A would limit the growth of government spending. Proponents like the governor and the California Chamber of Commerce say it will mandate more fiscal responsibility. Opponents, including taxpayer groups, say Californians pay enough taxes already and enough is enough.
   Proposition 1B restores $9.3 billion to schools if 1A passes. Proponents like the California Teachers Association say the measure would help stabilize school spending. Opponents like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees say it’s not worth the risk because it would force deep cuts in the event 1A goes down.
   Proposition 1C authorizes state officials to borrow $5 billion from the profits of a revamped lottery. Proponents say if it doesn’t pass more cuts will have to come from somewhere. The California Federation of Teachers who oppose this measure say it could ultimately cost schools their lottery funds.
   Proposition 1D would shift $1.7 billion away from early childhood programs over the next five years to help balance the budget. Proponents like the California Teachers Association say temporary cuts would prevent deeper cuts. Opponents like the California PTA say it would deprive children in need.
   Proposition 1E Would divert about $400 million over the next two years away from mental health programs. Taxpayers groups are for the measure; mental health professionals say no because the damage will be permanent.
   Proposition 1F would prevent pay raises for legislators and statewide officeholders in deficit years. Proponents including Gov. Schwarzenegger say it’s the commonsense approach. Opponents like the National Association of Social Workers say it does nothing to fix the budget problem.

TRUS will dedicate

field to Maile Peck

   In her Neighbor Profile in The Kaweah Commonwealth on Aug. 23, 1996, Maile JoAnn Peck, a resident of Three Rivers since she was three years old, listed her favorite hobby as “being a spectator at Three Rivers School sports events.”
   To that end, Maile (1936-2006) will be honored by the Three Rivers School Foundation with the dedication of the school’s baseball field as the “Maile J. Peck Memorial Field.”
   Maile was born in Hawaii, but moved to Three Rivers with her parents Asa and Ester Peck when she was three years old. She resided here most of the rest of her life, graduating from Three Rivers School and Woodlake High School.
   Maile worked as an assistant in the Three Rivers Library for nearly 15 years. Following that assignment, she was a volunteer aid at Three Rivers School for 25 years.
   Every child raised in Three Rivers during that four-decade period knew Maile. In fact, it would be a safe wager to bet that she had at one time or another crossed paths with every single resident in Three Rivers during the time she resided here.
   The Poison Oak Men’s Summer Softball League was one of Maile’s favorite pastimes. She attended every game.
   That is why the TRUS Foundation will be hosting an event this weekend to name the baseball/softball field in Maile’s memory. Those who arrive at 4 p.m. will be able to partake in a family softball game, play tennis, or shoot some hoops while enjoying complimentary grilled hot dogs, chips, and ice-cold beverages.
   At 5 p.m., the dedication ceremony will commence with the unveiling of a sign designating for posterity the Maile J. Peck Memorial Field. Even though Maile is no longer with us, this gesture ensures that, for years to come, the school’s children and all who participate in or attend games at Three Rivers School will know that Maile is cheering them on as she had for so many decades before.
   For more information, call TRUS, 561-4466.

These houses are for the birds

by Brian Rothhammer

  “I love trees,” declared Gerald Woody as we walked in the backyard of his Three Rivers home on a fine spring day. “Most of the trees here I planted myself.”
   While pointing out a stand of live oaks, Gerald quipped, “People told me I’d never live long enough to stand in the shade of those.” The oaks he planted 20 years ago are now towering overhead.
   It’s not just the trees that make it a wondrous place. It’s what Woody has done with wood.
   Not only did he build his own sturdy and aesthetically pleasing backyard sheds and workshop, but from that workshop he has created the fantastic array of birdhouses and feeders that adorn the garden paths. At every delightful turn, the visitor is greeted with Gerald’s meticulously crafted flights of fancy.

  “I can’t remember a time that I didn’t work with wood,” said Gerald, and evidence of his handiwork is everywhere.
   Gerald Woody was born in Mansfield, Mo., on June 7, 1925, and came to California in 1936. He lived in Ducor, Lindsay, and Strathmore, which is where he met his wife-to-be, Ruth. They were married in 1944.
   That same year, Gerald enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving a stateside hitch until 1947. Since that time he has lived in Tulare County, raising a family and operating a 10-acre citrus farm in Exeter from 1967 to 1989.

  “I love it up here, this is where I want to be,” Gerald said of Three Rivers. “Even since ‘36 I said that if I’m ever able to retire, it’ll be in Three Rivers.”
   Since June 17, 1989, he has been living in his Cherokee Oaks home.
Through the 1950s and ‘60s, Woody attended night school courses at Porterville High School to hone his woodworking skills while making good use of the machines and tools there. Starting with a sewing cabinet for his wife, Gerald went on to build most of their household furniture.
   As with the wonders in the backyard, a guest at the Woodys’ home finds examples of his fine craftsmanship throughout. A stately grandfather’s clock, end tables, cabinets of intricate detail and innovative design; all crafted by one self-made man.
   Local residents may recall a series of scale-model log flumes that once graced the courtyard at the We Three Bakery. Those were made by Gerald, who had asked if they wanted “the water to ripple” as it flowed through the flumes. They did, so he built them with riffles like an old gold miner’s sluice box.

  “It’s mostly the birdhouses now and the feeders,” said Woody of his current work.
   In his workshop are several works in progress. Many of the birdfeeders are styled as miniature gazebos and are as elegant as they are functional. Birds may approach and use them from all sides and find them irresistible.
   The birdhouses take many forms, resembling quaint country houses with a combination of realism and whimsy. He builds them for friends and family and also offers some for sale.
   Word of mouth has been the usual way that people have found these avian domiciles, with several now in the Bakersfield area. One sale was to a fan in Japan. With recent exposure in a national magazine, Mr. Woody may soon find himself a bit busier in the shop.
   Of all the birdhouses, perhaps the most impressive is a multi-room, two-story cabin with dormer windows, porches, and a stone fireplace mounted on a thoroughly woodpecker-pecked post. The use of texture and weathered patina, along with attention to detail by the craftsman add greatly to the appeal.
   Always on the lookout for weathered wood, Gerald noticed that crews were replacing bird ravaged telephone poles and asked if he could purchase one. He was told that they could not be sold, but one was delivered to his door gratis. Gerald made good use of the gift.
   Keep in mind that Gerald is always on the lookout for woodpeckered wood and old barn wood. From these old boards and shingles, Gerald Woody builds warm, cozy safe homes for feathered friends near and far.
   Ed. Note: Three Rivers resident Marcia Goldstein alerted us to Birds & Blooms magazine’s May 2009 issue that included Gerald Woody in its birdhouse feature, “Home Tweet Home.”

Crystal Cave opens for season

   Daily tours began Saturday, May 9, at Crystal Cave, one of Sequoia National Park’s most popular visitor attractions. Operated by Sequoia Natural History Association, guided tours of the cave will be offered through October.
   Tickets for the cave tours are not available at Crystal Cave. They must be purchased at least an hour-and-a-half in advance at the Foothills or Lodgepole visitor centers.
   The cave tour season ended about a month early last year due to the Hidden Fire that burned in the vicinity. The fire destroyed the cave’s electrical system, which is expected to be repaired by July, but until then visitors will tour the cave with LED lanterns lining the trail. To further assist visitors in seeing the cave’s stunning formations, flashlights will be provided to those groups wishing to obtain one from the entry booth.
   Or better yet, bring your own. The dimmer lighting will be reminiscent of how the first explorers of Crystal Cave first experienced it, but a powerful flashlight will ensure that visitors get their money’s worth during their excursion.
   Crystal Cave was discovered in 1918 by two fishermen, who were also employees at Sequoia National Park. The cave opened to the public in 1940.
   The tour inside the cave is about a half-mile in length. The temperature is a constant 50 degrees, making it the place to be on a hot summer day.
   Tickets prices are $11 for adults, $10 for seniors 62 and older, and $6 for children ages six to 12 (children under six are free). Members of SNHA receive 50 percent off the ticket prices.
   Other tour options are available that take visitors off the beaten path, literally. Discovery and Wild Cave tours offer more in-depth exploration.
   For more information about Crystal Cave, visit: www.sequoiahistory.org


Weekly tip

Sun-protection strategies

   As the temperature warms, we tend to spend more time outside. So it’s important to be forewarned about melanoma. Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers, and incidences of melanoma are doubling every 10 to 20 years.
   The lifetime risk of developing melanoma was 1 in 1,500 in 1935; in 2002, it was 1 in 68. Metastatic melanoma is one of the most deadly of all malignancies.
   In the U.S., the movement of large segments of the population to warmer climates has resulted in increased hours spent in the sun, as well as poor sun-protection strategies.
   The testing of sunscreens in Australia found that they reduced the incidence of certain types of skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas), but led to an increase in melanoma incidence.
   This is not that surprising if one looks closely at how sunscreens work and what causes melanoma and its increased incidence. It is now known that sun-induced melanomas are caused predominately by UVA (one of three types of ultraviolet sunlight rays) exposure, so it is imperative to seek out a sunscreen with high levels of UVA protection.
   Strategies for lowering the risk of melanoma and skin cancer:

  —Do not sunburn. Sunburn, particularly early in life, increases lifetime risk of melanoma and skin cancer development. Monitor children when they are playing outside. A sunburn can occur after as little as 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure.

  —Apply generous amounts of a quality sunscreen. Most consumers apply only half of the recommended amount.

  —Apply a “broad spectrum” sunscreen, meaning a sunscreen with high levels of UVB and UVA protection.

  —Apply sunscreen to dry skin before going outside. Sunscreen applied to wet or sweaty skin is not as effective.

  —Sunscreens are vital but not foolproof. Use common sense and wear sun-protective clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and stay in the shade when possible.

  —An SPF15 sunscreen provides two hours of protection before a burn develops. SPF30 provides four hours of protection. The current SPF (sun protection factor) methodology breaks down as a reliable predictor of burn protection when one reaches an SPF of 30 to 33. SPF values above this level are marketing gimmicks and should be avoided. SPFs over 33 are of marginal additional benefit but have guaranteed higher active ingredient levels that increase the risk of irritation.
   Sunscreens were designed to protect against the sunburn-producing UVB rays. SPF tells about the level of UVB or burn protection, but provides no information about the level of UVA protection.
   UVA rays do not cause sunburn, but are the cause of solar aging and sun-induced melanoma. Use of a sunscreen with good UVB, but poor UVA protection will allow someone to stay out in the sun all day long without burning, but cooking themselves with UVA rays.
   This is the Australian paradox. Increase in sunscreen at the same time as an increase in the melanoma rate is noted.
   Select a sunscreen with a known level of UVA protection. The gold standard for rating UVA protection is “critical wavelength.” The American Academy of Dermatology is recommending that consumers use products with a critical wavelength of 370NM or higher.
   Sunlight is not all bad as it regulates our biological clocks and provides essential Vitamin D. Common sense should be used in regulating time in the sun.

Three Rivers Cemetery turns 100

by Gary Whitney


Saturday, May 30, 9 am

Three Rivers Cemetery

  The Three Rivers Cemetery project is still alive and well, and although progress seems to be slow at times, progress is being made. Over the last year, we have placed 12 more permanent grave markers and have purchased another eight.
   We have also started working on some of the cosmetic needs of the cemetery as well. The existing storage building has been painted and a landscaped area has been created near the entryway to the cemetery.
   We have planted 14 oaks that were provided by the Redbud Garden Club through memorial donations. We are also doing some improvements to the irrigation system.
   This will provide water to the new oaks until they can make it on their own. It also provides more convenient locations to access water for those who place floral arrangements.
   Gene Castro’s Tree Service has completed the pruning of the entire old section of the cemetery. The new pedestal for the redwood sign has been completed and the sign relocated to a more visible location. The sign itself was created by Three Rivers artist Frank Treuting (1921-2003) in 1963.
   Also, a foundation will be poured around the flagpole to allow for some decorative rockwork at the base of the pole. The flagpole was erected by the American Legion-Big Tree Post No. 301 and dedicated May 30, 1958.
   The Three Rivers Cemetery board would like to thank the Three Rivers Lions Club, Three Rivers Woman’s Club, the Redbud Garden Club, and the Three Rivers Community Services District for the continued support.
   We would also like to thank those who have contributed privately to the project. This generosity will benefit the community for years and years to come.
   Anyone with a desire to get involved in the project may contact me at 730-8365 or email gwhitneybrittencon@att.net.
   Gary Whitney is on the Three Rivers Cemetery board of directors. Three years ago this month, he embarked on a project to place permanent grave markers on 60-plus previously unmarked graves. In addition, he has spearheaded additional upgrades to the cemetery and organized several volunteer workdays to complete improvements.

The founding of
Three Rivers Cemetery
— 1909 —

    FEBRUARY 17— First organizational meeting held.
   MARCH 17— Charles Bahwell sells community one acre for cemetery for $10. Original site (Frank Finch property) was rejected by community.
   MARCH 24— Site cleared. Originally, five lots (20 graves) were set aside as a Potter’s Field for those who could not afford the $2.50 for a plot.
   MARCH 29— Eight rods set aside for hitching purposes (from just above the shop to the flagpole).
   MAY 27— Lots officially for sale — $2.50 per plot; $10 for a family plot of four. Charles Bahwell given a lot for his generous donation of land.
   MAY 31— First plots purchased by J.O. Carter, John Alles, I.C. Mullenix, followed in June by James Barton and George Cahoon.
   DECEMBER 22— Charles Blossom and Jason Barton donated right-of-way easement to the cemetery; received one lot each for their gift.
Information compiled by Gary Whitney.


Becky Barton
1956 ~ 2009

  Rebecca Lynn Turner Barton died Tuesday, May 12, 2009, at Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia after a valiant year-long battle with cancer. She was 52.
   Becky was born Oct. 28, 1956, in Visalia to Ted and Jeanne Turner. She was raised and educated in Visalia, graduating from Mt. Whitney High School in 1974.
   On March 28, 1986, Becky married Mark Barton. The couple built a home in Three Rivers and moved into it later that year.
   For the past several years, Becky was a self-employed housekeeper in Three Rivers. Her favorite endeavor, however, was tending her immense garden, which was a showcase of blooms and foliage, as well as habitat for any bird, animal, amphibian, or reptile that wished to visit or reside there.
   Becky is survived by her husband of 23 years Mark Barton of Three Rivers; her mother Jeanne Cote of Visalia; and sister Terri Fisher and husband Ron of Visalia.
   Private services will be held.

Shirley Thorn
1930 ~ 2009

  Shirley Nelson Thorn, a longtime resident of Three Rivers, died Friday, April 24, 2009, in Visalia. She was 79.
   A memorial service will be held Sunday, June 7, at 2 p.m., at the Ash Mountain Rec Center in Sequoia National Park.
   Shirley was born April 9, 1930, in Escalon, Calif., to James and Margaret Nelson. She moved to Three Rivers in 1950 and was proud to call Three Rivers “home” for the rest of her life.
   Shirley was dedicated to the community she loved. She was a past president of the Lady Lions Club, served on the Three Rivers Union School board of trustees, and had been a Three Rivers Ambulance volunteer.
   Shirley was employed by the National Park Service in Sequoia National Park for 30 years, working in various positions until her retirement in 1992 from the maintenance department, where she was affectionately known as “Mother Maintenance.”
   Shirley was predeceased by her son, Craig S. Thorn III, and brother James Parker Nelson.
   Shirley is greatly missed and adored by her survivors who include her daughter Kathryn Montejano and husband Michael of Three Rivers; son Matthew Thorn and wife Elise of Honolulu, Hawaii; daughter-in-law Maggie Thorn Loverin; sister-in-law Jan Nelson; her grandchildren, Heather Stieler, Megan Thorn, Nicole French, Haley Thorn, Margaret Shelander, Tucker Thorn, and Maxwell Thorn; and great-grandchildren Craig Stieler, Kelsi Stieler, Alijah Thorn, Michael Stieler, Avery Thorn, and Sabine Bousek.
   In lieu of remembrances or flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Three Rivers Union School Foundation, P.O. Box 99, Three Rivers, CA 93271.

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
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