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In the News - Friday, MAY 18, 2007

Park shuttle

revs up for next week

   After years of planning, the final piece of the Giant Forest restoration plan, the in-park shuttle, is set to begin service Wednesday, May 23, just in time for the season’s first holiday weekend onslaught of tourists. The highly anticipated shuttle buses, which kick off with Wednesday’s “soft start,” will eventually, if all goes according to plan, coax visitors out of their vehicles to, in the words of the promoters, “enjoy the ride with us.”
   Those in attendance at the Three Rivers Town Meeting last Monday evening were among the first to hear about the shuttle service and also receive a brochure that outlined pick-up points and route schedules.

  “We’re not sure how the new service is going to work,” admitted Leslie Caviglia, Visalia’s deputy city manager who addressed the Three Rivers meeting. “But we are committed to this schedule for the first year.”
   That schedule includes five 16-seat buses that will run from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. departing from the Holiday Inn in Visalia. After making three more stops in downtown Visalia, approximately 50 minutes later the buses will make stops at the Comfort Inn and Suites and the Memorial Building in Three Rivers.
   After a restroom stop at the Foothills Visitor Center in Ash Mountain, the buses will embark on the steepest part of the scheduled 2½-hour trip, which is the Generals Highway to the Giant Forest Museum parking lot. There passengers may visit the attractions in that area or board in-park buses for Wuksachi, Lodgepole, and Crescent Meadow.
   The Wuksachi-Lodgepole route will be serviced by a 28-passenger shuttle while the Crescent Meadow route will use the smaller 16-passenger vehicle. The connecting route outside the park is $10 per person roundtrip, which includes park entrance admission (currently, $20 per vehicle but expected to be raised to $25 in January 2008).
   The in-park shuttle is free and will depart on a loop of the major Giant Forest attractions about every 15 minutes. All the shuttle vehicles are equipped with bike racks.
   Caviglia said that she and her staff have traveled many miles and conducted countless hours of research trying to find the right shuttle program that would connect the Valley and the local national parks. Last summer, she took her family to Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks to experience a park shuttle firsthand.

  “Every park has its own rhythm in how the visitors use the shuttle,” Caviglia said. “We need to learn how the people are going to use the Sequoia shuttle.”
   The two types of shuttles are essentially separate experiments. Park officials are reserved in their optimism but they think the free service will be successful.
   Visalia transit officials don’t really know what to expect because a shuttle like this one, funded by several grants, is unprecedented. Caviglia said she hopes that a growing number of users could eventually help pay for the Visalia portion of the service.

  “Transportation systems like these and especially the park shuttles are not operated to make a profit,” said Craig Axtell, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   Alexandra Picavet, the parks’ information officer, said the shuttle will provide numerous options for walkers, hikers, and disabled visitors.

  “We’re advising that when you board in Giant Forest or Wuksachi to take the shuttle to the end of the line and work your way back,” Picavet said. “That way you have options depending on how much you want to see or do or you can hike a trail and board at another stop.”
   What’s missing from the service is a way to eliminate the use of the automobile altogether unless you can coordinate your schedule with another bus that links Visalia to the Amtrak station in Hanford or the Fresno airport. Once in the park or at a Three Rivers destination, the return to a train or airport would be difficult because the first shuttle doesn’t return to Visalia until 4:30 p.m.

  “It will be possible to start a roundtrip on the return to the Valley, but for the first year the schedule will be limited,” Caviglia said.
   In other business, Supervisor Allen Ishida assured everyone that when the new Tulare County Fire Department begins service July 1, the level of local protection will be improved.

  “We will have more equipment and more experienced personnel on duty in Three Rivers than are here now,” Ishida said.
   Ishida also said that returning the Lemon Cove Fire Station to service would ensure that more personnel will be on duty.
   It’s critical to maintain the personnel, he said, because 75 percent of all county fire calls are medical aids.

Woman alleges assault

at Lake Kaweah

   The computer is an indispensable tool in the modern world, but it can also be used for sinister purposes. Popular websites like help cyber strangers make friends easily and, frequently, these new acquaintances arrange to meet in person.
   In a recent incident, a Visalia man began chatting to a Woodlake teenager on a site and they arranged to meet in the early morning hours of Friday, May 11, at the Lemon Hill parking area by Lake Kaweah. Later that morning, the woman, who recently turned 18, reported to deputies that she had been sexually assaulted.
   According to Sgt. Chris Douglass, spokesperson for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, a patrol deputy developed information that an assault had occurred at the Lake Kaweah parking area. Detectives interviewed the victim and later arrested Cody Michael Martin, 24, of Visalia.
   Martin was taken into custody without incident. He was booked at the Tulare County Jail and later released. The Tulare County District Attorney is currently investigating the assault charge.
   In another case, an 11-year-old Porterville girl, posing as a 16-year-old, arranged to rendezvous with a 21-year-old male college student from Los Angeles she had met in an Internet chat room. According to evidence in that case, the girl became involved in a sexual relationship after she sneaked out to meet the man. Details about the encounters came to the attention of the girl’s teachers when she boasted about her exploits at school.
   If these computer-arranged get-togethers are done under truthful circumstances, they can be the start of a casual friendship or even a more meaningful relationship. But criminal investigators are learning that an increasing number of these encounters are being done under false pretenses and these situations have the potential to lead to tragedy.
   Sgt. Douglass said it is very important that parents monitor what their children are doing on the Internet and that there are technology resources and help networks available to provide help.
   Most important, Douglass said, is for parents to know who the child’s friends are and what their kids are doing with these friends.

3R playground dedicated

   When two or more members of the Three Rivers community put their heads together, there are no limits as to what might be accomplished. But when those proverbial heads are determined Three Rivers moms on a mission for their children, the results can be a historic, groundbreaking project.
   In the late-1990s, it was former Three Rivers resident Sharon Sheltzer, a mother of two boys, who with the help of her bike lane committee, channeled more than $1 million in transportation enhancement funding into a visionary segment of bike lane. Now a group of Three Rivers moms have delivered “Our Place,” an unprecedented playground project funded by First 5 of Tulare County and a local volunteer coalition.

  “This playground is a unique project for First 5,” Phil Cox, First 5 commissioner and county supervisor said at the May 11 dedication. “We found ourselves with a pot of money and a project that we could do right here in Three Rivers.”
   But to make it happen it took a community matching grant (nearly $50,000 in labor and construction services), access to the site owned by Tulare County adjacent to the Three Rivers Library, and a lease/maintenance agreement provided by the Three Rivers Community Services District.
   Once the local moms — Maria Howell and Elizabeth van Mantgem — had a project concept and some momentum, they would not be denied.

  “It was just another example of the Three Rivers community coming together that made this playground a reality,” said Maria Howell. “We moms and the kids were coming to the library anyway so it just seemed like a natural place for the project.”
   The dedication ceremony attracted an overflowing crowd and featured some short speeches and lots of special thanks while more than a dozen toddlers were entertained on the nearby play structure.
   A highlight of the historic day was the installation of Steve Esson’s custom weather-resistant sign.
   More than half of the grant, the cash portion, was furnished by First 5, a county commission created to distribute tobacco tax monies for special projects. The local matching funds were donated by volunteers led by the Three Rivers Lions who helped prepare the site and install the play structure.

‘Three Rivers Fan Club’ being organized

for Miss California 2007 pageant

   With two young women who were raised in Three Rivers competing against each other and 47 other contestants for the title of Miss California 2007, local interest in the statewide competition will be high.
   Meaghan Swinney was crowned Miss Tulare County on February 24. Jennifer LaMar received the Miss Stanislaus County crown on March 3.
   Both advance to the Miss California scholarship pageant, which will be held Saturday, June 30, beginning at 7 p.m., at the William Saroyan Theatre in the Fresno Convention Center.

  “To say that the entire town is proud of Jennifer and Meaghan would be an understatement,” said Elizabeth LaMar, Jennifer’s mother. “Both are beautiful, talented, and intelligent young women who have represented their hometown with enormous grace.”
   Meaghan, 17, is just completing her freshman year at College of the Sequoias in Visalia. She has been busy representing Tulare County at various events, including the Three Rivers Roping and the Special Olympics.
   Jennifer, 21, will be entering her senior year at Cal State Stanislaus in the fall. She is an art major.
  Tickets and itinerary-- Currently, the LaMar family is organizing a Three Rivers Fan Club to cheer for both Meaghan and Jennifer and will arrange for the purchase of a block of seats so local residents may sit together.
   The tickets must be purchased prior to June 1 and will be at a slight discount, so if interested in obtaining seating with the Three Rivers Fan Club, call the LaMars as soon as possible.
   The tickets being purchased are for the final event, but there are preliminary competitions scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, June 27 through 29, at 8 p.m., that will determine the semifinalists.
   The final night of competition will begin with the top 10 semifinalists being announced. Those contestants will compete in talent, swimsuit, on-stage questions, and eveningwear.
   Five will be selected at the completion of these four categories. They then will compete in an on-stage interview for scholarships.
The pageant will conclude with the announcement of the four runners-up and the crowning of Miss California 2007.
   Scholarships will be provided to Miss California ($10,000), to the first through fourth runner-ups, to the five other semi-finalists, and in dozens of other categories. All other contestants will receive a scholarship in the amount of $1,000.
   To purchase tickets separately from the Three Rivers contingent, they are currently on sale for all four nights at a 10 percent discount. These all-event ticket-holders will receive priority seating and are guaranteed the same seat location for all four performances. The cost is $105 for balcony seating or $115 for the lower level.
   After June 1, individual tickets will go on sale at a cost of $25 (balcony) or $27.50 for Wednesday and Thursday; $30 and $32.50 for Friday.
   For the final competition Saturday evening, the cost is $35 (balcony) and $40 (lower level). In addition, there is a $5 service charge assessed on all ticket orders.
   Tickets may be purchased by calling TicketMaster at (550) 485-8497. Tickets may also be purchased at the Fresno Convention Center box office, 700 M St.
   To be a part of the Three Rivers Fan Club, call Steve or Elizabeth LaMar, 561-4154.

Pageant royalty and their local ties

  1964— Jeanne Venables, Miss Carmichael, was crowned Miss California and competed in the Miss USA pageant, where she was a semifinalist and named Miss Congeniality. Jeanne, who is now deceased, is the sister of Karin Callahan, a resident of Tulare County.
   1971— Valinda Walters of Woodlake was crowned Miss Tulare County. She advanced to the Miss California pageant where she received a scholarship for her talent performance.
   2004— Janessa Wells is the first Three Rivers resident to be crowned Miss Tulare County. She was one of 10 semifinalists in the Miss California pageant.

100 feet clearance…

it’s the law

   The vegetation dried out quickly this year in the foothills and the weedeating has begun.
   Cal Fire inspectors have also started their seasonal chore of checking foothill properties for proper clearance around all structures to maintain a “defensible space” in the event of a wildland fire.
   As of last year, state law requires 100 feet of clearance. That’s one-third the length of a football field.
   Cal Fire will relax that requirement and enforce 30 feet of clearance this year, so property owners may ease into the more stringent requirement. Next year, citations will be issued if clearance requirements are not followed to the letter of the law.
   To maintain proper clearance, grass and weeds must be cut; tree limbs trimmed, both low-growing and those overhanging a structure; and woodpiles and flammable debris must be removed.

Ticks and their tricks

   These teeny-weeny arachnids are to be avoided by both pets and people. But it’s hard to do.
   Ticks are parasites that are so small that they are not usually seen until they have attached themselves to their warm-blooded host and gorged themselves to 10 times their original size.
   They will hang on the tip of a blade of grass, just waiting for their next victim to walk by. Then they climb on for the ride and a free meal of blood.
   They have a fish-hook type of structure in their mouths that allows them to anchor themselves firmly in place. Generally they will drop off of the host when they are full, but this can take several days.
   Once firmly lodged into the skin, a tick can be hard to remove. Normally, an attempt to dislodge a tick takes two tries as the body is pulled out but the head remains embedded.
   There is much misinformation on how to remove a tick from the body, so put away the matches and the gasoline. Instead, grab the tick firmly with tweezers as close to the host’s body and the tick’s head as possible.
   Don’t twist or turn the tweezers, but pull straight out. Remember, it’s attached like a harpoon, so it will take some effort.
If the tick’s head remains in the body, it should be treated like a splinter. It’s what’s in the tick’s body that puts a person at risk for a bacterial infection.
   Lyme disease can be transmitted by the bite of certain species of infected ticks, including the deer tick that makes its home in the Sierra foothills.
   Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
   Most cases of early-stage Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Treatment for later stages is more difficult and often requires extended and repeated treatment of antibiotic therapy.
   A blood test will aid in the diagnosis of Lyme disease.
   The best way to prevent a tick bite is to keep pets outdoors or check them thoroughly before they are allowed back in the house, using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeves and pants when hiking or performing outdoor chores, and always checking the entire body for ticks after being outside near vegetation (even on a mowed lawn).

Chimney Rock area

closed to visitors

   The area within one-quarter of a mile of Chimney Rock near the Hume Lake area of Giant Sequoia National Monument is closed to all entry. The area is a traditional nesting site for peregrine falcons, an endangered species in California.
   The closure will remain in effect until August 30 or when nesting concludes and the birds leave the area. The closure will affect mainly hikers and climbers.
   Historically, peregrine falcons nested on the cliffs in the Chimney Rock area until the 1970s, when DDT caused nest failures that led to their disappearance. In 1993, peregrine falcons were discovered using the cliff north of Chimney Rock.
   At that time, disturbance by humans again threatened the nesting success of the birds. To avoid having the birds abandon their nests again, a seasonal closure was implemented.
   Monitoring by volunteers and Forest Service biologists has found that the birds now annually return to the area and the continuation of the seasonal closures is necessary.
   Peregrine falcons are a medium-sized bird and one of the fastest on the planet. When diving for prey, they can reach speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour.
   They feed almost entirely on other birds. They breed at about two or three years of age, mate for life, and return to the same breeding site every year.
   In 2006, for the first time in recent history, a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on Chimney Rock successfully hatched a chick.

Local bank

announces ‘Shred Day’

   Whether a customer of the Bank of the Sierra or not, everyone is invited to bring documents in for shredding on the monthly Shred Day that will occur throughout 2007. On the last Monday of each month (except for May due to Memorial Day), the public is encouraged to bring any unneeded, important documents into any of the branches for free and secure shred services.
The benefits of this service are two-fold:
   First, shredding personal information is the key step that individuals can take to prevent becoming victims of identity theft. Identity theft is the fastest growing form of consumer fraud in North America with nine million people falling victim each year.
   Consumers can protect themselves against this crime by regularly destroying confidential documents, rather than disposing of them in garbage cans or recycling bins where dumpster-diving thieves can obtain the sensitive material.
   Second, all the shredded documents will be recycled. The waste will be manufactured into many different types of paper products.
   In cooperation with Shred-it, an onsite document-destruction company, Bank of the Sierra recycled enough paper in 2006 to save 772 trees. Shred-it estimates that through all their partnerships they are saving seven million trees annually.
   Bank of the Sierra has 21 branches throughout the southern San Joaquin Valley.
   The Three Rivers branch is located on Sierra Drive across from the Village Shopping Center and will be holding the monthly Shred Days.


James Little
1934 ~ 2007

   James Little, 72, of Lemon Cove and Three Rivers died Thursday, May 10, 2007, at his son’s home in Ramona, Calif.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 19, at 11 a.m., at the Church at Kaweah.
   James was born to John Russell Little and Grace Little on July 14, 1934. He attended UC Berkeley for three years, then volunteered and served in the U.S. Marines for two years.
   On Feb. 19, 1961, James married his wife, Lorna. They were blessed with two children Lynn and John.
   In 1971, after working 10 years for J.C. Penney, he moved his family to Alaska where he spent the next seven years as the store manager for Montgomery Ward in Anchorage.
   The Littles then moved to Napa and then on to Sacramento, where he was zone staff for Montgomery Ward.
   In 1982, James moved the family to Lemon Cove where he spent the next 21 years as store manager for Montgomery Ward in Visalia.
   Although James had a very successful career, his number-one passion in life occurred when he attended a Christian businessmen’s breakfast and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. It finally became real to him that Christ died for him on the cross.
   This excitement for Heaven and Jesus never grew old. The last time he saw his daughter, Lynn, he excitedly said that he was ready to go!
   After Jesus, James was a devoted family man. Every moment he had away from the store, he would spend with his family.
   While in Alaska he took them camping, hiking, fishing, clam-digging, or snow-skiing almost every weekend.
   He always encouraged hard work and individual responsibility. He was a wonderful father and faithful husband. He will live on in the lives of his children and grandchildren.
   In addition to his wife of 46 years, Lorna Marie Little, James is survived by his daughter, Dr. Lynn (Little) Buckler and son-in-law Dr. John Buckler; his son, John Russell Little III and daughter-in-law Cathi (Rodrigues) Little and their children, Raymie Jean, 11, and John Russell Little IV, 9, of Ramona; and his brother, Dr. John Russell Little II, of St. Louis, Mo.
   James was very excited about working with the American Missionary Camp Fellowship. To support this, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Face to Face Ministries, c/o General Delivery, Kaweah, CA 93237.

   The following are California residents killed in Iraq as announced by the governor’s office this week:
   U.S. Army Private First Class Jay-D H. Ornsby-Adkins, 21, of Ione, died Saturday, April 28, as a result of injuries sustained when his vehicle was struck with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire during combat operations in Salman Pak, Iraq.
   U.S. Marine First Lieutenant Travis L. Manion, 26, of Doylestown, Pa., stationed at Camp Pendleton, died Sunday, April 29, as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Specialist Astor A. Sunsin-Pineda, 20, of Long Beach died Wednesday, May 2, in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
   U.S. Army Sergeant Felix G. Gonzalez-Iraheta, 25, of Sun Valley died Thursday, May 3, in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire.

  Total U.S. deaths—
Iraq area: 3,382 (as of May 11)
Afghanistan area: 321 (as of May 5)

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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