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In the News -
Friday, MAY 26, 2006
River's Middle Fork during Spring 2006 runoff.
River poses dangers
Normally, Three Rivers residents are very welcoming and will
go out of their way to make visitors feel at home. But, this weekend,
if you are spotted near one scenic attraction, you will be told: “Get
What could possibly make Three Rivers folks be so rude? The
During this time of year, the river is swift, cold, and DEADLY.
So do not venture near it — the rocks on the shore are slippery
— and do not attempt to swim in it as even the calmest-looking pool
has hidden undercurrents and rapids lurking just downstream.
The only way to safely be near the Kaweah is with a commercial
whitewater-rafting company. Prior to embarking on the river, guides will
teach water-safety and lifesaving skills and then provide the proper technical
gear and have trained professionals onboard.
THREE RIVERS WEATHER:
Although there is a chance of a thundershower on Saturday
and cooler temperatures in the 70s, the unstable conditions shouldn’t
put a damper on Kaweah Country visitor activity. All area campgrounds
and local lodging are expected to fill early on Friday to kick off the
first big holiday weekend that marks the unofficial start to the summer
The slightly cooler temperatures should help put the brakes
on a quickly-melting Sierra snowpack that already has Lake Kaweah approaching
capacity. As of May 25, the storage had surpassed 180,000 acre-feet with
less than two feet to go to reach spillway elevation of 715 feet.
Dam-tenders expect to match the mean inflow of 2,500 cubic
feet per second by releasing just slightly less than that amount. The
approximate release of 2,000 cubic feet per second will have the effect
of slowing the rate of the rise of the enlarged Lake Kaweah basin that
can store 186,000 acre feet and is expected to reach its capacity on Memorial
The annual rise of Lake Kaweah slowed dramatically on the
heels of cooler temperatures ushered in by a surprise late-season storm.
The system dumped more than .75 of an inch of rain at 1,000 feet in Three
Rivers during the 24-hour period that ended Monday, May 22. That rainfall
event brought the local season total to more than 28 inches.
That total made the current season nearly identical with
last year, but high-country snow has been melting at a rate slightly ahead
of 2005. The warmer temperatures in the first three weeks of May were
not enough to enable the full opening of Cold Springs Campground (limited
spaces due to snow; first-come, first-served only).
The water system for West Mineral King remains off for the
cabin community and Cold Springs Campground. According to a National Park
Service spokesperson, those areas should be fully operating by the following
Friday (June 2).
The Mineral King Road will open as planned at noon today
(Friday, May 26) and is snow-free to road’s end. Camping is available
at Atwell Mill Campground just below Silver City and by permit in the
In the main area of Sequoia National Park, all foothills
campgrounds will be open, but due to lingering snow, Lodgepole will have
limited sites open and Dorst Campground will remain closed.
In Kings Canyon National Park, all campgrounds will be open
for the holiday weekend.
In the Giant Sequoia National Monument, all campgrounds are
open except for the following:
Princess Campground in the Hume Lake area will have a portion
of the campground closed due to winter damage. Both Stony Creek campgrounds
and the Big Meadows area campgrounds remain closed due to snow.
For Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks information, call
565-3341. For Giant Sequoia National Monument information, call 338-2251.
Sheriff’s candidates face off
The Candidates’ Night and Law Enforcement Forum held
Monday, May 22, in the McDowall Auditorium placed Three Rivers squarely
at the center of the political map of Tulare County. The town meeting
was spirited in the best campaign tradition and furnished the 125 who
attended with a unique glimpse of the non-partisan race for sheriff.
The event was unique because it is the only face-off between
the two candidates prior to the June 6 election. While some came expecting
a debate, the contest between the two men who would be Tulare County’s
top cop was more like sparring partners throwing some effective jabs but
stopping short of delivering a knockout punch.
“Three Rivers is
to be commended for having this forum,” said one Lindsay resident
in attendance, “but why aren’t we doing this in any other
towns around the county?”
That may have been one of the most difficult questions of
the night and might signal voter apathy in cities where folks have more
contact with law enforcement. In outlying areas of the county, some residents
are feeling underserved and there is more interest in the race for sheriff.
The race comes down to two career cops; Bill Wittman, incumbent
versus the challenger John Zapalac, Woodlake’s current police chief
running for county sheriff for the first time.
During the Three Rivers program, conducted in a town hall
format developed by The Kaweah Commonweath, both candidates had the opportunity
to make prepared statements and respond to a series of questions.
Chief Zapalac stressed employing better public relations
in what he refers to as his community-based policing. That term, according
to Sheriff Wittman means standing behind his 11 resident deputies and
the more than 600 employees of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.
as he is affectionately called in Woodlake, made it clear that he is not
running because he is looking for a job. He has a very good job as chief
of police, he said.
“From the beginning
 when I arrived in Woodlake I gathered all the community leaders
together to identify the problems and find the solutions,” Zapalac
recalled. “With the schools, the city staff, and the businesses
all working together we were able to turn things around. That’s
the very same approach I want to take when I am elected.”
Zapalac also said when he goes into the outlying areas of
the county he is hearing the same old story. Gangs are out of control
and drugs are rampant, he says.
Because of our involvement with youth in Woodlake we are
seeing gang activity and drug use going down, Zapalac said.
Zapalac threw some jabs at the County’s mismanagement
of the pre-trial facility and the sheriff’s department high attrition
rate among its employees.
“We need to solve
these problems,” Zapalac said.
Wittman, confidant when it comes to talking about his 12
years as sheriff strolled into the audience while speaking.
“I want to talk
about gangs… and the county has eight full-time positions to fight
gangs,” Sheriff Wittman said. “But there’s a lot of
difference between Woodlake and the Sheriff’s Department.”
Wittman said the county has 666 employees, 4 substations,
houses 1,400 inmates, which includes about half as many deputies as needed
to do the job.
“We have the programs
for youth like the Police Athletic League and we also take kids camping,”
Wittman said. “Being sheriff you have to make some hard decisions.
There’s only so much we can do with the resources we have.”
The most pressing question of the night focused on 9-1-1
responses and the time it takes after a crime has been committed. Response
times can vary minutes to an hour or several hours depending on what’s
going on in other parts of the county and if the local deputy is available.
Both candidates agreed that something needs to be done.
very thin and we need more deputies,” Wittman said.
The candidates also agreed that like Fresno County, the Tulare
County General Plan should contain a mandate for at least one deputy for
every 1,000 residents but quite frankly the money does not presently exist
to fund the additional manpower.
Prior to the remarks by the candidates, Dave King and Don
Thompson resident VIPs (Volunteers in Patrol) made a presentation on their
duties that assist the sheriff’s in non-emergency situations.
“Our services are
valued at $18 per hour and we save the taxpayers more than $500,000 annually,”
said Don Thompson. “We hope tonight some of you will take an application
and join the VIPs.”
YOKOHL VALLEY DEVELOPMENT:
details Yokohl Valley plan
An informational website on the proposed foothills master-planned
community in Yokohl Valley is now online. Located at www.YokohlRanch.com,
the website contains details and factual information about the land-use
process now underway by the J.G. Boswell Company, owner of the ranchland.
Among the pages on the website, there is a form that visitors
may complete to receive updates on the development’s progress.
Lake Kaweah fish tale
Larry Phillips of Visalia caught a 14-pound, 13-ounce bass
on Sunday, May 14, at Lake Kaweah near the second boat ramp. Lunkers are
being landed in the lake, but there’s been lots of lost tackle in
For up-to-date information on where the fish are being caught,
visit Rack ‘Em Out, on Highway 198 at the Woodlake turnoff.
BLACK BEAR MANAGEMENT:
Saver’ trash cans
in Three Rivers
In an attempt to keep more bears wild and out of Three Rivers
garbage cans, Waste Connections, Inc., the current local disposal company,
is looking to purchase hundreds of new bear-proof curbside containers.
On Friday, May 19, Marty Stone, a longtime area route driver,
and his operations manager, David Gomez, attended a demonstration of the
new product in the parking lot at Holiday Inn Express. The container resembles
the distinctive green one now in use but has an inside latch that, according
to Steve Thompson, marketing director, even a bruin smarter than the average
bear can’t figure out.
using these containers all over the Yosemite area and even their bad bears
can’t get into these cans,” said Thompson.
Thompson’s company, Bear Saver, is headquartered in Ontario, Calif.,
and markets the product anywhere there are bears. The company brochure
also touts the fact that their cans have been thoroughly tested by both
black bears and their more aggressive grizzly counterparts.
“This is obviously
something we could use here in Three Rivers,” said Marty Stone,
who has worked in the disposal business for nearly two decades. “But
every move we make is regulated by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors
so even if we want to buy these cans we have to have approval.”
The cans sell for $140 each and somehow the company would
have to seek the funding to offset the huge investment.
“The only disadvantage
would be that each customer would have to remember to unlatch the container
lid on trash day,” said Stone. “If somebody forgets, we have
to get out of the truck and do it ourselves.”
An obvious advantage would be if a bear did knock over a
can, there wouldn’t be any mess to clean up and the critter would
be denied the easy pickings.
the bears get frustrated and learn to just leave them alone,” said
Thompson. “The success rate for saving bears where these cans are
in use has been very impressive.”
Last Saturday, under the guise of celebrating their 30th
wedding anniversary, Greg and Pam Lockhart of Three Rivers instead hosted
guests of honor Jack and Joyce Nielsen of Three Rivers.
For the past 10 years, the Nielsens have spearheaded the
Comfort for Kids project. In that time, volunteers have completed 9,012
quilts that were donated to young patients at Children’s Hospital
A tribute to the Nielsens was read by Ginger Curtis, whose
daughter, Sara, was a recipient of two Comfort for Kids quilts. Ginger
and husband Robert lost their seven-year-old daughter on Aug. 15, 2005,
after a year-long battle with leukemia.
The Nielsens spend much of their time and resources funding
this worthy project. To show their appreciation, the Lockharts requested
that in lieu of anniversary gifts that party-goers instead make a donation
to Comfort for Kids.
As a result, more than $3,200 was raised and presented to
The Lockhart family’s philanthropy has assisted both
local and international causes in the past as they have organized fundraisers
that range from assisting Asian tsunami victims to a Three Rivers family
with medical expenses related to their son’s hospitalization.
VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2006:
This year, all who attend the annual Vacation Bible School
day camp will be whisked away to a tropical paradise called “Treasure
Cove.” Every day, kids will embark on a treasure hunt, digging into
Scripture to discover the greatest treasure of all — Jesus Christ.
The tropical adventure will be led by “Treasure Seekers”
(camp counselors) who will lead “Search Parties” of campers
through five activity sites daily. At each station, kids will collect
a clue to assist them in finding the treasure.
The activities include skits and storytelling, music and
songs, snacks, crafts, and outdoor games.
Each day will begin with the “Find-the-Treasure”
opening and end with the “Claim-Your-Treasure” closing. Children
will be taught the importance of a relationship with God, take part in
a mission project, and learn the values of love, forgiveness, and giving
Vacation Bible School has been a traditional summer activity
in Three Rivers for many years. It is a success each year due to the volunteers
who spend many hours planning the event and working with the children.
Currently, adults and teens are needed to assist at the interdenominational
Vacation Bible School. There are openings for Treasure Seekers, game helpers,
skit actors, and food servers. Also needed are leaders to assist with
set decorating, art, music, and drama.
Teens who qualify to assist with Vacation Bible School will
be eligible to receive community service credit.
To register a child for Vacation Bible School or to volunteer,
call Portia Gunnerud (561-3302) or the Community Presbyterian Church (561-3385).
THREE RIVERS CEMETERY
will take a village
By Gary Whitney
Memorial Day weekend is upon us. It is a time in which we
are supposed to stop and remember those who are no longer with us.
It seems that since 1971, when Memorial Day was moved from
the traditional day of May 30 to the last Monday in May to make it a three-day
weekend, the holiday has lost its focus.
I want us to focus now on something that has bothered me
and others for quite some time. In my 25 years of working for L.E. Britten
Construction, I have been called on many times to take a backhoe to the
Three Rivers Cemetery to dig a grave.
Over the years, I have worked with four different caretakers
and several different board members, digging graves and doing other improvements
as their budget has allowed.
We have had outstanding stewards of our cemetery. Whether
volunteer or otherwise, they have always gone about their work with concern
for the families and respect for the deceased. Unfortunately, with a budget
bordering on nothing, projects that need to be done have to be set aside
for long periods of time.
With the approval of the Three Rivers Cemetery board of directors,
I have a project that we can start on now. There are 60 or more unmarked
graves in the cemetery.
There used to be temporary markers at these graves while
they awaited permanent ones, but the temporaries are just that, temporary.
The passage of time amongst other things has erased them from the land.
The earliest unmarked grave is from 1909 and they continue
right up to the present. Finding relatives in a lot of cases will prove
to be quite difficult.
Due to the number needed and the circumstances involved,
a monument company from Tulare will allow us to purchase brass plaques
at a reduced price. These in turn will be set in concrete and placed permanently
at each gravesite.
Because of the number of graves and the cost of materials,
I assume this project will take quite some time. The plan is to start
from the past and work toward the present, simply because the newer ones
have more of a chance that the family will place markers at their graves.
However, if someone donates for a specific grave, that grave
will be done immediately.
It will “take a village” to make this work. The
greatest effort should be made to locate family and seek approval.
Funds will have to be raised and mental as well as physical
labor done. We can make it where these souls will be forgotten no longer.
If you have a heart for this project, please contact me for
further details. We need researchers, fundraisers, skilled and unskilled
labor, and people with good organizational skills.
Gary Whitney is a longtime resident of
1978 ~ 2006
Samuel Cooper Stovall of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, died Thursday,
May 11, 2006. He was 27.
Sam was born July 18, 1978, in Visalia, the third and youngest
child of Chuck and LaNell Stovall. He died due to injuries sustained when
the car he was driving collided with a moose on Alaska’s Parks Highway.
Sam attended schools in Visalia and Woodlake and graduated
from Mt. Whitney High School in 1996. He was a record-breaking swimmer
who still holds some Central Valley records and attended and also swam
for the University of Southern California, where he graduated in May 2000
with a degree in Television/Cinema.
Since his college graduation, Sam hiked the 2,600-mile Pacific
Crest Trail and lived in a rural village in Guatemala to immerse himself
in and learn the Spanish language.
Prior to moving to Alaska in 2003, Sam coached the Woodlake
Tiger Sharks and was a substitute teacher in Visalia. He also worked summers
at the Silver City Mountain Resort in the Mineral King area of Sequoia
National Park, where he had spent a couple of summers as a young boy when
his parents managed the property.
Sam is survived by his parents, Chuck and LaNell Stovall
of Colorado Springs, Colo.; his brother, Jesse Stovall and wife Jennifer
of Aurora, Colo.; sister Sarah Wehrli and husband Josh of Sachse, Texas;
his grandparents, Jim and Susie Stovall of Three Rivers and Norman and
Dorine Warren of Visalia; and many aunts, uncles, nephews, a niece, and
A memorial service will be held Sunday, June 4, at 2 p.m.,
at the Calvary Chapel of Visalia.
Remembrances may be made to: Unalaska Christian Fellowship’s
homeless ministry, P.O. Box 265, Unalaska, AK 99685; or the Friends of
the Library, P.O. Box 1370, Unalaska, AK 99685.