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In the News - Friday, MAY 26, 2006

 

The Kaweah River's Middle Fork during Spring 2006 runoff.

 

Kaweah 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 out!”
   What could possibly make Three Rivers folks be so rude? The Kaweah River.
   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:

Cooler weather arrives

for holiday weekend

   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 season.
   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 Day.
   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 backcountry.
   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.

TULARE COUNTY

LAW ENFORCEMENT:
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.

  “Chief Zap,” 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 [1998] 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.

  “We’re spread 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:

Website 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 the river.
   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:

‘Bear Saver’ trash cans

previewed 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.

  “They’re 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.

  “After awhile, 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.”

Party benefits

Comfort for Kids

   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 Central California.
   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 Nielsens.
   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:

Register kids now

for Vacation Bible School

   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 thanks.
   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

Speaking Out:
Creating permanent

memorials 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 Three Rivers.

OBITUARY
Sam Stovall
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 cousins.
   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.

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