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In the News - Friday, May 28, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Future uncertain for Kaweah Post Office

Congressman Nunes backs constituents

By Brian Rothhammer

  The United States Postal Service (USPS) has not notified the public of their intentions regarding the operations of the Kaweah Post Office.  As of Tuesday, May 25, the box holders of Kaweah had not been notified. It is as if it’s business as usual.
   On Friday, May 21, Congressman Devin Nunes (R-District 21) flew in from Washington, D.C., to attend to the matter of the historic post office. A meeting had been arranged with the operations manager of the Santa Clarita Division of the USPS at the congressman’s Visalia office.
   A call was received by Rep. Nunes’s office an hour before the appointed meeting to say that the USPS representative could not attend due to scheduling conflicts.
   Andrew House, communications director for Congressman Nunes, spoke to the Commonwealth on Monday, May 24. He asserted that he is still “hopeful of a positive answer before the Friday closure” and that Rep. Nunes “is ready to move forward with options to keep the Post Office operational.”

  “We recognize that this is a historic site and that there are other factors present,” he continued. “We are asking the USPS to keep it from being closed. There would be [at minimum] drop-off delivery and the postal boxes would be picked up and delivered.”
   For many Kaweah residents, that is not enough. Purchasing stamps, mailing packages, and other services will be missed by the patrons.

  “It’s not quite enough for people who need the post office here,” said Marie Aguilar, a Kaweah resident. “My husband is disabled; I can’t leave him long enough to go to the Three Rivers Post Office.”
Linda Childers, a local resident who canvassed Kaweah for the 2010 Census, feels that a sense of community would be lost.

  “We use this window for every postal-related activity,” she said.  “This is the community center of Kaweah. It has history. We want to continue the historic tradition.”
   Postmistress Sandy Norris has seen reactions from TV news crews to local residents who are surprised at the lack of communication from USPS officials. An elderly woman from Clovis came in recently, Sandy said, and with tears in her eyes, held out three one-dollar bills saying that she had heard of the closing.

  “I’m so sad [about the closing] and I want to contribute this to keep it open,” she said.
   Sandy informed the visitor that she wasn’t in a position to accept such funds. The USPS does not allow for concerned citizens to balance the budget of their local post office through well-intentioned donations.
   Scores of folks who stopped by this week are all wondering the same thing: What can be done to save the historic post office?
   The agency that makes the final decision is the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). They are an independent regulatory agency created by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970. That was when the Post Office Department was disbanded and renamed the United States Postal Service.
   The USPS is defined as an independent agency of the United States government. It has, however, an exclusive monopoly of mail delivery within the United States.
   The USPS website for the Office of Strategic Planning currently lists an “action plan” released in March 2010. It “calls for legislative and regulatory changes that allow greater business model flexibility.”
   The citizens of Kaweah are calling for common sense. The Kaweah Post Office was built by neighbors for $15 in 1910. Many of their descendents still use it today.
   Andrew House emphasizes the importance of community involvement. Although the USPS is independent of direct Congressional authority, he has made it very clear that Rep. Nunes can exert pressure and oversight.

  “We understand that this is a very important component of the community,” he said. “This is not necessarily the end of the debate.”
House also encouraged petitions, letters, and emails as effective means by which citizens can affect change.

  “Congressman Nunes is willing to go to the mat for his constituents,” House stated. “But saving Kaweah Post Office is not going to be easy.”
   House concluded by saying that “as long as the community is united behind him, the congressman will continue to fight for the Kaweah Post Office in Washington, D.C.”

Mineral King Road open to Silver City

  In the local mountains, after the biggest snowpack in 12 years, it’s been a challenge to get everything open for the busy Memorial Day weekend. At least a minimum amount of facilities will be open, and those who do venture to the nearby mountains will be in for a rare high country experience.
   The Mineral King Road will be open and clear to Silver City. Atwell Mill Campground will be open with only a few sites still snow covered. Cold Springs Campground remains snow covered and will not have any sites open until at least June 5.
   Silver City Store and Restaurant is not expected to be open until June 14.
   There are limited cabin accommodations available at Silver City. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead (561-3223) for the latest information and reservations.
   Those who do want to visit the Mineral King valley are encouraged to park at Silver City and then hike the 2.7 miles to the valley. As of this week, some four to five-foot snow drifts remain along the road in the vicinity of Faculty Flat; the valley is mostly snow free at the lower elevations and on the south-facing slopes.
   In Giant Forest, the Crescent Meadow/Moro Rock Road opened Thursday, May 27, to accommodate the park shuttles. Throughout the holiday weekend, vehicle access to Crescent Meadow and Moro Rock will be limited to those visitors who are disabled or have wilderness permits.
   Road construction on the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park will be suspended for the weekend. Flagmen will be stationed at the signal light areas on each end of the construction zone to ensure delays are minimal.
   In nearby Giant Sequoia National Monument, the Big Meadows Road remains snow covered and is not open to vehicles. The Generals Highway between the parks and in the monument is open but subject to closure if new snow accumulates.
   Drivers headed to the mountains should be sure their vehicles are equipped with chains and be prepared for winter driving conditions.   For the latest road conditions in the Sierra, call 1-800-427-ROAD or log onto www.recreation.gov.

Sequoia Shuttle launches fourth season

  The Visalia-to-Giant Forest and intra-park shuttle began 2010 operations Thursday, May 27, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, the first of three busy three-day holiday weekends of the local tourist season.
   In Sequoia National Park, the summer-long shuttle service is estimated to eliminate 50,000 car trips.
   Several changes are being implemented this year. Three hybrid-electric shuttles have been added to the fleet. Inside the park, a new route will transport visitors back and forth between Wuksachi and Dorst Campground, once the Dorst area opens in June.
   On the three holiday weekends, private vehicles will be limited on the Moro Rock and Crystal Cave roads. Only the disabled and those with wilderness permits will be allowed to drive vehicles into the area during peak visitor periods.
   Also, new outside the park are stops at La Quinta Inn in Visalia and the Red Barn at the Exeter turnoff (Hwy. 65) on Highway 198. The shuttles will continue to stop at Comfort Inn and the Memorial Building in Three Rivers.
   According to Tony Moreno, president of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce, drivers will be able to stop for up to 10 minutes at businesses in Three Rivers.

  “If a passenger wants to stop at Reimer’s or Village Market the driver will be permitted to do so,” Moreno said.
   Potentially, this could help generate additional revenue for local businesses. It does not fully address making the shuttles more user-friendly for Three Rivers residents and visitors who are staying in other locations besides Comfort Inn.
   The shuttles will operate in Sequoia National Park daily through September 20 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Visitors who ride the shuttle to Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow should carry water because drinking water is not available along the route.


Teen vandals ID'd, Hells Angels arrested

  At least three local teens were questioned earlier this week by Deputy Albert Brockman as to their part in recent vandalism that occurred at the Three Rivers Memorial Building and the Community Presbyterian Church. According to sheriff’s reports, the latest incidents occurred Thursday, May 20.
   The Juvenile Crimes Division of the District Attorney’s office is preparing charges against the trio. The names of the individuals have not been released because the youths are all 14 years of age.
   In the incident at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, the youths broke into a storage area and made off with an undetermined amount of beverages that were being stored for an upcoming event. At the nearby church, the youths then are alleged to have gained entry to the basement that is used for a children’s play area.
   It is not known what if anything was taken in the church break-in. The law-enforcement report described the damage as consisting of a mess that had been made of the premises.
   Several chapters of the Hells Angels converged on Three Rivers during the weekend of May 21 through 23. The majority of the members stayed at Western Holiday Lodge and Comfort Inn.
   Dozens of law officers under the auspices of the Tulare County’s Gang Suppression Unit were on hand to keep a watchful eye on every move the Angels made throughout the weekend. Lemon Hill at Lake Kaweah was transformed into a police command post and, according  to a local Sheriff’s Department deputy, there were no major incidents.
   Eleven individuals were taken into custody including two Hell’s   Angels and one Three Rivers resident. One of the motorcycle gang members from Littleton, Colo., and one from Cheyenne, Wyo., were arrested Saturday at the Village Market on weapons charges and their motorcycles towed.
   On a more positive note, the visit of the Hell’s Angels fueled a busy weekend for local innkeepers, restaurants, and merchants. It was the first “no vacancy” weekend of the 2010 season when most local lodging properties were sold out.

Sequoia Natural History Association

celebrates 70 years

As Sequoia and Kings Canyon

National Parks evolve, so does SNHA

by Johanna Kamansky

  Growing from humble beginnings as a small retail and publishing organization to an essential funding and visitor education arm of the local parks, the role and function of the Sequoia Natural History Association has changed significantly over the course of its 70-year history. As the nonprofit cooperating association partner for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Devils Postpile National Monument, and Lake Kaweah, SNHA’s history highlights the critical and ever-changing role park partners play in assisting the National Park Service (NPS) to accomplish its mission of protecting park resources while providing for visitor education and enjoyment of the parks.

New partnerships
   In the 1920s, a movement started within the NPS to establish cooperating associations: a partnership between NPS naturalists and private citizens to form nonprofit organizations that support park programs and serve park visitors in ways not available through federal funding. In 1936, the Department of Interior noted in its annual report that cooperating associations are “helpful organization[s] able to finance and promote the education and research programs in a park in ways not open to a Government operation.”
   While nationally the idea of park cooperating associations took shape, 20 years passed before Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks established one of its own.
   In 1939, the NPS promoted Colonel John White — the parks’ first superintendent — to its regional and national offices for several years. Eivind Scoyen was appointed on January 1 of that year as the second superintendent for the local parks. Seven months later, the parks hired their second chief naturalist, Frank Oberhansley.

  “SNHA arrived in the parks because new tools and ideas being used in other national parks came in association with new personnel,” said Bill Tweed of Three Rivers, longtime park historian. “Up until then, the parks had a management team that had been running things a certain way. Both a new superintendent and new chief naturalist arrived in 1939, and by the following spring a new cooperating association was established in the parks.”
   Today SNHA is one of 65 cooperating associations partnering with the NPS and is known for enriching the experiences of visitors and promoting public awareness of the significance of national parks through educational programs, publications, and financial support. The organization established in 1940 was a nonprofit run by NPS staff focused on selling maps and publications.

Revenue stream
   During its first year of operation, revenue totaled $539; in 1946, SNHA published its first book, Crystal Cave. For two decades, SNHA operated quietly as a retail and publishing organization.

  “I didn’t really know about SNHA during that time,” said Jim Barton of Three Rivers, former SNHA board member (1988-2008), who worked as a summer ranger in the parks during SNHA’s early years.
   In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the role and function of SNHA changed significantly in response to decreased federal funding for visitor services and education programs in the parks. The NPS transferred the Pear Lake Ski Hut and Crystal Cave tour operations to SNHA.
   In addition, the organization established its field seminar program with six courses and a membership program with 200 supporters, who received the newly created Seedlings membership newsletter. SNHA provided financial support for projects such as the Walter Fry Nature Center in Lodgepole and the formation of the nonprofit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Foundation (today called the Sequoia Parks Foundation).
   In 1987, SNHA hired its first executive director, John Palmer. Palmer had previously worked as chief interpreter for the parks and as part of his NPS duties had served as the SNHA executive secretary since 1969. Under Palmer’s leadership, SNHA started its annual membership meeting and picnic, opened an office building at Ash Mountain, reached $500,000 in annual revenue, and grew to 600 members.
   SNHA continued to expand its operations and services into the 1990s. Tyler Conrad became the organization’s second executive director, and SNHA’s programs now included renting bear-resistant food canisters, hiring the first visitor center employee, and expanding both space for books in visitor centers and the number of retail items sold to 700. By 1993, SNHA had contributed $1 million in support to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks since its founding in 1940.
   To be continued...

SNHA Chronology

1890 Sequoia National Park and General Grant National Park established

1916 National Park Service established

1923 Yosemite Museum Association, first NPS cooperating association, established

1940 SNHA established; membership = 0, revenue = $539. Kings Canyon National Park established; Crystal Cave opens for public tours

1942-45 SNHA operations on hold due to war

1946 SNHA publishes first book: Crystal Cave

1963–1965 SNHA expands sales outlets to new Grant Grove and Lodgepole visitor centers

1969 NPS Chief Park Interpreter John Palmer assumes the role of SNHA executive secretary

1973 First SNHA employee, Denelle Stroh, hired as business manager

1979 SNHA assists NPS with Pear Lake Ski Hut operation

1982 SNHA takes over operation of Crystal Cave from NPS

1983 SNHA establishes field seminar program; starts membership program with 200 members; revenue = $250,000; aid to NPS = $29,000; total aid since 1940 = $214,000

1987 John Palmer becomes first executive director

1988 SNHA opens office building at Ash Mountain; members = 550; revenue = $507,000; aid to NPS = $53,000; total aid since 1940 = $453,000

1992 Tyler Conrad joins SNHA as second executive director; members = 850; revenue = $681,000; aid to NPS = $193,000; total aid since 1940 = $979,000

1996 Mark Tilchen selected as SNHA’s third executive director; visitor center staff = 3; members = 1000; revenue = $751,000; aid to NPS = $117,000; total aid since 1940 = $1.3 million

1998 SNHA takes over full operation of the Pear Lake Ski Hut from NPS; hires first employee for Devils Postpile

2000 Visitor center staff = 10; members = 1,500; revenue = $1.1 million; aid to NPS = $251,000; total aid since 1940 = $2.1 million

2001 Sequoia Field Institute created with John Lockhart as first education director

2002 Beetle Rock Education Center and Giant Forest Museum park store open

2003 SNHA expands to Lake Kaweah and opens Sierra Nature Store in Visalia

2004 Sierra Nature Store closes

2005 SNHA creates marketing department with Dayna Higgins as director; Retta Niday becomes business manager; visitor center staff = 19; members = 2,800; revenue = $1.7 million; aid to NPS = $1 million; total aid since 1940 = $4.5 million

2006 Savannah Boiano becomes second Sequoia Field Institute education director

2010 Crystal Cave operations 100-percent solar powered; SNHA aid to NPS surpasses a cumulative total of $10 million

It's that time again!

12th annual BEST of Kaweah Country

  With the release last summer of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, a documentary film by Ken Burns, people are planning vacations that include national parks more than ever. And hundreds of thousands of them will be traveling through Three Rivers on their way to one or two of the most beautiful national parks in the system.
   Keeping this in mind, it is time once again to complete the annual BEST of Kaweah Country readers’ poll to assist visitors and remind residents of the must-see places that are located in and around and nearby Three Rivers.
   Completing the form is simple and fun. It is open to anyone who has an opinion. We LOVE when children provide their insights as well.   The deadline is June 30; the publication of the special issue that contains the BEST results will be sometime in mid-July.
   Thank you in advance for your participation. —John and Sarah Elliott

Click  here for 2010 ballot


Uncooked and wonderfully divine

by Tina St. John

  My daughter Julia took me to a raw food restaurant in Santa Monica for my birthday. I had never dined at a raw food restaurant before, so I had no idea what to expect.
   Going on her high recommendation that I was in for a treat, we headed out for a night of fun and adventure. Adventure? It was just a restaurant for goodness sake, but anything to do with food is indeed potential for adventure in my book.
   Entering Planet Raw, one immediately gets the feel of being in the higher planes. The ceiling is lit up with stars whispering the Milky Way.
   After being seated and settling in, we studied and discussed the menu in depth. Julia had already eaten at Planet Raw several times with her dad and knew of some tasty dishes. The menu looked much like the menu at any restaurant: Appetizers, Entrees, Salads, Desserts.
Pumpkin Tortellini, Spring Rolls, Bacon Western Double Burger? Hmmm, this place was an ultra vegetarian restaurant.
   When the waitress came to take our order I asked her if she had any suggestions.

  “Try the Turkey Dinner,” she said.
   Turkey Dinner? Keep in mind this is a raw food restaurant. Nothing is cooked and, like I said, there’s no meat.
   How would a turkey dinner be prepared, much less taste? She assured us we wouldn’t be disappointed.
   So we ordered the turkey dinner for two along with a couple appetizers: Pumpkin Tortellini with Marinara Sauce and Spring Rolls.
The Pumpkin Tortellini was amazing. The pasta is made from very thin slices of dehydrated pumpkin with the texture of regular pasta.
   The filling consists of cashews that have been pulverized into a thick paste with a ricotta cheese consistency. The marinara starts with fresh tomatoes blended into a wonderfully seasoned sauce.
   The Spring Rolls have a nut base for the wrap. Inside one finds a delightful mix of sprouts, carrots, mint, and cucumber. Surprisingly delicious!
   Then came our Turkey Dinner.
   Turkey = Dehydrated portabella mushroom with the exact consistency of real turkey. And the flavor? Out of this world.
   Mashed Potatoes = Raw cauliflower blended to a creamy mashed potato consistency. Flavor? Beyond.
   Sweet Yams = Thinly sliced persimmons with some sort of sweet sauce. Flavor? Exceeded expectations.
   Stuffing = I have no idea of the ingredients except for the nuts, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Flavor? Like no other.
   Every morsel exceeded my expectations and was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. Maybe that’s why they call it Planet Raw.
   All I can say is my perception of eating raw will never been the same.
   I’ve included a raw summer salad that serves as a complete meal.
   Bon Appetit!
   Tina St. John writes from her Three Rivers studio.


Romaine leaves
Butter lettuce
Grated carrots
Grated beets
Cold-pressed Bojita olives (or any good Greek olive)
Ground Raw Almonds

Slice, grate and cut all these ingredients. You can add more to your own personal taste, such as cucumbers, green onions, grape tomatoes, jicama, etc , if you desire. Toss with Balsamic Dressing (recipe below).

Balsamic Dressing
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup water
1½ cups cold-pressed olive oil
1 large garlic clove (grated)
Salt to taste

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
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
© Copyright 2003-2010 The Kaweah Commonwealth