the News - Friday, June 5, 2009
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
IN THE JUNE 5, 2009, PRINT EDITION:
Photos • Scholarships • Awards •
newly enhanced entrance to the
Three Rivers Cemetery.
Three Rivers Cemetery
Several dozen local residents, members of the cemetery
board past and present, and well-wishers gathered
last Saturday morning, May 30, to mark a local milestone
— the 100th anniversary of the establishment
of the Three Rivers Cemetery. The peaceful, beautiful
setting for the historic occasion couldn’t have
been more appropriate.
The program began with a stirring rendition
of Taps played by Gerald Avants, dressed in his U.S.
Navy uniform that he wore proudly when he served his
country six decades ago. Steve Crigler, the cemetery’s
current sexton, delivered remarks prepared by Gary
Whitney, who was unable to attend because he was called
away to operate construction equipment at a wildfire.
Whitney, who has been doing cemetery
work for many years, was appointed to the board in
2007 and has been responsible for many of the recent
improvements to the property, including the project
of placing of new markers on previously unmarked grave
sites. Reading from Whitney’s prepared text,
Crigler recited some of the cemetery’s early
history gleaned from the minutes of the 1909 board.
All of the original members — J.W.
Griffes, chairman; Charles W. Blossom, secretary;
George Welch, treasurer; Frank Finch and J.C. Carter,
trustees; and Isham Mullenix and Henry Alles, associate
members — have their final resting places in
the Three Rivers Cemetery.
Crigler pointed out this cemetery site
was offered to the community for the sum of $10 by
Charles Bahwell. Upon approval, the board gave Bahwell
a family plot worth $10 for his generosity, meaning
the total cost for the original cemetery was $20.
As the community increased in size, so
did the cemetery. Other parcels were added; currently
a lot-line adjustment is in process to add another
one-third of an acre to the existing 3.5 acres.
The Three Rivers Cemetery is always open
to visitors, and the investigation of any of its more
than 600 interments can furnish important lessons
in local history. The first burial (1910) was Milton
Montgomery “Mont” Barton, who at age 43
was electrocuted while servicing newly invented irrigation
The scenic site contains monuments and
headstones that are an important part of local history
and furnish insight into the folkways of a nation
and its people. The headstone of Muriel Kenwood is
exemplary for its unique text tracing the family’s
heritage and ties with local place names.
Whitney’s text concluded with the
“The history of our community is at rest in
this field. Out here we have pioneers, soldiers, ranchers,
farmers, miners, store owners, doctors, teachers,
family, and friends. Each one has in some way contributed
to the Three Rivers that we enjoy today. I am sure
that they are all grateful that we would honor their
memories by being good stewards of their final resting
The current board of trustees consists
of Gary Whitney, Gail Bennett, and Vern MacDonald.
The cemetery office is housed at the office of The
Congress votes to allow
in national parks
The U.S. Congress voted last week to
allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks
and wildlife refuges. On Wednesday, May 20, the House
approved the measure, 279-147, one day after the Senate
acted. A total of 105 Democrats in the House joined
174 Republicans in supporting the gun measure, which
essentially restores a Bush administration policy
that allowed loaded guns in national parks for two
months earlier this year.
The measure, which was included in a
credit card-reform bill, allows licensed gun owners
to bring firearms into national parks and wildlife
refuges as long as they are allowed by state law.
The bill is a stinging defeat for gun-control
advocates, but Republicans said the bill, backed by
the National Rifle Association, merely aligns national
parks and wildlife refuges with regulations governing
the national forests and property controlled by the
Bureau of Land Management. The GOP called the current
policy outdated and confusing to those who visit public
lands, noting that merely traveling from state-managed
parks to national parks meant some visitors were violating
A majority of Democrats in both the House
and Senate opposed the gun measure, but enough Democrats
voted for the credit card-reform bill that the final
tally in both chambers was not close. Democratic leaders
decided not to remove the gun provision after Senator
Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was able to insert it into a
popular bill imposing new restrictions on credit card
Lawmakers said there was not enough time
to send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee
— where the measure could have been removed
without a vote — and still get it to President
Barack Obama by Memorial Day as he requested.
The restriction on guns has been in effect
for 26 years, enacted in 1983 by then-President Ronald
Reagan when he signed into law a rule requiring everyone
who entered a national park to disassemble and unload
all guns and keep them out of reach.
3R man nearly impaled
To hear John McWilliams tell of his coming
of age in his first four decades of life, he firmly
believes he has nine lives. After Monday evening’s
brush with death, he’s convinced he just used
up another of them.
That night was like so many others John
was driving eastbound on Sierra Drive heading home
to Cherokee Oaks. But suddenly, Wham! A pointed piece
of metal flew up and penetrated his windshield, spewing
broken glass in a thousand directions.
“That metal rod shot up from under the tire
of the SUV I was following like a bullet shot out
of a gun,” John said. “It sounded like
an explosion when it hit my windshield.”
A hook on the end of the foot-long rod,
which may have been used to prop up the hood of a
small car, was all that kept the errant projectile
from entering John’s 2003 Camry just inches
to the left of the steering wheel. None the worse
for his near-miss, John said he was picking bits of
glass from his forehead for the rest of the evening.
Solo rollover on North Fork—
Apparently, an unsafe movement of the steering wheel
was the cause of a solo vehicle rollover that took
out a fence along North Fork Drive near the intersection
of Kaweah River Drive. The accident occurred at 8:15
a.m. on Friday, May 29.
The 2003 Toyota Tacoma pickup was traveling up-canyon
when the mishap occurred. The teenage male driver
from Three Rivers complained of bumps and bruises
but was otherwise unhurt.
Update— Don Everson,
a witness at the scene of the solo vehicle accident
on May 26 on North Fork Drive involving a Kaweah man
(“Local drivers deal with road hazards,”
May 29, 2009), said that excessive speed in the S
curve was a factor in the crash. Everson of Three
Rivers, who said he narrowly missed being hit by the
driver, said that the errant vehicle had already crossed
the centerline when he was approaching from the opposite
direction, and he estimates that the driver was traveling
in excess of 70 mph.
One arrested during
at pot-growing sites
Seeing law enforcement activity this
time of year in the remote foothills around Three
Rivers usually means that the pot-growing and eradication
seasons are in full swing. Last week, a joint task
force consisting of federal and state agencies and
the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department concentrated
on grow sites in the South Fork vicinity.
The net results included the eradication
of two large pot-growing complexes, the removal of
more than 7,000 plants, and one suspect arrested.
The first of these recent raids took
place Wednesday, May 27, when the task force, led
by a National Park Service special agent, raided a
marijuana grow site just inside the southwestern boundary
of Sequoia National Park.
Due to the steep and brushy terrain,
and concern for the safety of the law officers, rangers
employed short-haul techniques to insert personnel
into the remote grow sites via helicopter. While the
first team was staging on the ground near the grow
site, they detected a suspect nearby.
After being taken into custody, officers
were able to link the suspect to the grow site and
a firearm that was recovered. The unidentified suspect
was flown out and charged with multiple felonies.
More than 2,400 plants were removed from
the complex. A Blackhawk helicopter on loan from the
Border Patrol also discovered another grower’s
complex located on Bureau of Land Management land
A tactical unit of the Tulare County
Sheriff’s Department raided the BLM sites on
Friday, May 29. This complex was larger than the one
taken out within Sequoia National Park boundaries.
Deputies removed a total 4,738 plants
from this site. The haul from both sites was estimated
to have been more than $4 million worth of product
had the mature marijuana been able to reach the streets
of the lucrative U.S. black market.
National Park Service just
summer more affordable
Entrance fees will be waived
weekends this summer
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
announced this week that the National Park Service
will offer three fee-free weekends this summer to
encourage Americans seeking affordable vacations to
visit national parks. After all, there are 391 of
them located across the country in 49 states (there
is no national park in Delaware), 147 of which usually
charge an entrance fee ranging from $3 to $25.
Entrance fees, which at Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks cost $20 per carload, will be
waived once a month throughout summer during the weekends
of June 20 and 21 (Father’s Day weekend), July
18 and 19, and August 15 and 16. In addition, many
park partners, including hotels, restaurants, and
other vendors will offer additional discounts and
special promotions on those dates.
For instance, Delaware North, the Sequoia
concessionaire, will offer $5 vouchers for use at
any Delaware North location – Wuksachi, Lodgepole,
Stony Creek ($25 minimum purchase; some restrictions
apply) during the fee-free weekends. The company plans
additional special offers.
“California and the Central Valley have been
especially hit in these tough economic times,”
said Craig Axtell, superintendent of Sequoia-Kings
Canyon. “Fee-free weekends encourage families
to come to a national park to relax, learn something
about this great nation, and have some fun.”
Most Americans live less than a day’s
drive from a national park. In Three Rivers, residents
are minutes away and there is now no excuse not to
head to Sequoia National Park on these weekends…
unless you prefer the summer heat over the cool mountain
This fee waiver does not include other
monies collected in advance, such as those charged
for camping, reservations, tours, and concessions.
More information on the fees and discounts can be
found online at www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.
gone to the dogs
by Brian Rothhammer
Among the 2009 Woodlake High School graduates
is a dog named Elliott. Well, sort of.
Elliott, a golden retriever, is one of
eight service dogs that graduated on Friday, May 15,
from the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center
located at the old St. John’s Schoolhouse in
Woodlake. His trainer is WHS junior Danielle Knapp
of Three Rivers.
The old schoolhouse, built in 1914, was
vacant for several years before Gerald and Donna Whittaker
leased the property from Woodlake High School and
founded the innovative program in 2003. It is now
a sparkling clean facility inside and out where WHS
students have a unique opportunity to positively affect
their lives and the lives of others while earning
high school credits.
“It is the first school of its type offered
to regular high school kids,” said Gerald (WHS
Class of 1967), adding that he does know of one other
for incarcerated youth and one for kids referred by
Child Protective Services. “My idea here was
to get students involved in something positive before
they get in trouble.”
Gerald said at-risk students make up
part of the class but other students who connect with
animals and are searching for a non-traditional elective
also flourish in the program.
The students/dog trainers learn lots
of lessons in patience, task management, self esteem,
even control of their own anger.
“They have to learn to deal with their anger…
if they cross their arms and scowl at the puppy, it’ll
just lay down and quit… the dogs are like anger
barometers,” explained Donna Whittaker (WHS
Class of 1969).
“Every student we’ve had has graduated
high school, including some who had already quit and
had been ordered back by a judge,” Gerald said
with pride. “It’s the dogs who have the
magic that brings it out of these kids. They don’t
come to see Donna and me; they come to see their puppy!”
Training these dogs is serious business.
Typically, a student will teach over 90 separate commands
to a service dog, and that vocabulary, along with
the behaviors taught, enables the dog to continue
learning after placement.
Eight students are accepted each year
for a two-year commitment. Each year, eight dogs graduate
and the eight from the previous year are advanced
to make room for eight new recruits. A commencement
is held annually at the Woodlake Memorial Building
and marks a bittersweet parting of the ways between
dog and trainer.
“It was sad and I cried,” said Danielle
Knapp. “Being able to have a dog that you’re
totally responsible for, they take up your personality.
They become a mini you.”
Not all was sadness though as Danielle
went on to tell of the gratitude expressed by Elliott’s
new best friend forever.
Stephanie Snow now shares her life with
Elliott. Stephanie has a debilitating ailment known
as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), which
affects one in two million people. In a speech she
gave at the graduation ceremony, she related how having
Elliott enables her to regain her independence.
During the final phase of training, Stephanie,
Elliott, and Danielle worked together to fine tune
the vital relationship between service dog and client.
Danielle wishes to continue as a teachers’
assistant for the course next year if she can fit
it in with her senior schedule. Either way she plans
to train a dog at her home for the program. She hopes
to train a dog for one of the 300 veterans waiting
on a list for one of the Woodlake dogs.
“Three dogs were placed with veterans last year,”
Donna Whittaker said, including one trained by Three
Rivers resident Holly Snarr, who will graduate with
the Class of 2009.
The Whittakers hope to fulfill the needs
of more veterans and are seeking to change antiquated
ideas held by the Veterans Administration regarding
service dogs and support for their training programs.
For further information on the Woodlake
program, contact the ASDEC at 564-7297 or www.servicedogcenter.org.
Fires in the forest
Last weekend, the Falls Prescribed Fire
was burning the understory in the oak and conifer
forest between the highway and the Kings River in
the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park.
When complete, the fire will have treated approximately
On Monday, June 1, Buck Rock Lookout reported
seeing a fire in the remote Evans Grove in Giant Sequoia
National Monument. When firefighters arrived on scene,
they discovered a lightning-sparked fire burning in
a hollow giant sequoia. About 60 feet of the top of
the tree was broken off when struck by lightning.
Cadet James Andrew Potter, son of Gary
and Katy Potter of Three Rivers, graduated from the
U.S. Military Academy on Saturday, May 23. Potter
was homeschooled and completed his high school curriculum
While at West Point, his major field
of study was Environmental Geography. He was commissioned
as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in the Field
Artillery branch and will report to Fort Campbell,
Ky., for his first assignment.
West Point was founded in 1802 as America’s
first college of engineering and is located 50 miles
north of New York City. Today, “The Point”
is a four-year co-educational, federally sponsored,
undergraduate liberal arts college.
Its mission in more than two centuries
has remained constant — to educate, train, and
inspire a corps of cadets so that each graduate is
a commissioned leader of character committed to the
values of duty, honor, and service as a career officer
in the U.S. Army.