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In the News - Friday, June 18, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Three Rivers Ambulance to disband

  After 54 years of dedicated service, the Three Rivers Ambulance Service announced earlier this week that it will cease to provide any emergency services to Three Rivers and the Sequoia National Park area effective August 17, 2010. The announcement comes after the State of California issued an administrative ruling that effectively means the local volunteer company would no longer be able to provide the quality of emergency medical care currently being provided.
   According to correspondence that was forwarded by the local ambulance’s board of directors this week to the County of Tulare and the Central California Emergency Management Services Agency, the State of California denied a request to allow two local EMT II students to complete their training and be certified after June 17, 2010.   Without these new EMT IIs, the Three Rivers ambulance service would be unable to replace retiring members.
   According to Supervisor Allen Ishida, the state’s latest ruling caught everybody off guard.

  “The State of California just switched gears on everybody and we’re not sure what’s going to happen next,” Ishida said. “Currently, we have some rotating coverage in Lemon Cove on the busy weekends but the Three Rivers Ambulance Service is critical to meeting the county’s response times in the foothills.”
   Ishida said one possible scenario being discussed is stationing a paramedic from one of the companies under the county’s contract at Three Rivers. If that happens, Ishida said, there’s a chance the local ambulance might be able to continue.
   Mary Staberg, president of the board of the Three Rivers Ambulance Service, said they will work with the other companies to effect a smooth transition.

  “We want to ensure that our community continues to receive high quality emergency medical service throughout the transition,” the board’s letter stated.

Father drowns after saving son

   Unfortunately, when Kaweah Country experiences a season with extended runoff and the river becomes extremely dangerous, it’s not if a fatality will occur but rather when. But the fact that tragedies occur nearly every year do not make it any easier for Three Rivers, a town desperately seeking some semblance of a safe and respectful use of its most precious river.
   Invariably, the victims are visitors, the uninitiated who just can’t resist the allure of the chilly water. On Sunday, June 13, the inviting pool just upriver from Slicky proved both alluring and deadly.
   Sunday’s tragedy, like so many of these real-life dramas, was not without its heroes, especially the father who gave his own life to save his son and the passing local who risked his own safety. The all-too-familiar story began to unfold during the late afternoon.
   That’s when a family from the Harbor City area of Los Angeles County was enjoying a cabana beachside at Rio Sierra Riverhouse. The 15-year-old son mostly hung out by the water’s edge but was also wading in the shallows.
   Unbeknownst to the teen, there is a sharp drop-off a few yards from the water’s edge. As he ventured out farther, in an instant he was flailing in the turgid water.
   The teen’s father, Michael Grande, 47, in the cabana 25 feet away, entered the water without hesitating. In a minute or two, Grande was able to push the boy to the waiting arms of his mother. Both mother and son clung precariously to a submerged tree only four feet from shore; they eventually made it to safety.
   Now it was the father who was swept into the swirling eddy. Under current runoff conditions, entering those rapids without safety gear means almost certain death.
   According to a witness at the scene, Grande struggled for what seemed like several minutes but was managing to stay clear of the midstream whitewater. While this frenzied scene was taking place, another guest at Rio Sierra ran up to the nearby highway and flagged down a local resident who came in an instant to help the victim.
   Without a thought for his own safety, the man immediately entered the water in an attempt to retrieve the much larger Grande, who was now bobbing in the swirling pool 25 feet from shore.
   The rescuer grabbed the victim and pulled him toward shore but couldn’t free him from the powerful current. After a few moments, the would-be rescuer, who was less than half the size of the 260-pound victim, had to let go.
   At this point, the owner of the property, Margaret Roberts, managed to get a long hose to the rescuer and he was pulled to safety. The victim was now face down in a calmer part of the pool a short distance downstream.
   Several witnesses gathering at the scene were able to get Grande back on shore where Roberts administered CPR. Unfortunately, the 47-year-old victim could not be revived. He was transported by ambulance to Kaweah Delta Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
   Sgt. Wright, the coroner who examined Grande’s body, attributed the victim’s death to “freshwater drowning.”

  “In these cases, it is a race between the victim’s lungs filling with water and the heart stopping because of the shock of the extremely cold water,” Sgt. Wright explained. “We can never be certain which occurred first.”

Yellow star thistle

threatens Three Rivers

By Brian Rothhammer

   Bryce Ribero of the University of California Cooperative Extension addressed the Monday, June 7, town meeting and said all of Tulare County is being threatened by the Yellow Star Thistle. This noxious weed spreads rapidly and unlike its more common cousin, the Italian thistle, is toxic to horses.
   There is a program currently in effect, partnering with the Tulare County Weed Management Area, to eradicate the YST on the leading edges of its infestation area.

  “Three Rivers is the line of defense,” said Ribero, and Deb Schweizer, NPS fire education specialist, agreed. “This thistle is the number one plant that we don’t want in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.”
   The TCWMA will treat small infestations of up to 10 acres on private land. The charge is $50 for up to three acres; $15 per acre for areas of four or more acres.

  “Control is a group effort,” said Ribero, “We are willing to help coordinate backpack spraying groups from Three Rivers to get this noxious weed under control.”
   Yellow Star Thistle is identified by a bright yellow flower head with sharp spines or horns of three-quarters to one inch long at the base of flower head. The plant height is two to three feet high with grayish, green foliage and small leaves that resemble “wings” on the stems.
   It is one of the most ecologically and economically damaging invasive plants in California.
   If you have, or even think you have, Yellow Star Thistle on your property, call the UC extension office at 684-3300 to arrange for an inspection of the infested area.

St. Anthony moves forward on Youth Center

By Brian Rothhammer

   Friars from the Franciscan Province of Santa Barbara purchased land in Three Rivers from the Alles and Craig ranches in 1959 and set out to build the Saint Anthony Retreat Center. They dedicated themselves to the faith formation and spiritual development of men and women of California’s Central Valley.
   From the time it opened in 1963, the retreat has provided facilities for people of all Christian denominations to find peace, inner healing, personal integration, and spiritual transformation. The retreat can feed and house 100 overnight guests.
   Countless retreats, workshops, and conferences have been hosted and sponsored on the expansive landscaped grounds among oak-studded hills. Even so, there was room for new amenities.
   After the passing of her husband Leon in 1984, longtime Three Rivers resident and philanthropist Ollie Craig donated 17 acres of her neighboring Craig Ranch to St. Anthony, stipulating that it be used as a youth center. For more than a decade, administrators of St. Anthony and members of the surrounding community have worked to make the youth center a reality.
   In 2003, Bishop John Steinbock of the Catholic Diocese of Fresno purchased the retreat center from the Franciscans and appointed Monsignor John Griesbach as director of St. Anthony Retreat Center.    With steady resolve, Father John embraced the task of continuing and expanding on the work of those who preceded him.

  “Today, the mission of St. Anthony Retreat Center remains the same as it was under the direction of the Franciscans,” said Fr. John in August 2004.
   He appointed an advisory board of men and women from diverse backgrounds and experience, Catholic and Protestant, to lend their skills toward fulfilling the mission.

  “From the very start… we wanted to fulfill Ollie’s dream to build a center to engage the community and to help youth grow stronger in mind, body, and spirit,” he said as ground was broken in May 2008 for the Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center.
   The ambitious project involves the use of innovative resource management to create unique facilities specifically geared toward spiritual enrichment in strict accordance with the diocesan safe environment policies.
   New construction will be carefully “design built” to work with the natural contours and to preserve the beauty and biodiversity of the land. Detoxified asphalt has been used for the roadbed; foam block construction will be used for walls to provide significant energy savings.
   Another eight acres of land was added in 2009 as a greenbelt between Santa Teresita and adjoining properties. These acres will not be developed, save for hiking trails.
   There are plans to introduce specimens of each variety of oak native to the Northern Sonora zones to teach the “beauty and richness of diversity in our California oak forests.”
   New construction will include a two story, 12,664-square-foot administration building with laundry, infirmary, kitchenette, conference rooms, and more. The assembly building, at 8,460 square feet, will have a full kitchen and seat 200 with gift shops, indoor and outdoor stage, restrooms, and offices.
   Each of the two student residences will be 4,238 square feet and can house 60 students and six chaperones. They will be built parallel to economize on building costs while maximizing efficiency. Adjacent to those will be two meeting rooms of 2,034 square feet, configured around a central gathering area.
   The 1,000-square-foot chapel will occupy the highest point on the site, offering a panoramic view of the entire Youth Center area and will incorporate a Spanish mission-style bell tower.
   There will also be a 1,100 square foot arts-and-crafts building with an enclosed kiln for firing ceramic artworks. Future plans call for a 200-seat outdoor amphitheater built into the contour of the hillside.
   For those who enjoy a cool swim, there will be a 30-by-80-foot swimming pool with changing rooms, restrooms, and shower. Guests and visitors will also enjoy Three Rivers’s newest disc golf course.
   Working with the Sequoia Riverlands Trust, youth will be taught the values of science and conservation.

  “We wish to help younger people discover what nature has for them here,” added Fr. John.
   Even with all this careful planning and design, and after 80 percent of the infrastructure has been completed, the County of Tulare informed St. Anthony that a separate special use permit would be required for the new development. A public hearing will be held in Visalia under the auspices of the Tulare County Planning Commission regarding the permit on August 6, 2010.
   As for the youth center plans, it seems certain that Ollie Craig would approve of how her dream for a versatile, multi-use youth center is nearing fruition.

Primary election proves predictable

   Three Rivers voters usually throw some curveballs into the election results when compared to statewide voting results and, especially, Tulare County’s results. But in the lackluster June 8 primary election, Three Rivers voted the same as Tulare County, which voted mostly the same as California.
   But there was one important difference, however. In the race for county sheriff, Three Rivers voted just the opposite of the countywide results. The challenger, Chief John Zapalac, beat the incumbent (62.37 to 37.48 percent) by almost the same numbers that were tallied by Wittman countywide (63.91 to 35.85 percent), making him the ultimate victor.
   In Woodlake, Zapalac won by a 60 to 40 percent margin, which was just slightly lower than the Three Rivers margin. In the race for county supervisor in Woodlake, Brian Rouch, the challenger, defeated Steve Worthley, the incumbent, by a two-to-one margin. Since neither candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the votes, the two candidates for the District 2 seat will meet in a runoff on the November ballot.
   Three Rivers went the way of the rest of the state of California on the five ballot measures, while Tulare County, with the exception of Proposition 13, voted the opposite.
   Voter turnout was dismal statewide. At 24.8 percent, not even one-fourth of registered voters took the time to cast a ballot.
   In Tulare County, the results weren’t much better. Just 27.48 percent of the voting public showed up. Three Rivers tends to be a bit more civic-minded. In this election, 45.14 percent of local registered voters — but not even half — cast a ballot.
   California voters decided five propositions. Voters overwhelmingly adopted Proposition 13, which prevents property taxes from being raised on buildings that have undergone earthquake safety improvements.
   Voters also approved Proposition 14. The measure calls for changes to the primary election process, including allowing voters to vote for any candidate regardless of the voter’s political party preference.
Proposition 15, a measure that would repeal the state ban on public funding of political campaigns, went down to defeat.
   Two other rejected measures were backed by corporations. Proposition 16, funded by Pacific Gas & Electric, would have amended the California Constitution to require local governments to get two-thirds voter approval before using tax dollars to start a power agency.
   Proposition 17 was put on the ballot by Mercury Insurance to overturn a state law prohibiting insurance companies from considering a driver’s insurance history to set rates. It also sought to allow loyalty discounts to follow customers if they switch insurance companies.
   In the race for the non-partisan Superintendent of Public Instruction, retired public school superintendent Larry Aceves and state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson will be facing each other in a November run-off since no candidate in the field of 12 received more than 50 percent of the vote.
   The November run-off will shape up as the perennial battle in education circles: teachers versus administrators. Torlakson, a former teacher, is endorsed by the powerful California Teachers Association, while Aceves has strong backing from a number of public school superintendents and principals.

Sixth class of service dogs and

trainers graduate from ASDEC

   The Assistance Service Dog Educational Center (ASDEC), which provides credit to Woodlake High students to train dogs that will become companions to those with physical disabilities, graduated its sixth class of student trainers and service dogs on Friday, May 21.
   This year’s class is known as the “F” Team. The letter “F” is the sixth letter of the alphabet, which corresponds with the number of graduating classes there have been and is the first letter of all the names of the dogs in the class.
   A student signs on for a two-year commitment to train their dog. All were successful in their goals as every F Team dog was certified as a service dog.
   In addition, this was the first session in which breeds of dogs other than golden retrievers were trained at the school. Another first is that four additional dogs also graduated that were fostered by members of the community with the goal of providing service dogs to military veterans.
   The ASDEC was founded by Gerald and Donna Whittaker, who continue to volunteer their time and talent to the program. The ASDEC is housed in the old St. Johns School, located on Valencia Blvd. just south of Woodlake.
   To become involved in the program, call 564-1297.

In brief…

Summer activities include

baseball, prescribed fire, water rescues

   The Three Rivers Raptors, a local team that competes in the Exeter Little League Minors, won the league championship last Saturday, June 5, at Dobson Field. The team of Three Rivers boys and girls, ages eight through 10, finished first in league play, then won the playoffs for the outright championship.
   The team is managed by Eric Beedle who said that what set this team apart from the rest of the league was its maturity on the pitching mound.


   On Wednesday, June 16, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks helicopter crew assisted the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department with a short-haul transport of a 16-year-old male with a severe laceration to his leg. The boy was located approximately one mile from the Sequoia Park boundary on the Inyo National Forest at Heart Lake near the Onion Valley Campground.
   Onion Valley, at 11,000 feet, is a popular eastside trailhead for hikers who want to access the High Sierra country west of Independence and north of Mount Whitney.

   Local National Park Service fire crews are expected to conduct hazard-reduction burns near Ash Mountain headquarters sometime next week. The burns will occur between 1,700 and 3,000 feet on several segments between one and seven acres from the Sequoia entrance station to Hospital Rock picnic area.
   Intermittent smoke from the burns will be visible throughout the Kaweah canyon.
   This week, the Viewpoint Prescribed Fire in Kings Canyon National Park was ignited. The project unit is located near Cedar Grove on the floor of Kings Canyon and is 71 acres in size. As a result, Moraine Campground will be closed until smoke impacts decrease. No other park facilities, roads, or trails will be closed as a result of the burn, but the area may be impacted by smoke.


   The Tulare County Coroner’s Office reported that a Georgia man drowned last weekend while kayaking on the Kern River near Bush Creek. The man, in his early 50s and overweight, probably suffered cardiac arrest when he hit the chilly water after being thrown from his kayak.


Music camp prepares

for final violin concerts

By Bill Haxton

   The Center Stage Strings Concert Series continues this week with three more exceptional events, all at the Community Presbyterian Church.
   Today (Friday, June 18) at 4 p.m., world-renowned master teacher Robert Lipsett will present a Master Class to four extraordinary violinists. The Master Class performance is free and open to the public. If you have never attended a Master Class, and you have an interest in what it takes to make a good violinist great, this opportunity should not be missed.
   Saturday, June 19, at 7 p.m., award-winning violinist Danielle Belen teams with cello phenomenon Diego Miralles and extraordinary pianist Jennie Jung to perform Brahms, Beethoven, and Schoenfield.    Here are the music notes for Saturday’s concert:

Piano Trio No. 1
in B major, Op. 8

   For most of his life Brahms suffered from periodic episodes of extreme insecurity. In the grip of those dark spells, he burned many of his compositions, believing they didn’t measure up. Somehow, this piano trio survived even though it was criticized when first published in 1854. But the 1888 revision is magnificent. In the Allegro, solo piano states the nostalgic main theme, then the cello develops it beautifully, and when the violin enters the music simply soars. From here, Brahms introduces new themes and emotions, but always returns to the warmth and calm of the main theme. The Scherzo begins on a skipping, tentative note, becomes positively exuberant, then expands the pleasant nostalgia of the Allegro. The Adagio is deep and reflective. Patiently advancing piano chords lead an almost vocal, singing violin toward the warm voice of the cello, now profound and serene. The Allegro last movement continues the expansion, and at the risk of overusing the analogy, its effect is strikingly similar to a powerful Shakespearean soliloquy.

Piano Trio No. 5
in D major, Op. 70 “Ghost”

   Classical music can tolerate big mood shifts within the same composition, and no composer was moodier than Beethoven, so much so that he often seems to be doing battle with himself. That’s certainly true in this piece, especially the Allegro first movement that opens with fist-shaking defiance, then immediately becomes quietly euphoric before whirling back and forth between these moods as if trying to work them out. The Largo gave the composition its name, “Ghost,” because of its ethereal, spectral mood. The movement is like a dirge, occasionally punctuated by the discordance of overpowering grief. The Presto is about as distant from the Largo on the moodswing scale as you can get — frivolous, celebratory, joking. You can almost hear Beethoven having a belly laugh across the centuries at the contortions he forces on musicians as they work to come together at the close.

Cafe Music for Piano Trio

   Infectiously enjoyable, over-caffeinated, whimsical, rollicking, good humored. But Schoenfield’s own words tell it best: “My intention was to write a kind of high-class dinner music which could, just barely, find its way into a concert hall.” The work draws on early 20th century American jazz, Viennese, light classical, gypsy, and Broadway.

   On Sunday, June 19, the Finale Concert begins at 5 p.m. This is where every musician who attended the Music Camp performs, some as soloists, some in small chamber groups. It’s pure celebration, and it’s a chance for all of us to get an advance peek at the next generation of great violinists.
   Immediately afterward, Center Stage Strings and the Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute will host a one-hour reception open to everyone at Harrison Hall on the church grounds. All of the performers will be there, and it will be a great opportunity to meet them.
   Bill Haxton is a resident of Three Rivers and principal in the newly formed Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute.


First things first

Crawl before you walk;
Draw before you paint

By Jana Botkin

   Three Rivers is a beautiful place that inspires many people to create art. Lots of people get the yen to paint, often when retired.
(Sometimes I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “Oh yeah? I think I’ll try practicing law when I retire!”)
   Most don’t understand that drawing comes before painting, sort of like grunting and pointing comes before public speaking.
   A painting without drawing skills behind it is usually a weak piece of art. What I mean by this is that unless one can see proportions, perspective, and values (the darks and lights), the resulting paintings will most likely be exercises in frustration.
   Throw in color, paint consistency, and brush behavior, and you get a recipe for visual chaos. Of course, if one is more process than product oriented, poor paintings may not be considered a problem.
   Drawing is a skill that can be taught, learned, and developed through repetitious practice. I have been teaching people how to draw for 16 years and always tell beginning students that “drawing is a skill, not a talent.”
   It is like typing — everyone can learn to type. Some type 25 words per minute, and others hit 90. Those speedsters are the ones with talent, but all are typists.
   Despite knowing the proper sequence of skills, I do understand the desire to just dive in. When I was learning to knit, my attitude was, “Scarves? We don’t need no stinkin’ scarves!”
   My first project was a sweater, and not just a simple pullover but a cardigan, complete with button bands and buttonholes. Needless to say, I own many weird sweaters and, after five years of knitting, quite a few good ones too.
   So, it is probably possible learn to paint without first drawing if one is learning from mistakes in the process and willing to have a collection of weird paintings.

  Jana Botkin of Three Rivers is a professional artist who owns Cabinart in Three Rivers. She creates oil paintings, pencil drawings, and murals of local landmarks and viewscapes. Her current project is a mural in the city of Exeter of Mineral King’s Franklin Lake and dam.


Kent Gannaway
1943 ~ 2010

   Oral “Kent” Gannaway died Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at his home in Stockton, Mo. He was 67.
   Kent was born and raised in Woodlake. He was a former resident of Three Rivers and Exeter. He was a retired state fruit inspector.
   A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 26, at 9 a.m., at Southern Baptist Church, 259 N. Acacia St., Woodlake.

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