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In the News - Friday, June 20, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


3R man dies in

Sierra Drive crash

   Jon Lentz, 39, of Three Rivers was killed last weekend in a single-vehicle accident. Two Tulare County fire engines and an ambulance responded to the call that was received at 11:57 p.m. on Saturday, June 14.
   Upon arriving at the scene, emergency responders found Jon had been ejected 50 feet from the vehicle. According to Dave Thomas, CHP officer, Jon was driving westbound on Sierra Drive just before Old Three Rivers Drive when the 2001 F-250 pickup he was driving crossed the eastbound lane, left the roadway, and descended a 10-foot embankment before striking a utility pole.
   It was reported that Jon was not wearing a seatbelt. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
   Jon’s obituary is below on this page.

Stranded swimmers rescued

   When campers check into the Kaweah Park Resort, they receive a river-safety warning first and are assigned a campsite second. News clippings are posted in several places around the office in the hope that visitors will take heed that even if the river doesn’t look dangerous, it is, especially for the novice river swimmer.
The swimming pool right outside the office is there for a reason. It furnishes a much safer alternative where campers can cool off and get plenty wet.
   But the shoreline along the riverfront resort has some tranquil-looking pools, and when the temperature soars into the triple digits, the pristine stretch of Kaweah River is impossible for some to resist. Visitors enter the water daily and invariably somebody gets caught in the current, is too tired to fight the chilly current, and requires assistance to get back to shore.
   That familiar scenario was re-enacted Tuesday, June 17, just before lunchtime. Two 12-year-old girls from Atascadero entered an upstream pool at the resort and were immediately swept downstream by the surprisingly swift current.

  “What’s ironic is that one of the girls swam back and forth across the channel to the island yesterday after we set up camp,” said a relative who asked that the family not be identified. “Once they got out there today they were just too scared to get back.”
   At that point, an adult camping with the party entered the water to help get the girls back across the channel. He soon lost his confidence and also became stranded.
   In a matter a minutes, a county firefighter, several Three Rivers on-call volunteers, and Deputy Jim Fansett were staging on shore preparing to bring the marooned trio from their island perch in the middle of the river.

  “What we’re using here is called a pendulum maneuver to float or swing the victims back across one-by-one,” Deputy Fansett explained. “This technique works best if the victims are unhurt, can put on a life jacket, and hold on to the inner tube that can be pulled across the channel by these ropes.”
   A rescue team member is stationed downstream just in case a victim lets go. Nobody else needs to enter the water unless there is a more immediate emergency, Deputy Fansett said.
   In a matter of a few minutes, the swiftwater rescue team had the trio back safely on shore. The victims, none the worse for the stress of the ordeal, thanked their rescuers and vowed to use better judgment the next time.

3R goes proactive

on public safety

   Ask any public official, business owner, resident, or visitor: what is the number-one issue of our time? It’s unequivocally public safety, whether it’s the mean streets of the inner city or small-town rural America.
   And although relatively speaking rural crime rates pale when compared to urban statistics, a victim is still a victim no matter where the crime occurs.
   For as long as anyone can remember, the busy summer season has meant a spike in local crime. It’s not necessarily wanton violence, but Three Rivers is no stranger to homicide (there were two on the North Fork in the early 1990s), and there was a brazen bank robbery during Jazzaffair a few years later.
   In 2002, a rash of smash and dash burglaries plagued the central business district. That spate of seasonal crime led to the organizing of the local volunteer contingent (VIPs) of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.
   These volunteers have been indispensable in helping the resident deputy keep the peace. But the growth of the county, budget constraints, and some seasonal factors have conspired to present a situation that if left untended could easily become volatile.
   At least that’s the consensus of property owners who live up and down the forks of the Kaweah River and others living alone or on isolated properties. All admit that the main reason they came to Three Rivers was to find a little peace and quiet.
   For some folks, especially riverfront owners, the summer is anything but peaceful. The powerful attraction of the Kaweah River is at the nexus of the seasonal problem.
   Locals and visitors alike want to access its remarkable swimming holes. Trespassing, drug use, and alcohol at these places invariably lead to confrontations that can escalate an already tense situation.
   The solution is simply a greater law enforcement presence at the very least during the busiest periods when the local population swells. One deputy cannot be everywhere and in a confrontation, a backup deputy or two is mandatory.
   Since the Town Meeting of June 9 when Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman listened intently to the plight of locals who spoke out, more deputies have been patrolling Three Rivers. Unconfirmed reports indicated that dozens of citations were written by sheriff’s deputies during the weekend of June 13 to 15.
   That’s a quick fix but a more permanent solution is being sought. In response, Sheriff Wittman will return to Three Rivers on Monday, June 30, to outline his plan to deal with law enforcement during the busy Fourth of July weekend and the summer season. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
   This special Town Meeting is being sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation.

  “Law enforcement is not really within the scope of the Foundation,” said Tom Sparks, board president and spokesperson. “But because of the overwhelming response at the last meeting, we felt compelled to get involved in the process.”

Prescribed fire ignited in Cedar Grove

   Kings Canyon National Park fire crews began the Zumwalt Prescribed Fire in the Cedar Grove area on Thursday, June 19. Upon completion, the fire will have encompassed 192 acres on the south side of the highway and the Kings River between Roaring River and Zumwalt Meadow.
   This entire area has been burned in recent history by prescribed fire, in 1995 and 1997.
   Trail closures will be in effect during the two-day ignition period and until it is determined that no hazards remain for hikers. This basically means that the trail that parallels the south side of the Kings River from Roads End through Zumwalt Meadow to Roaring River, as well as the Zumwalt Meadow loop, will not be accessible.
   The trail to Roaring River Falls will remain open, as will all trails north of the highway and those that access the backcountry from Roads End.
   Another larger prescribed fire — over 900 acres — is planned for Cedar Grove in the fall.
   Prescribed fires are also planned for Grant Grove in Kings Canyon and, in Sequoia, at Wuksachi, Lodgepole, and Mineral King, all of which depend on conditions such as weather, air quality, and available personnel.
   In all, there are 13 projects totaling 3,486 acres in 2008, although it is rare that all of the annual planned projects reach completion.
   1968-2008— This year, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks commemorates 40 years of a prescribed fire program. Originally called “controlled burns,” the concept of reintroducing fire into the natural ecosystem began at Redwood Mountain in these very parks.

3R resident, bear expert

publishes children’s book

   The Sequoia Natural History Association recently released a new children’s book, If You Were a Bear, written by wildlife biologist Rachel Mazur of Three Rivers, bear management specialist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Unlike many other kids’ books about bears, this publication teaches children at an early age how they can help protect black bears.
   The easy-to-read rhymes and original artwork make this a fun and educational book. The book is recommended for ages four to eight.
Illustrations are by Sarina Jepsen of Portland, Ore., who holds a master’s degree in entomology from UC Davis and specializes in biological and technical illustrations of insects and other invertebrates.
   Here are excerpts from If You Were a Bear:
Can you imagine having paws instead of hands?
Eating acorns and ants?
Sleeping through the whole winter?
It must be really different to be a bear!
Or is it? Little bear cubs need food, shelter and safety, just like you and me.
Come find out what it’s like to be a bear — and how you (yes, you!) can help keep them wild.

                          * * *
And once a bear tastes human food that’s rich in calories, it finds a way to grab some more, without a thanks or please. And claws that once were used on logs, and teeth that once bit open fruit, bite open cans instead. For bears that don’t eat human food stay wild, safe, and free. How fun to be a little bear, up climbing in a tree.
   The book can be purchased at visitor centers in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks or on SNHA’s website: www.sequoiahistory.org

3R teen competing in

High School Rodeo state finals

   Shyan Souza of Three Rivers isn’t hanging out at the river this week. Instead, she grabbed her boots, buckle, and spurs, loaded up her horse, and has headed to the east side of the Sierra. From Monday, June 16, to Saturday, June 21, Shyan has been in Bishop for the California High School Rodeo State Finals, competing in the Breakaway Roping category.
   This is the second year that Shyan has competed in District 6 of the High School Rodeo and her first time to make the state finals. During the season, which runs September through June, there are 12 rodeo competitions.
   The top five contestants in each event advance to the state level, and Shyan placed fourth in the district in Breakaway Roping. At state, she will compete against 45 of the top California teen cowgirl ropers.
   She is also a state alternate in Pole Bending and Team Roping (sixth place), so if another contestant is absent, she will also be competing in these events.
   The top four winners from each state event will head to New Mexico in July for the High School Rodeo National Finals.

  “Thank you to all my local sponsors for their support and for believing in me,” said Shyan, as several businesses, service organizations, and individuals have assisted her in her quest. “And thanks to my sister, Fallon, for the use of her awesome horse, Chief!”
   Shyan is a 15-year-old sophomore at Woodlake High School. Her parents are J.P. and Tammy Souza of Three Rivers.


New approach to

SFCC member mixers

   The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce is taking a new approach to its quarterly member mixers. As a way to introduce Chamber members and the community to the diversity of local businesses, the Chamber will now host its mixers at a member's business location.
   The June 18 mixer kicked off this new idea and was hosted at the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers. Sequoia Natural History Association and Advanced Therapeutic Massage provided the refreshments.
   The Chamber intends to continue this trend at its September 17 and December 17 member mixers. Member businesses interested in hosting a mixer provide the location and refreshments.
   The chamber will be responsible for notifying its members. Several businesses can partner together to host the mixer, which also could provide a unique opportunity to highlight businesses located together in one of the many "plazas" in Three Rivers.
   As a mixer host, business members will be able to share information about their products and services to attendees during the Chamber's activities update.
   Chamber members interested in hosting one of the 2008 quarterly mixers should contact Johanna Kamansky, president, at 679-9066 or Scott Mullikin, vice president and member chair, at 561-3488.


Chiropractic: Healing an

ailing health system

   This article is published as part of the Sequoia Mountain Healers series. The SMH mission is to create opportunities for enhancing health and wellness, encourage and promote diverse healing services, and to provide a network for health and wellbeing professionals.
                                * * *
   Despite spending 16 percent of its gross domestic product and double the median on healthcare expenditures compared to any other country in the world, the United States recorded the lowest score among 23 countries whose healthcare systems were evaluated in a report published by the Commonwealth Fund this past fall. The Commonwealth Fund is an internationally renowned private foundation established in 1918 that finances independent research on healthcare issues.
   The U.S. healthcare system received a score of 66 out of 100 in the study, which also concluded that the U.S. could save $50 to $100 billion in healthcare spending while preventing 100,000 to 150,000 deaths over a calendar year if it improved its healthcare system. The low score was attributed to the poor quality of life that the U.S. offers its patients — rated the worst of those reviewed.
   This is just another reason why people should have a daily regimen that includes exercise, a proper diet, and a healthy mental outlook. And when combined with regular CHIROPRACTIC CARE, the incredible human body will be given the opportunity to operate efficiently.
   We’ve all read and heard about “overweight America.” Well, mix an unfit society with a poor healthcare system and it’s a recipe for disaster.
   The report also gives the U.S. healthcare system failing grades regarding the prevalent overuse and unnecessary duplication of medical services, a breakdown in communication and coordination among healthcare providers, and an overall uneven quality of medical services provided.
   The United States scored 15th out of 19 developed nations on preventable deaths, like heart attacks. We also had the highest infant mortality rate.
   Our nation’s healthcare system is in the hands of elected officials. But everyone can do something that will have a positive impact on their long-term health.
   The Commonwealth Fund’s report is pretty clear: Our nation’s healthcare system is sick. So while it’s always best to eat healthy and keep fit, the importance is magnified while our nation searches for a cure to its healthcare woes.
   For more information regarding this study, contact Dr. Lynn Buckler at Buckler Chiropractic, 42261 Sierra Drive, Three Rivers or by calling 561-2210.

Consumer Alert:

Gypsy pavers are back

By Gary Whitney

   Sometime between spring and fall every year, we get a visit from one or more “gypsy” paving outfits. I call them outfits because they do not follow California law when it comes to being either a contractor or a company.
   They will come to your door and make a pitch to get you to let them pave your driveway. It generally goes like this: “We’re paving down the street and have some leftover asphalt. We can give you a great deal on paving your driveway.”
   Or maybe like this: “We’re paving in the area and our equipment is close. We can really save you some money on your driveway.”
It sounds too good to be true, and it is. I have had numerous calls over the years (usually after it’s too late) from people who have been duped by these guys.
   They often want 50 percent up front (the law allows a contractor 10 percent) and full payment immediately upon completion.
   Why? Because you will never see them again, and your driveway will generally start falling apart the day after they leave.
What can you do to protect yourself?

  —Hire a licensed contractor. He has his business at risk if he doesn’t do it right and he has an obligation to warranty his work. He also pays taxes (gypsies don’t) and he pays comprehensive and liability insurance. If someone is injured on your property while working for you without these, guess who pays?

  —Get more than one estimate on the job. Make sure that all bids are for the exact same thing.

  —Unlicensed contractors cannot legally bid a job and cannot legally do any job in excess of $500. Go online to the State Contractors’ Licensing Board (cslb.gov) and check their license status. The site will also provide any outstanding complaint information and insurance information.

  —Don’t make a rash decision. Think it through. Were you going to pave your driveway anyway or did this “deal” give you the idea?

  —Question their credentials. Get all license information and tell them (after the 10 percent, if necessary) that you will pay the balance net 30 days.
   I hope this will help if this situation happens to you. Generally, we don’t find pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.
   Gary Whitney has worked for L.E. Britten Construction of Three Rivers for 27 years.


Jonathan Lentz
1968 ~ 2008

   Jonathan Wayne Lentz of Three Rivers died Sunday, June 15, 2008, due to injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. Today (Friday, June 20) would have been his 40th birthday.
   Interment will be at the Three Rivers Cemetery tomorrow (Saturday, June 21) at 1 p.m., followed by a memorial service at the First Baptist Church in Three Rivers at 2 p.m. Visitation was Wednesday, June 18, at Miller’s Memorial Chapel in Visalia.
   Jon was born June 20, 1968, and moved to Three Rivers with his parents, Wayne and Connie Lentz, when he was three years old. He attended Three Rivers School and graduated from Woodlake High School with the Class of 1987.
   While at WHS, Jon enjoyed playing football with legendary coach Leo Robinson. In his senior year, he and his friend, Spencer Jensen, were selected to play in the Tulare/Kings All-Star Game and brought home a victory for the “East Team” over the West.
   After high school, Jon left Three Rivers to attend Butte College in Chico and Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. He returned to Three Rivers and worked for L.E. Britten Construction for 14 years.
   The only other time that he didn’t reside in Three Rivers was when he accepted a position with the State of California Department of Transportation where, for two years, he worked in Taft and San Luis Obispo. A year and a half ago, he was stationed closer to home, working out of Caltrans’s Pinehurst yard.
   Jon was an avid hunter and, with friends, took an annual hunting trip to Colorado. He and buddy Steve Fesperman were bird-hunting partners.
   Jon also enjoyed riding dirt bikes. Every chance he got, Jon would join Chuck and Lisa Coulter and their children — whom he considered his second family — and his group of Three Rivers and Exeter friends on excursions to the desert with their bikes.
   For many years, Jon played in the Poison Oak men’s summer softball league in Three Rivers. He also played softball at Visalia’s Plaza Park.
   One of Jon’s best memories, about which he always enjoyed telling stories, was when he was 12 and backpacked across the Sierra with his dad and Larry Britten of Three Rivers. They departed from Mineral King and hiked east to Whitney Portal, a distance of more than 70 miles.
   Jon was a dog person and loved his black Labradors, Duke, who died earlier this year, and Jake, who was with Jon in the auto accident and didn’t survive. He could often be found at the river, swimming with his dogs.
   In March 2008, Jon met Katherine (Katie) Vargus and her little dog, Cloe. Jon and Katie soon became engaged and had plans to marry March 28, 2009, in Shell Beach. He was looking forward to marriage and starting a family.
   According to Jon’s mom and dad, Connie and Wayne, he was a wonderful son, fiancé, and friend. He also enjoyed all his coworkers he met while employed with Caltrans.
   Jon was preceded in death by his grandparents, Orville and Gert Lentz and Cotton and Vera Applegate.
   He is survived by his mother and father, Connie and Wayne Lentz of Three Rivers; his fiancée, Katie Vargus, who had recently moved to Three Rivers; his aunt and uncle, Linda and Dewey Woollum of Pasco, Wash.; five cousins, Nikke Costa and son Nicholas of Washington, Deena Andrews and husband Curtis and their four daughters, Kristin, Jannelle, Aisley, and Josie of Missouri, Scott Applegate of Palm Springs, Todd Woollum and wife Diana and children Elise and Elijah of Washington, and Mary Lynn Woollum of Washington.
   Donations in Jon’s memory may be made to the Woodlake Union High School Foundation, P.O. Box 475, Woodlake, CA 93286.

John Wood
1922 ~ 2008

   John (Jack) Wood died at his home in Harbor City on Monday, June 2, 2008. He was 86.
   John was born in Inglewood on May 22, 1922, to John and Alice Wood. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, father-in-law, and friend who served his country, his community, his family, and the Lord.
   John served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in the European theater. He was a radio operator who served in the Normandy, North France, Central Europe, and Rhineland campaigns with the 8th Infantry Division, 28th Field Artillery, Battalion Headquarters Battery.
   After returning home to Southern California from military duty, John spent several years in the retail grocery business. He also worked in construction for 10 years.
   In 1965, John and his family relocated to Three Rivers. John built, owned, and operated the Kaweah Korral. It was a restaurant, riding stables, and home to many animals, including two bears, raccoons, peacocks, guinea hens, calves, and chickens.
   The Kaweah Korral was located near the entrance to Three Rivers, across Highway 198 from the Stivers Motel (present-day Lazy J Ranch Motel) and the Buckaroo Inn restaurant. John’s wife, Margaret, their daughter, Rani, and two sons, Steve and John, assisted in running the Kaweah Korral until it was sold a few years later due to health reasons.
   In the 1970s, John organized a couple of regattas at Lake Kaweah. The weekend events consisted of boat races and other activities, which were fun for the participants and spectators while at the same time benefited local businesses.
   In the 1980s, John was instrumental in the establishment of the Three Rivers Senior League. During the first few years of the organization’s existence, John served as president.
   In 1991, John was honored as “Person of the Year” for his many years of service to local seniors. John also received an “Elk of the Year” honor by the B.P.O.E. Elks Lodge in Hawthorne, Calif.
John was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars-Post 3939 of Three Rivers and was a deacon and head usher at the First Baptist Church in Three Rivers.
   In 2002, John and Margaret lost their Three Rivers home to eminent domain as a result of the Lake Kaweah enlargement project. At that time, the couple left Three Rivers and relocated in Harbor City.
   John was preceded in death by his loving wife of 63 years, Margaret, in 2006, and a son, Ronald Wood.
   He is survived by four of his children, Steve Wood and wife Christy of Three Rivers, Cheryl Cerasani and husband Tony of Marana, Ariz., Rani Fish and husband Jim of Manhattan Beach, and John Wood and wife Linda of Woodlake; his sister, Barbara Tindell of Riverside; nine grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.


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 2003-2008 The Kaweah Commonwealth