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In the News - Friday, June 27, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Tulare County sheriff

to address Town Meeting

   During the June 9 Town Meeting, Sheriff Bill Wittman told a packed house that he was getting the message “loud and clear.” Three Rivers, he acknowledged, is concerned about crime.
   Several residents recounted recent incidents of trespassing, gang activity, and threats that could escalate at any one of several local swimming holes. Add illegal fires and July 4th fireworks into the mix and there’s plenty of probable cause for concern.

  “We really have our hands full down in the Valley, and the reality of the situation is that we could use a few more deputies,” Sheriff Wittman said. “I’ll come back to your next meeting and outline our strategy for dealing with all your concerns.”
   With the busy Fourth of July holiday weekend rapidly approaching, that next meeting couldn’t be any timelier than Monday, June 30. On that evening, Sheriff Wittman returns to Three Rivers and will be the featured speaker at this special Three Rivers Town Hall meeting.

  “I really don’t want this meeting to become a gripe session,” said Tom Sparks, spokesperson for the Village Foundation that will be sponsoring the meeting. “We are seeking some long-term solutions that could help us deal with what’s largely a seasonal situation.”
   A seasonal situation because each summer when the tourists return there’s a traditional spike in local crime. This time around, Sheriff Wittman is directly overseeing some extra resources that are already showing some results.

  “We really appreciate whatever extra patrols the Sheriff’s Department can send our way,” said Geoff Glass, a resident who lives near the Edison swimming hole on Kaweah River Drive.
   Glass and Brian Ford, also a Kaweah River Drive resident, along with several neighbors, have been working with officials of Southern California Edison to deal with the recurring problems that have plagued that neighborhood.
   The biggest concerns, they said, is the trashing of the river and illegally parked vehicles that block the narrow access road.

   “If we had a fire or an emergency during a busy weekend, it would be a disaster,” Ford said recently.
   The local group has convinced the Edison Company to close the popular swimming area during the upcoming July 4th weekend. The Memorial Day weekend closure really helped but because of the unseasonably cool, rainy weather it wasn’t a true test of the new policy.
   Kaweah River Drive is just one local area that will need some additional patrols during the three-day July 4th weekend. The North Fork recreation areas that are on BLM land will also attract carloads of day-use visitors.
   Steve Larson, BLM recreation planner, said his agency will have rangers on the North Fork throughout the busy weekend to discourage use of the sites that are now closed to the public indefinitely because of recurring problems and budget cuts.
   So where these users then go to recreate is problematic. Undoubtedly, they will seek out other swimming holes in and around Three Rivers.
   Areas that are likely to see some of this traffic are the Edison swimming hole (which will be posted as closed), Airport Bridge (posted no trespassing since Memorial Day), Slicky, and the Lake Kaweah shoreline, especially the Slick Rock Recreation Area.
Earlier this month, two rival Valley gangs faced off at Slick Rock. There was lots of posturing, weapons displayed, and threats of violence but ultimately very little fighting.
   Lake Kaweah rangers admitted after that incident: “…we dodged a bullet this time.”
   So are the stepped-up patrols necessary? Sheriff Wittman would be the first to acknowledge that they are, but he must do a juggling act with too few deputies to cover a county that is currently experiencing a growth spurt.
   Evidence that just a single deputy on patrol can make a difference occurred in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning, June 25. While on routine patrol, a deputy witnessed an individual at 2 a.m. walking his bicycle along the roadway near the junction of Sierra Drive and the Woodlake turnoff.
   In the course of conducting a “welfare check,” the officer determined the individual to be under the influence. A consensual search netted a quantity of methamphetamine.
   That’s when Gordon Keith Lowery, 36, of Exeter was taken into custody and booked into the Main Jail. A background check revealed that Lowery was already wanted for a parole violation.
   The upcoming Three Rivers Town Meeting will also include a presentation by some proactive locals who currently assist the Sheriff’s Department by serving as VIPs (Volunteers in Patrol). There are also plans to initiate a Neighborhood Watch program.
   For information about getting involved or the upcoming meeting, call Tom Sparks, 561-0406.

Gun provision may stall

Mineral King wilderness bill

   In 1978, an 11th-hour agreement between Democrats and Republicans added Mineral King to an omnibus parks bill that made the area once proposed to become a Disney ski resort a part of Sequoia National Park. In 2004, another bill preserved the rights of Mineral King cabin owners to continue their leases.
   This year, a Mineral King wilderness bill appears ready for passage, which would honor former San Joaquin Valley congressman John Krebs for his work as sponsor of the 1978 Mineral King legislation. The 2008 bill, following months of negotiations, was approved by the House earlier this month.
   The measure that creates a new 69,500-acre John Krebs Wilderness in the Mineral King Valley also adds 45,186 acres to the existing Sequoia-Kings Canyon wilderness.
   The Krebs wilderness bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, is currently awaiting approval in the Senate where it is being championed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Its current reading includes a half-mile buffer zone around the existing Mineral King cabins. It also permits certain helicopter and horseback use in the wilderness areas.
   The wilderness designation is mostly symbolic as the land is already protected by the National Park Service. The naming for Krebs is an unusual gesture of respect because rarely are wilderness areas named after somebody living.
   Krebs, 81, resides in Fresno. He is a naturalized citizen from Germany and a U.S. Army veteran. In the 1960s, Krebs served on the Fresno County Planning Commission and, later, as a Fresno County supervisor. His stint as a congressman lasted from 1975-1978.
Costa, who once worked for Krebs, authored the bill honoring the former congressman.

  “It’s fitting and appropriate that we name this wilderness after a gentleman who dedicated his life to preserving it,” Costa said recently.
   Costa and Boxer introduced the bill in July 2007. The language of the bill was changed after negotiations with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia. Nunes wanted the cabin buffer zone included and ongoing access for Southern California Edison to the region’s small dams.
   Every year, the massive national parks budget bill contains numerous amendments that can sidetrack the budget and other amendments from being approved by July 1, the beginning of the government’s new fiscal year. This year, a dispute over carrying loaded firearms in national parks threatens to stall the entire bill that would affect public lands from coast to coast.
   Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to score political points by creating a battle over the budget hinging on the outcome of what’s essentially a gun control issue. The gun bill would allow gun owners to carry loaded, accessible firearms into national parks and wildlife refuges.
   Current regulations prohibit gun owners from carrying accessible firearms onto lands managed by the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The gun amendment is sponsored by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a longtime gun-rights advocate who has endorsed Sen. McCain for president. McCain is a co-sponsor of the legislation.
   The fight over the gun bill threatens the entire omnibus budget package that, in addition to the Mineral King legislation, contains nearly 60 separate proposals to expand wilderness protection in several Western states and establish the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area in Illinois and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area in New York.

Daily smoke-out intensifies

   California is burning. Beginning Friday, June 20, wildfires from multiple causes ignited in the northern part of the state.
   Arson is suspected in a blaze that began near Watsonville on Friday, June 20, while dry lightning cells sparked a reported 800 fires from Fresno County to the California-Oregon border Friday and Saturday, June 20 and 21.
   Over the weekend, several telephone messages were received at the Commonwealth office inquiring as to the cause of the ever-thickening smoke.
   The good news is there are no wildfires threatening the immediate area. The bad news is that Kaweah Country’s air quality has been adversely impacted by drifting smoke from distant wildfires and it will take a dramatic weather change to reverse the effects.
   Locally, less than two-thirds of an inch of rain fell from March to May, a record-dry spring. Much of the state is facing the same dry conditions, so the fuel moistures are currently equivalent to what they would normally be at the end of summer.
   Air quality alerts were issued all this week due to elevated levels of particulate matter. On Tuesday, the warning was “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” (members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected). By Wednesday, it was “Unhealthy” for all (Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects).
   On Thursday morning, June 26, Tulare County was bordering on “Very Unhealthy” on the Air Quality Index, meaning “Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects.”

  Health effects of wood smoke-- Particulate matter (PM) contains microscopic particles of smoke that are so small they get lodged deep in the lungs and sometimes in the bloodstream. If you see smoke, it’s best not to exercise or let your children play outdoors.
   In the lungs, PM can cause structural and chemical changes.   Although little is known about effects on the heart, researchers suspect exposure to the smoke can cause heart attacks and heart arrhythmias.
   Long-term exposure to PM can reduce lung function and cause bronchitis and premature death. Short-term exposure can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and susceptibility to infection.
Wood smoke and other particles pose a greater threat to adults when they are physically active cause they breathe faster and more deeply, taking in more particles.
   Older adults are sensitive to air pollution, scientists suspect, because they may have undiagnosed heart or lung disease. Children are sensitive because they are active and also because their lungs are still developing.
   Most at risk are people with heart or lung disease such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with diabetes may be at increased risk because they may have underlying cardiovascular disease.
   According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, new studies suggest that inhaling fine particles can cause low birth weight in newborns, preterm deliveries, and possibly fetal and infant deaths.

Minimizing smoke exposure

  —Stay indoors with windows and doors closed. Run air condition on the recycled air setting. Do not run swamp coolers or whole house fans. It is recommended that heat-sensitive individuals use fans for cooling or they may consider leaving the area.

  —Minimize or stop outdoor activities, especially exercise, during smoky conditions.

  —People in a high-risk group (see above) or those who cannot find adequate shelter from the smoke outside may need to move to an emergency shelter.

  —Disposable particulate respirators found at hardware stores can be effective at reducing exposure to smoke particles as long as they seal closely to the wearer’s face. Look for respirators that have two straps and have the words “NIOSH” and either “P100” or “N95” printed on the filter material.

  Protect your home-- The blazes in Southern California in October 2007 and in the northern part of the state this week are a stark reminder of the area’s vulnerability to wildfires. Residents can’t always control when and where fire will strike next, but they can take greater precautions to reduce fire hazards.
   Some residents incorrectly assume that a fire truck will park in their driveway to defend their home during a fire, but a major wildfire will crimp firefighting resources and, in some instances, “firefighters will likely select homes they can most safely and adequately protect,” according to the Fire Safe Council.
   Creating defensible space around a home is the first order of business, according to fire officials. A defensible space of 100 feet around a home is now required by law, up from 30 feet previously.
   This includes a so-called “lean, clean, and green zone” of 30 feet surrounding your home and a “reduced fuel zone” in the remaining 70 feet, according to Cal Fire.
   Residents also need to operate gasoline-powered equipment carefully during fire season. More than 1,600 fires are started each year by Californians using equipment, such as lawn mowers, weedeaters, chainsaws, or tractors, in an unsafe manner.

Law requires hands-free

cell phones while driving

   According to the California Highway Patrol, cell-phone use is the leading cause of distracted driving collisions in California. So, in an effort to make driving safer for everyone, in 2007 California passed two new laws — SB 33 and SB 1613 — that both go into effect Tuesday, July 1.
   SB 33 is aimed at teens and makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use a cell phone or other wireless device while driving a motor vehicle. Because teenage drivers are young, inexperienced behind the wheel, and more easily distracted, it is best to avoid any extra distractions while they drive.
   Teen drivers should note that simply using a wireless device, even with a hands-free add-on, is a primary violation for which a law-enforcement officer can specifically pull them over. This is considered an incredibly important new law, since motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among 16 to 20-year-olds in the United States.
   While adults will still be able to use their cell phones while driving starting July 1, SB 1613 requires them to use a hands-free device when using a cell phone in the car. Also a primary offense, if cited by a law-enforcement officer for breaking this law, drivers will have to pay a fine: first offenses will result in a $20 fine with subsequent offenses of $50.
   With the addition of penalty assessments, these fines can be more than triple the base fine amount. Further, while no actual points will be assessed on DMV records, drivers should know that the infraction will still show on their driving record.
   Exceptions to both rules will include emergency situations (calls to law enforcement, health providers, the fire department, 911, etc.) and operating a vehicle while on private property. Neither law applies to passengers in cars.

Age-old question

now answered online

   Whether a resident or a visitor, it’s now easier than ever to decide where to dine. With just the click of a mouse, the complete menus for several favorite Three Rivers restaurants are now available online and more are coming soon.
   The Kaweah Commonwealth’s website has a RESTAURANT page that is currently a work in progress, but ready to be unveiled. Four Three Rivers restaurants — Sequoia Cider Mill, Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant, Pizza Factory, and We Three Bakery — are currently listed with address, phone number, and a link to the menus. Additional restaurants will be added featuring select dining opportunities from Sequoia National Park to Visalia and establishments in between.
   Flyers will soon be distributed to all lodging facilities announcing this service, so visitors will be aware of the choices available. Then they can log on in their room, at a wireless hot spot, or in the motel lobby to make the all-important decisions of when, where, and what to eat.
   And while on the Commonwealth’s website, take a peak at the HOTELS page. It is the most accurate, graphically-pleasing, and diverse listing of Kaweah Country lodging choices anywhere on the Internet. A new and very unique lodging opportunity — Seven Sycamores Ranch — will be online as of this weekend.
   And, as always, there is the Kaweah Kam, road conditions, Sequoia-Kings Canyon visitor information, weather, Kaweah Kalendar, photo galleries, and so much more.
   Check it out!

3R home featured in June Sunset

   A Kaweah River Drive home that was built more than 60 years ago was featured in the June 2008 issue of Sunset magazine. Entitled “A River Runs Through It,” the article describes the history of the home from its original owners to its rebirth in the 21st century.
Photos depict the property in the 1940s and now after the home’s renovation and improvements.
   According to the article, Elmer and Marjorie Cord Brandon had the home built, but when Elmer died in the 1950s, Marjorie moved away. After nearly a half-century of neglect, the home was purchased and remodeled by Larry Jules, a Three Rivers homebuilder.
   Currently owned by Chris Keller and Charles Wolford, the renovation was completed and the interior tastefully decorated with a blend of the 1940s and contemporary touches. Decks and bridges certainly enhance the riverside location, but the real appeal lies with the glass-bottomed bar that offers a view down into the water and the dining room that is suspended over a tributary of the mighty Kaweah.
   For additional glimpses of the home and grounds and to read about the history of the property, go to the homeowners’ personal website at www.kaweahfalls.com.

SFCC goals and strategies

   In the April 25 edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth, the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce announced the initial results from the organization’s strategic planning effort. In the article, the Chamber shared its new mission, vision, and values to guide the organization and its work in the coming decades.
   Next in this process was to develop goals and strategies, which delineate what, specifically, the Chamber will accomplish during the next three to five years. Goals are separated into programmatic goals and organizational development goals.
   The former concentrates on the work the Chamber will do; the latter focuses on how the Chamber itself will grow and develop. Each goal is broad-based in concept and followed by four to seven specific strategies that describe what the Chamber will specifically do to accomplish its goals.
   The Chamber’s programmatic goals include:

  —Improve the economic well-being of our member businesses and the quality of life in Three Rivers and surrounding gateway communities. Strategies for this goal focus on programs or events that increase the value of our community; promoting the region to increase tourism; and promoting service businesses.

  —Increase opportunities to represent and promote member businesses; increase member participation in chamber events and activities. Strategies for this goal include increasing member communications, outreach and recognition programs; instituting a seminar series for business owners; providing diverse advertising opportunities; and distributing member information.

  —Promote, encourage, represent and foster a cooperative relationship with business, agency, nonprofit and industry partners in Three Rivers and surrounding gateway communities. Strategies for this goal include hosting a meeting of local organizations, cooperating with National Park Service officials, participating in regional marketing efforts with partners, and cooperating with local organizations to provide support.

  —Provide information for visitors to and residents of Three Rivers and the communities surrounding Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Strategies under this goal include staffing a visitor information center; upgrading and maintaining a user-friendly website; creating brochures, publications and displays; printing the community phonebook; providing welcome packages for new residents; and submitting articles on Chamber activities to local media outlets.
   The Chamber’s organizational development goals include items typical of any growing nonprofit:

  —Develop and implement plans, policies and systems that enable the organization to operate most effectively and maintain organizational credibility. Strategies under this goal include completing a strategic plan; completing a marketing and branding plan; and determining which organizational and operational policies are needed.

  —Develop diverse funding mechanisms to sustain a financially stable organization. Strategies under this goal include sustaining 90 percent of members annually and adding 20 new members in the next three to five years; making grant contacts and submitting proposals; building an endowment to support programs and operations; operating at optimum nonprofit organization financial practices; and exploring additional fundraising avenues.

  —Develop personnel and equipment adequate to meet the program goals of the organization. Strategies here include exploring and establishing new ways to grow the organization through board development, staff, committees, volunteers, an intern program, an advisory council, and building alliances and partnerships.
   In the coming months, the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce will be wrapping up their strategic planning effort. After determining the mission, vision, values, goals, and strategies, the organization will then focus very specifically on how to accomplish its program and organizational development goals by creating work plans and budgets with a three-year outlook.
   If interested in participating in the strategic planning process or volunteering for one of the programs or projects listed above, contact Johanna Kamansky, SFCC president, at bigtreesmarketing@gmail.com or 679-9066.


Healthy dark chocolate:
Antioxidants and it tastes good too

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 service, and to provide a network for health and wellbeing professionals.
   We are learning from many sources about the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables; the latest recommendation is nine servings per day! These healthy foods are loaded with antioxidants and counterbalance the process that naturally occurs in one’s body, burning food-fuel to provide energy. Over 200 degenerative diseases have been linked to a lack of antioxidants.
   New research includes data that dark chocolate — especially that which is unprocessed and without artificial sweeteners, coloring, flavorings or caffeine — provides an exceptionally high source of antioxidants. But can there truly be something that tastes sweet, is enjoyable to eat, you like it, and it’s good for you?
   Dark chocolate is in the news. Popular magazines, health experts on television, and many doctors report benefits of including dark chocolate as part of one’s food plan for healthy daily living. People who have been enjoying dark chocolate share how their health and wellbeing has improved.
   Some have balanced their cholesterol levels or reduced high blood pressure. Others enjoy dark chocolate and it helps control their blood sugar. Decreased inflammation in joints and muscles has been reported.
   Many have relieved chronic skin irritations. New statistics have shown dark chocolate provides some blockage of UV rays to protect the skin.
   Surprisingly, people have even found eating healthy dark chocolate can be an aid for releasing extra weight and keeping it off.
   Generally, healthy people often feel more energized, while at the same time feel calmer and enjoy a better quality of sleep. Long-term research has shown the value for heart health, as well as for one’s teeth and gums. And healthy dark chocolate may strengthen memory.
   How much healthy dark chocolate to enjoy each day? It is suggested that one to three ounces will make a difference in one’s overall health and wellbeing.
   Three one-ounce servings of healthy dark chocolate each day for five days is equal in antioxidant power to eating three pounds of raw spinach, three-and-a-half pounds of red grapes, and twenty-and-a-half pounds of tomatoes.
   Eat your fruits and vegetables and healthy dark chocolate for a balanced food plan. It’s a great way to be healthy and enjoy it!
   Richard and Clancy Blakemore are independent distributors of Xocai healthy dark chocolate. For a free sample or for more information, call 561-4435 or email clancychocolate@sbcglobal.net.

Stepping stones that

pave the path to college

   A workshop that taught how to make stepping stones was held last month by the Arts Alliance of Three Rivers.
   Participants learned to decorate a plain stepping stone with tiles, shards, and found objects. Everyone in the workshop left with one or more stepping stones and the information to continue working on their own.
   This event was a fundraiser for the Lorraine Young Memorial Scholarship fund. Each year, the Arts Alliance awards scholarships to local art students who plan to continue their education.
   Over the years, scholarships have been awarded to young people with an interest in art, music, dancing and choreography, culinary arts, architecture, and graphic arts.
   This year, scholarships were presented to Megan Brim of Three Rivers, a graduating senior at Woodlake High School and Kylie Castro of Three Rivers, who graduated from Exeter High.

Mural wrap

   Nadi Spencer, a Three Rivers artist, celebrated the completion last week of the last panel of a historical mural that is scheduled to be installed in the new Fowler Public Library. The larger-than-life mural depicts actual people from the past and present and will be unveiled during a grand opening at the Fresno County library on Saturday, July 19, at 10 am.


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
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