this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
Tulare County sheriff
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
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
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
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
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
For information about getting
involved or the upcoming meeting, call
Tom Sparks, 561-0406.
Gun provision may
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
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
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
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
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.
California is burning. Beginning
Friday, June 20, wildfires from multiple
causes ignited in the northern part of
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
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
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
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
—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
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
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
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
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.
WHERE SHOULD WE
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
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
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
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
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
SFCC goals and
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
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
The Chamber’s programmatic
—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
—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
—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 firstname.lastname@example.org
SEQUOIA MOUNTAIN HEALERS:
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
--BY RICHARD AND CLANCY
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
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
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.