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In the News - Friday, June 28, 2013





Post office coping with short staffing

  Irregular hours, lunchtime closings, newly appointed postmasters that leave for assignments elsewhere, and threatened closures have Three Rivers postal patrons wondering what could possibly be next. According to Joseph Carey, the OIC (officer in charge) and currently the only full-time employee at the Three Rivers station, not even career Postal Service employees can predict what’s going to happen down the road.
   Even the local newspaper, relegated to third-class mail, has to wait its turn on some Fridays to be inserted after the first-class mail is placed in the respective post office boxes.
  “Last week I had the Commonwealth in the local post office boxes shortly after noon,” Joseph said. “That would only happen every so often when I’m here by myself.”
    Routinely, the newspaper is in the boxes by 10 or 11 a.m. On most days there has been an employee from another station but some days Joseph is on his own. The contractor rural routes still go out as usual but box holders sometimes have to wait depending on window service traffic.
    Selling stamps and postal products has suddenly become the priority of the U.S. Mail. It’s no secret why — the Postal Service is under assault from the Internet just like so many other American businesses (such as the local newspaper).
    The current staffing problems at Three Rivers are directly linked to the service at the Lodgepole Post Office in Sequoia National Park. It’s mandated by the federal government to maintain service there, especially in the busy summer season.
    A former Lodgepole employee, who recently was assigned to help out at Three Rivers, now must devote his hours to commuting daily to serve park customers. That leaves Three Rivers a staff person short and with no immediate prospects of adding another employee.
    But the mail must go through and will continue to be delivered to even the most rural parts of Tulare County. Think of your service relative to other businesses where all you ever get is an automated response.
    And know that supporting local businesses, whether it’s post office, newspaper, or retail or service-oriented, is the only way they can continue to serve the community.

BLM to reconvene public meeting

   Hoping to continue the Case Mountain dialogue started at a May 29 meeting in Three Rivers, BLM planners will host another public meeting on Tuesday, July 9. The workshop meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
    The meeting is intended to follow up information, ideas, and concerns that were expressed at last month’s meeting when Bureau of Land Management officials outlined their plans to acquire 59.19 acres of the former Craig Ranch property known as the “South End.”
    The Case Mountain area became accessible to the public after Ollie Craig’s donation of more than 1,000 acres of mostly cattle-grazing land in the early 1990s. This donation opened for the first time some prime Three Rivers backcountry for recreation.
    But even with the low-key use that developed mostly from bikers and hikers, there have been access issues near the trailhead on Skyline Drive and at the locked gate at the terminus of Craig Drive.
    The new acquisition could take the pressure off Skyline Drive if a parking lot could be built near the outlet of the Salt Creek road where it meets Craig Drive. As a result of the input from the last meeting, BLM planners have developed alternatives for Three Rivers residents to consider.
    “This is the public’s opportunity to help us ensure the most feasible and viable alternatives have been considered,” said Gabriel Garcia, Bakersfield Field Office manager.
    In addition to a range of alternatives, the BLM will present large-scale maps and engineering plans for the proposed infrastructure and improvements. There will be ample time to study the maps and drawings and then ask questions.
    For further information on the public workshop, contact Peter De Witt at (661) 391-6120 or email pdewitt@blm.gov. Written comments may be submitted before July 21.


New sign to be installed near Horse Creek

   After three years of negotiations with Caltrans, the Three Rivers Village Foundation announced earlier this week that the new “Welcome to Three Rivers” sign is scheduled to be installed. Site work has been completed and a frame has already been erected adjacent to Highway 198 just east of the Horse Creek Bridge.
    “We will have a ceremonial unveiling of the new sign soon,” said Marge Ewen, a Foundation board member. “There won’t be much hoopla at the actual site because parking is limited where the sign will be located.”
    But Marge said getting the sign installed is actually a big deal because millions of visitors will see the sign as they enter Three Rivers. The metal sign, created by Dave King, a local resident who is a metalworking instructor with Visalia Adult School, features a distinctive knockout of a giant sequoia and the welcoming text.
    The former welcome sign, until last Friday located at Slick Rock, is believed to have been made by Carroll Barnes, a renowned Three Rivers artist, more than a half-century ago.  Barnes also chiseled the famous Paul Bunyan statue out of redwood that towers over the  Three Rivers Historical Museum grounds, the College of the Sequoias “giant,” and the rooster at Village Market, among many other sculptures in Tulare County and throughout the state.
    On Friday, June 21, that sign was transported to the historical museum property where it currently is on display. This is due to Caltrans requirements that, according to the Foundation, allow just one entrance sign per community along the state highway.

Park fatalities underscore risk, safety

   The nearby national parks are among the most beautiful and alluring places on the planet. But with the inviting scenery comes inherent risk; three recent incidents underscore the unpredictability of the natural world.
    On the evening of Friday, June 14, Joe Lopez, 60, of Bakersfield was hiking with his brother in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park. As the backpackers approached 10,000 feet in elevation on the Eagle Lake Trail, Joe suddenly collapsed.
    His brother attempted CPR but could not revive him. After summoning help, park rangers arrived and recovered the victim via helicopter. The body was transported to the Tulare County Coroner’s Office.
    One week later, David Breuer, 47, of Mishawaka, Ind., was visiting Mist Falls with his wife and three daughters, a four-mile hike from Road’s End in Kings Canyon National Park. He left the trail to approach the top of the falls, then slipped and fell into the cascade.
    Several other visitors pulled Breuer out and attempted CPR but could not revive the victim. Park rangers transported Breuer’s body to the Fresno County Coroner’s Office.
    On Monday, June 24, the parents of a three-year-old girl reported at approximately 3:30 p.m. that their daughter had fallen and hit her head at Lodgepole Campground. The child was transported via ambulance to the Three Rivers Golf Course where she was airlifted via helicopter to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
    The victim apparently suffered head trauma. Her medical condition was not released to the public.

Reconstruction project on Generals Highway complete

   It has been ongoing since May 2010. A major reconstruction of the historic Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park, between the park entrance and Giant Forest, that has had long delays for travelers and commuters.
    But on Friday, June 21, after more than three years, the project was officially completed. It is now once again possible to reach the popular Giant Forest area from Three Rivers in under an hour.
    There still is some roadwork to be aware of, however. Center-line striping will be occurring through next week from Potwisha Campground to the Four Guardsman (above Crystal Cave road). There could be some minor delays.
    The utilities construction project that was started last fall but interrupted by winter is still requiring delays of no more than 20 minutes from 6 a.m. till 6 p.m. This work is occurring just beyond the Giant Forest Museum and is close to completion.
    For current road conditions, call the parks’ 24-hour, recorded information line at 565-3341 (press 1, 1, 1).

DUI checkpoint scheduled for Sunday

   It’s the river-goers in Sequoia National Park that are the impetus for the looming DUI checkpoint that will be conducted this weekend by Sequoia National Park law-enforcement rangers. The checkpoint is scheduled for Sunday, June 30, from 4 to 8 p.m.
    During that time, rangers will briefly detain motorists in the Ash Mountain area to check for impaired drivers.
    Mixing alcohol with river recreation is as ill-advised as drinking and driving. But it is often the case that an ice chest will accompany those who spend the day at the river.
    If a driver is not designated, hours of sitting in the sun while drinking alcoholic beverages proves incompatible with getting behind the wheel of a car. Add to that a narrow, curvy mountain road with granite boulders on one side and cliffs on the other and it adds up to certain disaster.
    To deter impaired driving is the most important aspect of a DUI checkpoint. Just don’t drink and drive in the first place.
    But if all the warnings and education fail and a driver is found to be over the legal limit of intoxication, they can look forward to an expensive and time-consuming legal process.

Woodlake is one of state’s fastest growing cities

   Although it’s still the smallest incorporated city in Tulare County, Woodlake’s population grew by one of the highest percentages in the state in 2012, according to a California Department of Finance report released last month.
    Woodlake was California’s sixth fastest growing city, ranked behind Santa Clarita, Dublin, Lake Elsinore, Imperial, and Indio, respectively. The city had a population increase of 3.7 percent to 7,665 residents.
    Tulare County’s overall population grew by 1 percent. There are now 455,599 residents here, which in comparison to the population of Los Angeles at nearly 4 million means there is still plenty of breathing room.
    Visalia was the 98th fastest growing city in the state out of 482. The county seat had an increase of 1.1 percent, bringing its population to 128,443.
    The San Francisco Bay Area led the state as the fastest growing region with four out of the five fastest growing counties being located in the Bay Area.
    California’s 10 largest cities are (in order from largest): Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, and Anaheim.
    In economic news, while still at historically low levels, California’s statewide housing growth, as measured by net unit growth in 2012, was up 27 percent over 2011. And for the first time, multiple-family housing units surpassed single-family homes in new construction throughout the state.
    These population estimates are produced annually by the state Department of Finance for use by local areas to calculate their annual appropriations limit. Additionally, estimates are used for research and planning purposes by government agencies.

Wipe your feet!

Boot brushes installed at trailheads

   It used to be you only had to wipe your feet when coming home after a hike. After all, that’s what keeps the indoors clean.
    But these days, hikers are being asked to wipe their feet before embarking on their hike. It sounds unusual, but there is a method behind this seemingly strange request.
    Is it possible that nature can be saved from exotic plant species if hikers were to keep the outdoors as clean as their indoors? Consider this: yellow star and Italian thistles in Three Rivers are invading the hillsides rapidly as they grow in dense patches. Each plant makes thousands of seeds each year.
    It would be easy to see how even one of those seeds could be trapped in a crevice of a hiking boot, then transported to the High Sierra. As global temperatures increase, these plants could now more than ever adapt and grow at the higher elevations, forever altering the landscape as we know it. This would not only destroy favorite viewscapes, but choke out native vegetation, including wildflowers, and destroy the habitat of wildlife, ground-nesting birds, and beneficial insects (i.e., butterflies).
    Expect to see these civilized contraptions popping up in the most wild places across the country as the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service put them into service at trailheads.
    As part of the research on the effectiveness of the boot brushes, dirt samples have been previously collected and analyzed. In one such study, seeds found under boot brushes along woodland trails germinated to reveal crab grass and other common household and agricultural weeds not found in a healthy forest.
    Skeptics may think that people will just bypass this voluntary task. But think again.
    Most people who elect to tackle a hike on a High Sierra trail must surely be as dedicated to the beautiful scenery they will witness as to the physical challenge they face. Such appreciative lovers of wilderness will hopefully also cherish the future of this environment enough to take a minute to brush the plant invaders from their boots.
    So do what your mother taught you: Wipe your feet!

Climate change and its effect on the Sierra

   The Sierra Nevada is listed among the top 10 ecosystems needing protection from climate change, said a 2011 report from the Endangered Species Coalition (It’s Getting Hot Out  There: 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World). The long-term potential effects of climate change in the Sierra Nevada include adverse impacts to the state’s water supply, forest health, wildlife habitat and local economies. For example, scientists generally agree that the following, among other impacts, will likely result from a changing climate: More precipitation will fall as rain, not snow; snowpack will melt earlier due to higher temperatures; vegetation will migrate based on changed conditions, resulting in impacts on wildlife; and fires will start earlier in the year and burn longer and hotter, consuming a larger amount of the landscape.
    Scientists from the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced predict that the region is likely to experience 50 percent to 150 percent more critically dry years due to climate change.
     Water— Observations indicate Sierra Nevada precipitation is becoming more variable. It is  likely that a multiyear drought will occur, as has occurred numerous times in the past; however, future droughts may be longer lasting. The shift from snow to rain in the Sierra Nevada, decreased snow cover area, coupled with longer growing seasons, are certain to impact water deliveries. This loss of snowpack storage will reduce water security.
    Heat— Analysis of climate observations and models indicate that present-day heat waves, multiple days with temperatures in the top five percent of historic warmest days, will increase by two to four times the current level. By mid century, temperature increases throughout the state are very likely to range between two and five degrees, with end-of-century increases of three degrees to 10 degrees.
    Temperatures soaring beyond 110 degrees in the Central Valley may become annual occurrences.
    Fires— Naturally occurring wildfires are likely to be larger in extent due to increased drying of fuel load during the summer season.
    Flora and fauna— Animals, plants, and even insects are adapting quickly to shifts in temperatures, often by migrating to cooler climates, modifying their diets, and altering breeding cycles.
    More than 60 percent of the birds the National Wildlife Federation tracked in a recent study have expanded their range northward by an average of 35 miles in the last 40 years.
    Fourteen small mammal species in the Sierra Nevada Mountains were found to have extended the elevation at which they can survive by an average of 1,640 feet.
    Most native fishes will suffer population declines and become more restricted in their distributions; some will likely be driven to extinction. Fishes requiring cold water (less than 72 degrees) are particularly likely to go extinct. In contrast, most alien fishes will thrive, with some species increasing in abundance and range.
    Giant sequoias— A 2009 U.S. Forest Service study concluded that tree ranges had moved, on average, more than 60 miles north in less than a century.
    The central and southern Sierra Nevada is a region that is famous for its trees — the biggest: giant sequoias; the oldest: bristlecone pines. But the long-term existence of these trees could be threatened by drought and disease.
    Seedlings and young trees will find it difficult to survive because they would be left with insufficient water to endure longer and warmer summers.
    If the climate change trend isn’t slowed or reversed, the oldest of the Big Trees, which have survived on this planet for thousands of years, could be gone within a century.
    Conservation— The Sierra Nevada ecosystem is heavily impacted by climate change, but also population growth, recreation, and changing land use. Given the potential impacts that are anticipated, adapting to changing conditions will be critical for those who live, work, and recreate in the region.
    Reducing impact and protection and restoration of mountain meadows will help species adapt and continue to provide Californians with water when they need it most.
    Limiting nonnative species of plants and living creatures will minimize threats to native populations that are already struggling to adapt to warming temperatures.
    And, of course, reducing pollutants will help greatly to combat climate change.

3R Woman’s Club elects new officers

    Members of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club ended the 2012-2013 year with their annual luncheon, held at St. Anthony Retreat.
     The luncheon included the traditional installation of officers. The women who will lead the nearly 100-year-old club during the coming year are:
     Mary Scharn, president; Peggy Huddleston, vice president; Kathy Bohl, secretary; Kitty Guthrie, treasurer; and directors, Polly Kelch and Bonnie Lasswell.
     Also during this last meeting of the year, member and former president Anne Hayes was presented with an Honorary Member award for her ongoing involvement in the club.
     The Three Rivers Woman’s Club will celebrate its centennial in 2016. It derives its income from membership dues and through sales at The Thingerie thrift shop, which has been in operation since the 1970s.
     In the last 10 years alone, the club has provided more than $300,000 to the community in the form of academic scholarships for local students and donations to local organizations and via special requests of need.


Lee Searcey
1932 ~ 2013

     Lee C. Searcey of Three Rivers died Thursday, June 20, 2013, at his South Fork home. He was 80.
     A service will be held Saturday, June 29, at 1 p.m., at First Baptist Church in Three Rivers.
     Lee was born November 9, 1932, in Reedley, but lived in Three Rivers since 1948. He worked for his dad, Clarence, for several years, who owned and operated two Visalia restaurants from 1935 to 1976.
     Lee left Three Rivers when he joined the U.S. Navy. Following his discharge, he resided in Morro Bay before returning to Three Rivers.
     Lee married his wife, Karen, in 2000. He worked locally as a stonemason and a construction worker.
     He could build anything, according to Karen, and loved hunting.
     Lee was preceded in death by his father, Clarence Searcey (1913-2007).
     He is survived by his wife of 12 years, Karen; two sons, Ron and Steve; and three grandchildren, Samantha, Skye, and Shawn.



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