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for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

In the News - Friday, JUNE 30, 2006


Woman missing

in Kaweah River

    After six foothills river fatalities in the 2004 and 2005 seasons, it is evitable that the dangerously swift water would soon lure another victim. Apparently, Chastity Dorn, 21, of Tulare, is that victim and the first Kaweah River fatality of 2006.
   Last Saturday afternoon, June 24, Chastity was wading with family and friends in a chilly pool just above the historic Oak Grove Bridge, 6.5 miles from Highway 198 on the Mineral King Road. According to a witness at the scene, Dorn lost her footing, fell into whitewater, and quickly tumbled down two small waterfalls.
   Her brother dove in to assist her and took the same short tumble, then grabbed onto a rock and barely managed to climb out. His sister had disappeared in an instant and, despite an air and ground search, has not been located.
   Jim Fansett, Three Rivers resident deputy sheriff who coordinated the initial search, said this area is some of the steepest and most treacherous terrain on the river. Because of this, it is not possible for rescue personnel to enter the water to search.

Repairs to begin

on park highway

   Sequoia National Park officials announced Wednesday that a contract for the next phase of the reconstruction of the Generals Highway has been awarded to Agee Construction Corporation of Clovis. The $11.5 million project could begin by mid-July.
   That’s contrary to a start date for the project that was stated in the Commonwealth last week (“Park road project will impact 3R”) for the summer of 2007. The conflicting startup date was caused by a misinterpretation of “fiscal year 2007.”
   The Federal Highways Administration, the agency that will oversee the contract, views this one-and-a-half miles of roadway between Big Fern Springs and Amphitheater Point as the steepest and most dangerous section of the 80-year-old highway.
   The roadwork is expected to continue for 18 months and, weather permitting, be completed by the end of 2007. Construction work will be ongoing Mondays through Thursdays, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fridays, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. No work is anticipated for Saturdays and Sundays or on federal holidays.
   Traffic delays will be one hour with vehicles being allowed to pass through the construction zone at the top of every hour.
   According to Alexandra Picavet, parks information officer, rangers at the visitor centers will assist in coordinating departures to minimize delays.

  “We will also be coordinating our efforts with the new Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce visitor center in Three Rivers,” Picavet said. “Without permitting these delays, the cost and length of time needed to complete this phase of the project would increase tremendously.”

Park fires:

Planned and unplanned

   The ongoing Sequoia foothills hazard-fuel reduction project is expected to conclude today (Friday, June 30). Ignitions will occur near the Ash Mountain helibase and at the Hospital Rock Picnic Area.
   Park fire crews are also working to suppress a 12-acre lightning-caused fire in the Redwood Mountain area. The Horse Trail Prescribed Fire is ongoing in Cedar Grove and the Arrow and Woods lightning-caused fires, also in Kings Canyon park, are being allowed to burn naturally.

Longtime TRUS

business manager retires

   She’s seen thousands of students come and go. She’s assisted legions of teachers and parents who have entered her office.
   She’s analyzed dozens of budgets and crunched more numbers than H&R Block at tax time. And Valerie Abanathie has worked under three of just four superintendent/principals that Three Rivers Union School has ever had.
   But she’s got the other one covered, too. Mary McDowall, the school’s first administrator, was Valerie’s teacher for the seventh and eighth grades.
   Now, after 34 years of employment at TRUS, Valerie will officially retire today (Friday, June 30) as the school district’s Business Manager.
   It was on the eve of the December 1955 flood that Valerie moved with her parents to Three Rivers. After this torrential welcome by Mother Nature and once they had maneuvered their way into town despite a washed-out bridge, the family set up shop at the Mountaire Motel and Restaurant (present-day Sierra Lodge). Valerie entered the seventh grade at Three Rivers School, never realizing that she would make a career out of attending this school.
   In September 1971, Valerie was sent to the school office and, except for a one-year leave of absence, has not been excused since. She trained for one year with Charlotte “Billie” Hicks, the school secretary for 13 years.

  “Billie was my mentor,” said Valerie. “What a wonderful year I had working with her.”
   Upon Billie’s retirement in 1972, Valerie became the office secretary and also served as the secretary to the Board of Trustees. At that time, the office was in the original school building, located where the bus barn and McDowall Auditorium stand today.

  “I was the only one in the office for three years,” she said. “Then Judy Fiscus, who was an aide, started working part-time in the office and it grew from there.”
   In 1976, the current administration building was constructed.

  “The main office was in the area where I have been working,” said Valerie. “Judy and I shared a small area behind the counter for nine years.”
   An expansion project in 1986 added the current main office and new entryway.

  “Judy and I had fun taking turns sharing the desk, the counter, the typewriter and, of course, the phone,” she continued.
   Valerie took a leave of absence during the 1985-1986 school year when she relocated to the Vacaville area. While there, she worked for Solano Junior College.

  “I really enjoyed working there and seeing the business office in a different perspective, at a college level instead of elementary,” she recalled. “The change was good for me.”
   In July 1992, Valerie relinquished her board-secretary responsibilities upon being appointed TRUS business manager.

  “The workload became too great to also continue doing minutes for the board,” she explained.
   In addition to her duties as a member of the office staff, Valerie raised two children, both of whom also attended Three Rivers School.
   Appreciation of Valerie’s contributions over the years has come from students, parents, and staff. In 1980, the TRUS yearbook was dedicated to her with the following inscription written by the eighth-grade class:

  “In all our years at Three Rivers Union School, one person has consistently shared in our triumphs and in our tragedies… She has cared for us when we were ill and has allowed us to pay our lunch money late without being impatient or critical…”
   In 1996, the Three Rivers PTA presented both Valerie and longtime associate Judy Fiscus with the annual Honorary Service Award.
   And so it is that today this Three Rivers School mainstay — who has worked long enough to see students graduate, then return to register their own children… and grandchildren — will exit through her office door one final time.

  “For 34 years, my life has been TRUS — this school, the staff, the students, and all the parents. What a wonderful place to work and grow and retire. The staff is like a family. I love it and all the memories.”
   After all these years, Valerie has just one regret.

  “I wish I had written down everything that the kids have said when they come into the office,” she said. “What a book it would be because kids really do say the funniest things.”

Fourth of July

starts early in Woodlake

   The 11th annual July 3rd Blast is bigger and better than ever and everyone is invited to jumpstart their Fourth of July celebration the night before.
   The Kiwanis Club of Woodlake, the event’s principal sponsor, will give an American flag to the first 200 ticket holders who enter via the west gate of the Robinson-Painter Memorial Stadium at Woodlake High School. Gates open at 6 p.m.
   In addition to a fireworks display, live music will be performed by The Spirals. There will also be a rock-climbing wall, 4-H petting zoo, food, games and more.
   Adult tickets are $5 at the gate. Children ages six to 12 are just $1 when accompanied by a paying adult; children under six are free. Presale discount tickets for $3 are available at Woodlake Growers Supply and City Hall.
   Lawn chairs and picnic blankets are encouraged. No coolers or outside food is permitted.
   Proceeds from the event will be used for Kiwanis community projects. For more information, call 564-1441.

Woodlake skateboarders

get new facilities

   After more than two years of fundraising and planning, Woodlake’s skateboarders finally have a place to grind and get some big air. The community’s newest recreational facility was officially opened on Wednesday, June 21.
   North State Playgrounds of Redding packaged the kit of five structures that have been placed in Woodlake’s Miller-Brown Park, located immediately south of the First Choice shopping center and across from the local YMCA. The YMCA assisted the City of Woodlake, the skate park’s owner, with finding a suitable design that fit the $25,000 budget.

  “When it comes to our kids we always want the best possible recreational opportunities,” said Bill Lewis, Woodlake’s city manager. “This design is a practical step in the right direction.”
   The grouping of five skating structures is situated in an 80-by-35-foot area. Central in the design is a ramp with two three-foot ledges connecting at the top with a two-foot level surface. Attached at the opposite side of the ramp is a 12-inch grind box.
   Placed several feet away around the ramp is a two-foot quarter pipe, a 12-foot curved grind rail, a skateable bench, and an eight-foot rectangular grind rail.
   Toni Lenz, a community volunteer, first proposed the skate park project at a city council meeting in 2003. The local skate club staged several “demos” that raised funds and convinced Woodlake officials that there was an urgent need for creating a skate park.
   The new skate park is not fenced and is always open. Minors are required by law to wear helmets, and protective gear for all skaters is recommended.


Bob McBratney
1913 ~ 2006

   Robert Francis McBratney, formerly of Three Rivers, died Friday, June 23, 2006. He was 93.
   Bob was born in Tarentum, Penn. Being of Irish descent, his birthdate was, appropriately, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day), 1913.
   He was a medical doctor specializing in urology and had a private practice in Los Angeles.
   In 1959, Dr. McBratney and his wife, Jane, purchased property on upper North Fork Drive and named it the Trinity Ranch in honor of the Kaweah River’s three forks and also the three large fig trees behind the ranch house.
   Following retirement from private practice, the McBratneys relocated to Three Rivers, residing on their Trinity Ranch. Bob worked as the deputy director of the County of Tulare Department of Health Services.
   In the early 1970s, the couple sold the ranch and moved to Visalia. Following the death of his wife of 49 years, Jane Marie McBratney, Bob returned to Three Rivers in 1997.
   He resided here until 2005, when he moved to Haskell, Okla., to be near family.
   Bob is survived by his two children, Robert T. McBratney of Haskell, Okla., and Patricia M. McBratney of Santa Barbara; and five grandchildren, Bryan and Bret VanDerhyden of Santa Barbara, Colleen Christensen of Colorado Springs, Colo., Brendan McBratney of Dallas, Texas, and Morgan McBratney of Tulsa, Okla.

John “Jack” Ennis

   John “Jack” Ennis Jr. of Three Rivers died Saturday, June 24, 2006. He was 82.
   Viewing will be today (Friday, June 30) from 3 to 7 p.m. at Evans Miller Exeter Chapel. Interment will Saturday in Chatsworth.

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