In the News - Friday, July 2,
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
for November ballot
Rivers Union School has always been a vital part of
the community. It is central to not only students,
staff, and parents, but to the locals who participate
in the many events held on campus. However,
due to current economic woes, citizens run the risk
of losing something very special.
can lose a school, and that is what we are looking
at,” said Kristina Roper-Graber, TRUS board
president, at a public hearing on Wednesday, June
30. “It could be fatal to our community.”
Over the years, TRUS has seen fluctuations
in attendance and the corresponding revenue of the
school, as well as a general downturn. In 1991, attendance
peaked at 289 students and has been declining since,
with a projected 155 students in the 2010-2011 school
state is giving us less money and we are getting less
kids,” said Sue Sherwood, TRUS superintendent.
The Three Rivers board of trustees hopes
to resolve this situation with a special assessment
measure to be placed on the November 2 ballot. Approved
at last Wednesday’s meeting, the proposition
is a special parcel tax to be paid by all property-taxpayers,
ending with a five-year sunset clause, but subject
to yearly review, which could end the tax sooner if
the revenue situation improves.
If approved by voters, the measure is
expected to cost each Three Rivers property owner
approximately $50 annually. The purpose of the measure
is for the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school
to maintain single classrooms for each grade level,
as well as continuing art, band, sports, and educational
field trips for the students.
arts, music, and sports are always on the chopping
block for this school, and we need to change that,”
The Board is also seeking to rebuild
the reserve fund in the event of future crises. If
the measure passes, the estimated revenue of the proposition
is $111,000 per year, which will ensure the high standards
that TRUS has set in the past will be met in the future.
The measure was unanimously approved
by board members Kristina Roper-Graber, Roberta McDowall
Harris, Valerie Abanathie, and Scott Sherwood. Trustee
Bob Burke was absent.
Kathryn Keeley of
Three Rivers is a senior at Woodlake High School,
where she is editor-in-chief of the Tiger Times school
newspaper. She is currently working as a summer intern
with The Kaweah Commonwealth.
‘River Watch’ braces
for busy weekend
In cities, concerned citizens form neighborhood
watch groups to keep an eye on their part of town.
In the foothills community of Three Rivers, some business
owners and concerned neighbors have formed “River
The organization is a quasi-official
committee that was started after last month’s
Town Hall meeting. There, a packed house participated
in a discussion led by Supervisor Allen Ishida about
what constitutes a safe and respectful use of the
A consensus was reached that a group
of concerned citizens should become proactive in contacting
the public who annually converge on Three Rivers.
The ultimate goal of the committee, led by Margaret
Roberts, owner of Rio Sierra Riverhouse, is to educate
visitors how to stay safe and legally access local
swimming holes. The core committee realized this larger
than average river runoff year would present some
So far this year, there have been three
local drownings. River Watch is working to ensure
there won’t be more.
The higher than usual June water that
has been thundering down the canyon bought some time
as the typical crowds who come to swim in the Kaweah
have waited for the first extended run of hot weather.
Now that the annual triple-digit summer heat is here
so is the busy Fourth of July weekend, and that means
even more visitors.
Here’s what River Watch is doing
to help. Last week, signs went up in local businesses
and near the three main swimming holes warning of
River Watch members at Slicky (Margaret
Roberts/John Elliott), Edison swimming hole (Diana
Glass), and Airport Bridge (Julie Doctor) are alerting
Sheriff’s deputies and the local VIPs (Sheriff’s
Volunteers in Patrol) by acting as extra eyes and
ears when and if there is potential for trouble or
Earlier this week, the group met with
Sheriff Bill Wittman and Lt. Gary Chambers of the
Tulare County Sheriff’s Department to make sure
everyone was on the same page as to what resources
and manpower might be needed at Lake Kaweah and in
Three Rivers to ensure a safe and sane Fourth of July
Next on the agenda for River Watch is
a letter that will be going out to all riverfront
property owners asking for their help in making available
at strategic locations rescue equipment like rope
throw bags, poles, and rings.
Want to support River Watch and get involved?
Call Margaret Roberts at Rio Sierra Riverhouse (561-4720),
Diana Glass at Century 21 (561-4256) or John Elliott
at The Kaweah Commonwealth (561-3627).
Road construction continues
on Generals Highway
(Amphitheater Point to Eleven Range)
One-hour delays Monday through Thursday
from 7 am-5 pm from Amphitheater Point to Eleven Range.
Half-hour delay from 5-5:30 pm. Pass through is at
the top of the hour with lower (uphill bound) traffic
released first (which could at the busiest times include
more than 100 cars). During hours of construction,
traffic will be led by a pilot vehicle. Traffic signals
are in place during non-construction hours, which
are timed at 20 minutes.
WEEK: Night work is tentatively scheduled from Tuesday,
July 6-Friday, July 9, 9 pm to 5 am, with one pass-through
each evening at 11:30 pm.
Both the Tulare County Sheriff’s
Department and the California Highway Patrol will
be out in greater force this weekend making certain
that all in Kaweah Country have a safe weekend. There
will be three Sheriff’s deputies patrolling
day and night in and around Three Rivers.
Another deputy will be assigned to assist
the boat patrol at Lake Kaweah. Three CHP officers
will also be assigned to Kaweah Country roads throughout
the weekend. One two-man unit will be working nights
to target impaired drivers.
had discussions about having a sobriety checkpoint
somewhere up here but there’s nothing definite
yet,” reported Lt. Gary Chambers.
Sequoia National Park fire crews began
ignitions on the Bobcat Prescribed Fire on Tuesday,
June 29. The 97-acre burn was conducted in a unit
east of Moro Rock Road and south of the Crescent Meadow
Ignitions were completed on Thursday,
July 1, but smoke from the blaze is expected to remain
the Middle Fork canyon throughout the holiday weekend.
the air quality readings in Three Rivers have not
been unhealthful [24-hour average] and the fire is
doing what it is supposed to be doing,” reported
Deb Schweizer, parks fire education specialist. “The
highest reading for particulate matter from the smoke
in Three Rivers generally occurs in the hour between
5 a.m. to 6 a.m.”
BIGHORN SHEEP STUDY
National Park Service researchers, in
collaboration with the California Department of Fish
and Game, are proposing to capture and collar as many
as 40 bighorn sheep as a part of a study to learn
more about this endangered species. Today, Sierra
Nevada bighorn sheep are thought to number about 370
animals and increasingly the herds are using national
The primary focus of the study would
be to determine the extent to which bighorn sheep
use meadows within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks. Approximately 75 percent of the fieldwork would
occur in the sheep’s winter range, which is
outside the parks’ boundaries to the east.
The NPS is interested to hear from the
public. Public comments may be submitted through the
parks’ planning website (http://parkplanning.nps.gov/seki)
or contact Harold Werner, wildlife ecologist at 565-3123.
PETTY, PETTY THEFT
A wooden bench that sat out front of
Chump’s Videos and DVDs for the past couple
of years vanished sometime during Sunday night or
early Monday morning (June 27-28). Derek Philp, owner
of the local movie rental business, said he can’t
believe that anyone local would have taken the bench.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts
of the bench is asked to call Chumps at 561-4191.
Sequoia Natural History
celebrates 70 years
Parks support group continues
to upgrade, expand
By Johanna Kamansky
This is the final installment in
a two-part series that chronicles the Sequoia Natural
History Association, which turns 70 this year. Part
one was featured in the May 28, 2010, issue and can
be accessed online at www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/05-28-10features.html.
* * *
1996, Mark Tilchen joined the SNHA staff as its third,
and still current, executive director. Having worked
in the parks for nearly 20 years as a concessions
employee, Tilchen was no stranger to caring for the
Federal funding for visitor education
programs continued to decrease, and SNHA stepped forward
in new ways to reach out to more park visitors. By
2002, SNHA had created the Sequoia Field Institute,
hired its first education director, and expanded its
program to 24 courses. The organization had repaired,
remodeled, and opened the Beetle Rock Education Center
and a new bookstore in the Giant Forest Museum.
From donations to staffing, SNHA provides
a wide variety of financial aid and program support
to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, which
in 2009 totaled $1.5 million.
was created to support the parks and they have become
an essential part of providing high-quality customer
service to park visitors,” said Colleen Bathe,
Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Partnerships
for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. “They
not only donate funds to support special park programs
and projects, but also provide staffing for park visitor
SNHA has been augmenting NPS visitor
center operations with SNHA staff since 1996. This
program has grown from three summer employees in the
first year to 18 summer and four winter employees
in 2010. SNHA now provides 50 percent of the visitor
contribution enables NPS interpreters to get out in
the field and conduct outdoor education programs,
nature walks, and campfire programs,” said Tilchen.
Bathe views SNHA as a critical part of
the parks’ interpretive team and said the organization
offers professional interpretive services through
its Crystal Cave tour program and Sequoia Field Institute.
SNHA interpreters participate in the
same training as NPS staff and are held to the same
standard for delivering high-quality customer service
and interpretive programs to park visitors. Tilchen
estimates that between visitor center staffing, Crystal
Cave tours, Sequoia Field Institute seminars, and
outreach to schools, SNHA reaches more than a third
of the parks’ 1.5 million annual visitors.
While most of the money that SNHA raises
goes to educating park visitors, the organization
also funds and supports important projects that help
protect park resources. SHNA funds cave protection
efforts, the black bear program, and is trying to
increase the amount of funding for additional resource
protection programs, such as the Monitoring Avian
Productivity and Survival program.
At Crystal Cave, SNHA recently replaced
the diesel generator with solar power and is installing
new energy-efficient LED lighting.
SNHA works internally with park partners such as the
Sequoia Parks Foundation, Delaware North Companies,
and Kings Canyon Park Services, but in recent years,
SNHA focused its message of park protection outside
the park boundaries through new partnerships. With
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Kaweah, SNHA
operates the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center.
Working with local schools, SNHA conducts
“Caves in the Classroom,” an outreach
education program. SNHA partners with the Visalia
Chamber of Commerce to provide information about the
parks in their Visalia visitor center.
The organization also works with the
Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce, Three Rivers
Historical Society, and Visalia Convention and Visitors
Bureau on outreach activities to promote Sequoia and
Kings Canyon National Parks.
One of the main challenges Tilchen sees
for SNHA and the parks in the future is keeping the
parks relevant to the technology generation.
today keep an electronic device tied to the rest of
the world,” he said. “Part of the purpose
of the parks is to get people outside and away from
technology, but technology will play an important
role in relating to future generations.”
SNHA already provides web-based education
and an online bookstore, seminar signups, and other
outreach information through its website.
can find a photo or take a virtual tour of just about
anything online, but visiting the park, standing and
watching a waterfall in person, or climbing to the
top of a mountain will always be more inspiring,”
Tilchen continued. “It’s the place you
want to preserve, not the idea of the place on the
Internet. You have to go there, be there, and experience
Over its 70-year history, one thing is
clear: SNHA’s role is ever-changing, critical
to serving park visitors, and will evolve as the needs
of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks evolve.
SNHA is a membership organization that
is open to the public. Proceeds directly benefit Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks.
For more information, visit www.sequoiahistory.org,
and after you’ve surfed the site, get out and
experience the parks in person.
Park packers triumph at Mule
Packers and mules from Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks demonstrated their skills and
took numerous honors at the 41st annual Mule Days
Celebration during Memorial Day weekend.
Held in Bishop on the east side of the
Sierra, this event serves as a kick-off to the outfitter
season in the High Sierra. Thirty thousand people
attended the celebration to enjoy parades and observe
more than 700 mules in 181 contests that require a
variety of team and individual equestrian skills.
Competing in — and winning —
many of the events was the Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks pack team: Nick Knutson, Dan Baker,
D.J. Fiske, and Robert Hall. As a team they took first
place in the Pack Team Scramble and Team Packing Contest
and qualified for the final pack-off event.
In individual contests, the team members
also excelled. The individual honor of “World
Champion Packer” was won by Sequoia-Kings Canyon’s
Nick Knutson, a third-generation High Sierra packer
who has worked with the National Park Service for
over 15 years. Nick held the highest combined
score from a number of individual events. D.J. Fiske
earned second place while Dan Baker took fifth.
The local team also won awards in parade events.
Greg Feltis, head of the Sequoia-Kings Canyon livestock
program, was recognized for his contribution to the
success of the team.
Superintendents of the three large Sierra
Nevada national parks — Karen Taylor-Goodrich
of Sequoia and Kings Canyon and Don Neubacher of Yosemite
— rode in the parade along with the chief rangers
of these parks.
In advance of the event, park employees
held a fundraiser on their own time to assist with
the cost of participation.
Staying safe in 3R
Whether a visitor or a resident in Three
Rivers, there are always certain precautions that
must be taken to ensure the safety of self, family,
home, and property.
Drowning is the leading cause of death
of visitors in Three Rivers and the leading cause
of all deaths in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Here is how to stay safe around rivers
and lakes, provided by the Tulare County Sheriff’s
Department’s Dive and Swift Water Rescue Team:
how to swim.
constant supervision and demonstrate safe water practices.
your children to wait for permission to get in the
only in designated swimming areas.
over-estimate your swimming skills.
rely on toys such as inner tubes and water wings to
not dive into unknown waters.
not walk on the rocks at river’s edge. They
CPR, but especially learn infant/child cardiopulmonary
Also, most people drown within 10 to
30 feet of safety. Learn and review these techniques
— Reach, Throw, Row, Don’t Go —
to help someone in trouble while keeping yourself
To help someone in the water, reach first with a fishing
pole, towel, or boat oar, but don’t get in the
water yourself. Lie down to pull them in, so they
don’t pull you in.
Scan the area for items such as an empty milk jug,
cooler, or ring buoys that can be thrown to someone
in the water.
It’s not safe to go near a swimmer with the
boat motor running. Use the oars to bring the boat
close enough to reach or throw something to them.
Go: Without expert training and experience
in lifesaving techniques, you could put yourself in
danger along with the person you are trying to help.
People who are drowning often panic and injure or
even drown someone trying to rescue them. Going quickly
for help is often the best choice.
Three Rivers residents should be proactive
about educating visitors about water safety. A water
safety talk could save lives.
Three Rivers is a community at great
risk to wildfire. Wildfire season in the West normally
begins in late spring and continues into fall.
Current state law mandates that property
be cleared to 100 feet from homes, outbuildings, and
other structures. When all is said and done, fire
is not a problem. People living near fire; now that’s
Here are a few steps to take to reduce
the risk of residents losing their house in a fire:
sure the roof and rain gutters are always clear of
you replace your roof, be sure to use Class A materials.
sure eaves and fascias are boxed in or enclosed with
noncombustible materials to minimize the risk that
embers will be trapped inside.
vents in the attic and foundation should be screened
with one-eighth-inch mesh to keep embers out.
installing single- or dual-pane tempered glass windows,
which are less likely to shatter in high heat.
everything a fire might use as fuel.
shrubs and mow the lawn regularly, and dispose of
all cuttings and debris.
trees so the lowest branch is at least six feet from
woodpiles and storage tanks at least 50 feet from
WELCOME TO MY FOOD COLUMN
by Tina St. John
Driving down Lake Avenue to the Broadmoor
Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo., might feel like
driving down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White
House. Elegance, class, sophistication, and style
are just a few words that come to mind when thinking
of this historic landmark.
On my recent trip to Denver for a family
reunion, Sunday brunch at the Broadmoor was on the
agenda of things to do.
We arrived that morning to a room-filled
gala; tables draped in white linen cloth dressed with
silver platters of carefully decorated foodstuffs.
As I walked around the room gazing at the various
foods, I noted that nothing seemed to be missing.
For anyone who is a food connoisseur,
a food addict, or a foodie, this is paradise. You
name it, they have it, and in the finest of food fashion.
Ice sculptures, sugar crystal fish swimming
in chocolate waves, a towering fondue lottery, and
an array of numerous desserts that look like they
were imported that morning from a Parisian bakery
are just a few of the artistic culinary creations.
There are also omelets, French toast, Belgian waffles,
breads, and butter, butter, and more butter. Syrups
with Grand Marnier liqueur, fresh berries, fresh fruits,
real whipped cream and crème en glaise, which
I strongly believe needs to be among the four food
groups for the purpose of happiness alone.
We were seated at our table admiring
a majestic view of Pikes Peak while listening to live
piano music. I couldn’t help but marvel, does
it get any better than this?
Seated with my family members, we wasted
no time in getting down to the business of food.
Scurrying past guests who were indulging
in their decadent meals, we each made a beeline to
whatever table was seeming to beckon us.
Cousin Frank combed the place as if searching
for evidence at a crime scene. Two of my sisters had
already started to fill their plates while the rest
of us walked around in a daze as if drugged by a sedative
and unable to think straight.
Deciding I didn’t have the luxury
of taking all day I got to the matter of this glorious
event. When we reconvened back at our table, we began
to look over each other’s choices.
Within seconds, we were consuming the
deliciousness of it all, oohing and awing, but with
not much else being said. It’s as if we hadn’t
eaten in a week. Yeah, right!
It was fun to share and listen to the
claims of which was the best dish ever. Up again we
went on our own accord for seconds, then thirds, fourths...
and even fifths. That’s right, fifths!
The funny thing is when one eats that
much of a good thing, they start to act abnormally.
Giddy and under the influence, our conversation deteriorated
My sister, Kay, decided she was going
to eat salad for the rest of her life. Cousin Frank
proclaimed that this was the way he was meant to eat
and he apologized in advance for anyone who would
get hurt in the event that his zipper flew off.
Art, Frank’s partner, commented
that sugar and caffeine should be two of the four
food groups. Chris, my sister Elizabeth’s partner,
sat in silence, but smiling in total oblivion. My
cousin Mary Ellen and husband Mike were the only ones
who seemed somewhat composed, but then again I can’t
say for sure. We were crazed, to say the least.
Things started to turn serious when someone
suggested we were addicts. And since we were addicts,
then there must be a supplier, and if there’s
a supplier, there’s an alliance. A food alliance?
was that?” I asked.
All eyes went on me.
I didn’t know why exactly I was nominated as
the food cartel but I gladly accepted the title, as
it sounded important. Then it was decided that Chris
was the broker because he kept coming back to the
table with some amazing finds.
So that would make Elizabeth the supplier
because she supported Chris by insisting everyone
And what did that make everyone else?
Why, users and addicts, of course.
See what I mean? We walked into that
dining room that morning as normal law-abiding people
and walked out with a food organization as contributors
in our own right.
Never underestimate the power of well-prepared,
gourmet food mixed with family members who love to
eat and have a great time together.