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In the News - Friday, July 2, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

TRUS board approves

measure for November ballot

by Kathryn Keeley

and John Elliott

  Three 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.

  “You 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 year.

  “The 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.

  “The arts, music, and sports are always on the chopping block for this school, and we need to change that,” said Sherwood.
   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 Watch.”
   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 Kaweah River.
   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 unique challenges.
   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 danger.
   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 incidents.
   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 weekend.
   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.

  THIS 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.

In brief…

   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.

  “We’ve 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 Road.
   Ignitions were completed on Thursday, July 1, but smoke from the blaze is expected to remain the Middle Fork canyon throughout the holiday weekend.

  “Overall, 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.”

   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 park lands.
   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.

   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

Association 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.

* * *

  In 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 parks.
   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.

  “SNHA 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 centers.”
   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 center staffing.

  “This 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.

  “Kids 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.

  “You 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 it.”
   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 Days

   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 Parks.
   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:

  —Learn how to swim.

  —Provide constant supervision and demonstrate safe water practices.

  —Teach your children to wait for permission to get in the water.

  —Swim only in designated swimming areas.

  —Never swim alone.

  —Don’t over-estimate your swimming skills.

  —Never rely on toys such as inner tubes and water wings to stay afloat.

  —Do not dive into unknown waters.

  —Do not walk on the rocks at river’s edge. They are slippery.

  —Know CPR, but especially learn infant/child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
   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 safe:

  —Reach: 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.

  —Throw: Scan the area for items such as an empty milk jug, cooler, or ring buoys that can be thrown to someone in the water.

  —Row: 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.

  —Don’t 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 a problem.
   Here are a few steps to take to reduce the risk of residents losing their house in a fire:

  —Make sure the roof and rain gutters are always clear of debris.

  —If you replace your roof, be sure to use Class A materials.

  —Make sure eaves and fascias are boxed in or enclosed with noncombustible materials to minimize the risk that embers will be trapped inside.

  —Similarly, vents in the attic and foundation should be screened with one-eighth-inch mesh to keep embers out.

  —Consider installing single- or dual-pane tempered glass windows, which are less likely to shatter in high heat.

  —Remove everything a fire might use as fuel.

  —Prune shrubs and mow the lawn regularly, and dispose of all cuttings and debris.

  —Trim trees so the lowest branch is at least six feet from the ground.

  —Remove dead trees.

  —Move woodpiles and storage tanks at least 50 feet from your home.


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 to silliness.
   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?

  “Who was that?” I asked.
All eyes went on me.

  “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 try them.
   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.
   Bon Appetit!

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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