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In the News - Friday, July 6, 2012

See this week's front page



Business sizzling

in Kaweah Country

  The heat is on this week and the mercury is not all that’s on the rise. Several local businesses are reporting all-time record sales for the month. According to owner Margaret “Mars” Roberts of Rio Sierra Riverhouse, sales were way up in May and June and now she’s doing unprecedented numbers for the summer season.

  “We have guests at check-out booking to return on the same day next year,” said Mars. “The repeat business and the web traffic has been truly amazing.”  

  Sierra Subs and Salads reported that the weekend of June 30-July 1 was their all-time record handle for a single weekend. Other establishments like Casa Mendoza are open daily and later on weekends because the evening trade is non-stop until closing.

  There is no doubt that the closing of the River Inn and Cabins in the first quarter of this year has had some effect. Jerry and Laura Harris, the former owners of that property were unable to negotiate an 11th-hour loan and now that property, with more than a dozen rooms and a cluster of riverfront cabins, is vacant.

  During most July and August weekends every available room is booked; those shut out must go somewhere. Comfort Inn and Suites, Three Rivers’s largest lodging property with 104 rooms, is sold out every weekend and that trend will continue through early September.   

  On the restaurant scene, Dry Creek Deli on Sierra Drive at the Woodlake turnoff (Hwy. 216) has been resurrected by new owners Vickie and Jack Griggs of Exeter. The  long-time vacant property has reopened and already created a sizable following.

  On Sundays they are serving a “supper special” until 8 p.m. Full dinners and a beverage are available for $10.95,  featuring comfort-food entrees like oven-baked fried chicken, pot roast, and chicken fried steak.

  In Woodlake, there is a change of ownership at the Pizza Factory. The Gonzalez family, formerly of Three Rivers and now living in Exeter, have that restaurant in escrow and should be the official owners in a week or two.

  Tony Gonzalez, an established building contractor, is buying that business with an eye to employing family. Crystal and Ilene (daughters) have years of experience at Todd’s Pizza Factory in Three Rivers so they will undoubtedly hit the ground running.

  Several Three Rivers storefronts now have new locations. Tucked into the former game room of the River View Restaurant and Lounge is Rocky River Wear. Owners Steve  Gitchell and son Chase could not have found a better location as he and his son celebrate a grand reopening of his leather accessories and clothing shop. Touring bikers, visiting families, and locals have an exciting opportunity this month as the store raffles a 2006 Honda VTX 1300C motorcycle for $20 a ticket.

  Only 600 tickets will be sold, and as of July 4 nearly 200 have been claimed. The proceeds of the raffle will benefit the Marcus Ray Corral Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Lindsay that offers support to families victimized by violent crimes and also encourages youth leadership and personal growth.

  My Sister’s Closet offers nearly 1,000 square feet of everything from books to rare and unique finds, as well as clean, ready-to-wear clothing for men, women, and children. Cindy Skeen also has a growing collection of local artists and authors, including works by Wendy McKellar, Rosemary Packard, Mickey Hardy, and Lidabelle Wylie.

  The store was located on the highway near the North Fork intersection and recently moved to its new location in the building between the Cort Gallery and the Commonwealth on Sierra Drive.

  The Art Co-Op has also moved upriver from its location between Sierra Subs and Chump’s DVDs to the building just beyond Three Rivers Market and next door to Colors Gallery, which is now under the management of Jeremy Cormier of Chump’s renown. Visit both galleries this weekend during the newly resurrected 1st Saturday event.


Victims identified in fatal crash


All worked for Kings Canyon concessioner


  The names of two fatalities in a predawn wreck that occurred Saturday, June 23, on Highway 180 east of the intersection of Highway 245, were released earlier this week. Killed in the crash were Zachrey Bardone, 19, of Badger and Joshua Paramore, 21, of Philadelphia, Pa.

  Both were passengers in a 2003 Ford Mustang that was driven by Stephanie Alexandra Soza, 24, of Selma. While negotiating an ascending curve, the driver allowed the vehicle to exit the roadway onto the dirt shoulder. The Mustang continued for a short distance on the shoulder, collided with a mile marker post, and started down the steep embankment east of the highway.

  Soza’s car struck several trees before coming to a stop against a tree facing down a steep grade. There were three passengers in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Neither Paramore, in the front passenger seat, nor Bardone, the left rear passenger, were wearing seat belts.

  Kristina Rodriguez, 22, of Fresno, in the right rear passenger seat, was wearing a seat belt and survived the crash. The two men were thrown forward by the impact of the crash and died as a result of blunt trauma after hitting the top edge of the windshield.

  Soza was able to climb out of the wreckage and scramble back up onto Highway 180. She eventually flagged down a Tulare County ambulance that was in service in the area with a patient on board.

  Fire department personnel were summoned and located the wrecked Mustang shortly after 5 a.m. After being treated at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Soza was booked at the Fresno County Jail on three counts of felony DUI resulting in injury and two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

  All four victims of the accident were employees of Kings Canyon Services, the Kings Canyon National Park concession. The crash occurred just outside of park boundaries.


NPS archaeologist retires


  Tom Burge, who has served as the local parks’ archaeologist since 1994, and later head of the cultural resources program at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, officially retired in June after 31 years of federal service. Tom started his career with the U.S. Forest Service in 1980.

  After serving as the forest archaeologist in Oregon and Missouri, he transferred to the National Park Service’s regional office in San Francisco in 1992. After a brief stint as chief of the Interagency Archaeological Services branch, that office was reorganized and Tom landed at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

  His expertise is prehistoric archaeology, and Tom said recently he is especially proud of the discoveries he and his staff made in the High Sierra documenting previously undiscovered sites where western Sierra and Great Basin native peoples interacted. In recent years, Tom served as a liaison with the Mineral King District Association and was instrumental in developing guidelines to maintain the historic cabin community of the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District.

  This month, Tom will depart for his new home base in Cody, Wyo., where he is looking forward to exploring the Beartooth Plateau, the Bighorns, and Yellowstone country.

  “My career path was nothing out of the ordinary,” Tom recalled. “It was just a string of lucky breaks for a blue collar kid from Pittsburgh.”


River’s flow is low and slow

(photo caption)

  Itís barely July, but the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River is reminiscent of late summer as the flow stagnates and the water temperature hovers around 70 degrees.


Search is on for WUSD superintendent


  Following superintendent Tim Hire’s relocation to Exeter Union School District this month, and in anticipation of the quickly approaching new school year, the newly unified Woodlake School District administrators and board members will be working under a strained timeline for the duration of the hiring process as they search for a replacement superintendent.

  Beginning this week, the Woodlake school board will receive approximately six qualified applicants recommended from a third-party application selection company. Tony Casares, director of alternative education at Woodlake’s Bravo Lake High School and an interim supervisor of district business, expects interviews to be conducted July 20 and 21.

  Depending on the outcome of the initial interviews, the board may conduct a second set of interviews the following week with two final candidates. A special board meeting will be called within 72 hours to confirm the selected candidate.

  In the final days of the search process, the primary concern will be following through on and strengthening the unification of Woodlake schools. The new superintendent will be responsible for guiding the now six-campus district via the establishment of strong relationships with the staff, students, and community members.

  Casares noted that while the recent unification of the primary and secondary schools will present a “changed climate” compared to that of past administrations, he hopes that the future superintendent will find success in working together with individuals at all levels to solve the critical issues that face each school.


TCFD offers free CPR courses


  The Tulare County Fire Department, in association with the Emergency Care and Safety Institute, is offering free CPR (cardiac pulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automatic external defibrillation) certification courses. The courses are ideal for those who have never been trained in CPR or for those who need a refresher course.

  These courses provide students with skill training for standard CPR and AED. Topics will include adult, child, and infant CPR and AED use, care, and maintenance.

  Classes will be held through August at the Tulare County Fire Department headquarters on Lovers Lane in Visalia. Students must be 15 years of age or older.

  Classes will accommodate 10 to 20 students per session. Advance registration is required.

  To register, contact Christina Gottschall, Tulare County Fire Department training bureau assistant, at 747-8233 or CGottschall@co.tulare.ca.us.


TRUS seeks graduates


  Plans are coming together for the one and only Three Rivers Union School all-class reunion. The gala event will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, at Lions Arena in Three Rivers.

  The reunion committee is working nonstop on gathering unique raffle prizes; all proceeds from the event will be donated to the TRUS Foundation, which will directly benefit Three Rivers School.

  Alumni from the 1930s to 2000 are still being sought. Please submit names, email address, or any contact information available for anyone who graduated during this time. Email to: threeriversgraduates@yahoo.com.


Sierra Nevada growing taller


  A recently released study shows the Sierra Nevada range continues to grow about one-half inch in elevation every 10 years. Scientists say technology that allows them to detect the relatively fast rate of uplift in the crust from space is helping shed new light on the origin of the mountains.

  The work is being done by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, and University of Glasgow in Scotland. They say a combination of GPS data and space-based radar has provided them with unprecedented accuracy in measuring the changes.

  The annual growth is between one and two millimeters. The new findings will be published in the journal Geology this month.




Saving the Three Rivers town sign


By Jacki Fletcher


  Let’s begin with a little history of town signs. Unfortunately, most of the history of the original Three Rivers town signs is lost in time.  

  What we do know is one of them is currently a feature, standing in front of the Three Rivers Historical Society’s Museum. Some of the wooden letters were breaking up when it was placed at the Museum, so some historical restoration was done to help it withstand the strains of time.

  The history of the Three Rivers town sign that is presently located at the entrance to the Slick Rock Recreation Area is better documented. It was produced by Carroll Barnes, an artist and a resident of Three Rivers from 1940 to 1969.

  Mr. Barnes developed the concept of the sign — which may be seen at the Museum — for the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce some time in the early 1950s. However, the Three Rivers Chamber did not see the project through.  

  Mr. Barnes completed the sign and sometime around 1960 installed it in a field at the base of what is locally known as Smith Hill  (east of Yokohl Valley Road) along Highway 198.

  The sign remained at this location for more than 30 years until one day Tom Marshall of Three Rivers and his wife Dody were driving home from Visalia and noticed a group people cutting the sign down. The Marshalls hurried home and called Three Rivers-Lemon Cove  Business Association board members (the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce had disbanded in the 1970s) to report what they saw. Tom informed Roger Disinger, owner of   Lemon Cove-Sequoia Campground in Lemon Cove and then-president of the Three Rivers- Lemon Cove Business Association (currently known as the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce) about the situation. Mr. Disinger in turn made some calls around Lemon Cove and found that the Smiths (the folks who were removing the sign) had given the sign to a local resident. Roger found the gentleman who was given the sign and offered him a Coca-Cola sign in exchange for the Three Rivers sign and the gentleman agreed.

  After Roger obtained the Three Rivers sign, arrangements were made with Bill Clark to place the sign on his land at its current location. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made changes to the lake property for the enlargement of the dam, an agreement was made between the Army Corps and Three Rivers-Lemon Cove Business Association (Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce) so the sign could remain where it is today. 

  At some point in time, someone took it upon themselves to change the appearance of Mr. Barnes’s lovely original design by placing wooden letters on it and, in my opinion, defacing it.

For several years now, business owners and residents have been talking about replacing the current town sign with something that is more visible, fresher, and exemplifies Three Rivers as it is today. This is very much like what Carroll Barnes did when he built his rendition of the Three Rivers town sign.  

  In 2007, a town sign project was started by the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber looked at various designs, spoke with numerous townsfolk, and came up with a plan.

  It was then that one person voiced an objection and put up such a ruckus that the Chamber was unable to follow through with the project. In 2009, this project was transferred to the Three Rivers Village Foundation along with donated funds to help defray the cost of a new sign.  

  The TRVF reviewed what the Chamber had done and talked to a number of Three Rivers citizens, asking them what their thoughts were regarding a new town sign. After a visit to the current sign location it became evident that (1) the Slick Rock Recreation Area sign stands directly in front of the town sign, making it almost impossible to see it from the highway as you drive into town, and (2) most people agreed a new sign at another location would be an asset for Three Rivers.

  The TRVF moved forward with the project by first looking for a site that would be highly visible. A site owned by the Army Corp of Engineers but over which Cal Trans has jurisdiction was selected.  

  Subsequently, TRVF contacted Cal Trans to gain authorization for building and installing a new town sign and were told that “Gateway Monument” is correct verbiage for what was requested.

  TRVF then collected approval from community organizations, contacted a local artist to build the sign, and obtained a local civil engineer to provide construction including installation drawings as requested by Cal Trans. This was accomplished along with dealing with the many other issues and county officials that are involved in a project of this nature.

  While working with Cal Trans the TRVF learned that before placing a new Gateway Monument (town sign), the current town sign needs to be removed from its present location. Cal Trans regulations state that “only one Gateway Monument installation will be allowed per state highway or interstate approach in each direction into a Local Entity contiguous to the highway” (www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LandArch/gateway/gateway_monument_final_report.pdf, page 35).

  History requires documentation and, in some cases, preservation. Physical pieces of history must be placed where they will be preserved and viewed, without obstacles, by the public along with a written account of that history.

  This is what has occurred with our community’s original town sign that now resides at the Historical Museum. It stands to reason that relocating the current town sign from the Slick Rock area to the Museum, restored to its original design, next to the historical sign already there where residents and visitors can observe and enjoy it, is a perfect solution for this part of our “town sign” history.  

  Will this worthy project be again thwarted by that same voice of dissent that is attempting to stop the preservation of the existing sign and the placement of a new sign that will benefit local business and residents, as well as visitors to our community?

  Jacki Fletcher is a resident of Three Rivers. She currently serves on the boards of the Three Rivers Village Foundation and Community Services District.




The Thrill of the chowder chase


By Allison Sherwood Millner


  When you love something it consumes you.  In the blindness of this love you can do crazy things, dismiss inconveniences, and overlook major flaws. 

  You’ll find yourself stuck and simmering with disappointment only to pick yourself up and repeat your mistakes again and again.  Love will sometimes take you down the path less traveled, even when you know it’s less traveled for a reason.

  This is the love my husband has for clam chowder.

  Dane’s love for clam chowder has been growing ever since we met 10 years ago. At first, it seemed innocent enough, a mild flirtation. After several years of traveling and sharing many meals together, I realized that this was becoming an obsession.

  As an innocent bystander who had avoided being bitten by this particular love bug (but had been bit by another), I came to terms with the fact that I was along for the ride; like it or not.

  On a short weekend to Monterey Bay, Dane and I made our way along restaurant row looking for a place to eat. Waiters from each establishment sat outside trying to entice passersby to try their chowder and lure them into the restaurant.

  As a vegetarian, the culinary fare on these journeys was fairly limited to a dinner salad and some fries, so I always let Dane choose.  He was excited as a sample he’d tasted seemed to have all the qualifications of the perfect bowl, but he couldn’t be sure from such a small sample.

  We made our way into the restaurant, which boasted the popular coastal wharf/fishing theme, and I settled into the menu in search of my dinner. Dane immediately ordered the clam chowder and it arrived soon thereafter in a low, wide bowl with the obligatory oyster crackers on the side.

  We were both excited. Was the search finally over?

  I watched Dane take a bite, waiting for his smile. His face remained unchanged and he said nothing as he lowered his spoon into the chowder, checking its thickness. 

  Another bite rose to his lips and after a moment he set his spoon down and removed a white chunk from his mouth.  Flour.  The chowder was riddled with lumps of raw, undissolved flour. 

  After a quick talk with the waiter, who tried to convince us that the lumps of flour were actually chunks of potato, Dane sent his chowder back and accused them of a “bait and switch.” He swore that the street chowder was some sort of secret recipe they must use to lure in the unsuspecting tourist.  The floury brew he was served could not have been the same and we left, unfulfilled.

  We’ve tried several times in Morro Bay to find the indefinable chowder of Dane’s dreams; stopping four times one afternoon on our walk for various cups of clams.  While I subsisted on a constant diet of oyster crackers, he proclaimed the various soups as failing.

  One was too thick, another didn’t have enough clams, a third lacked flavor and texture while the fourth (who boasted theirs as “world famous”) seemed to have a great garlic base but was loaded with way too much celery.

  Another trip to Pismo yielded similar results. We were going to the place that had “THE” clam chowder. 

  People lined up around the building, waiting their turn for the elusive perfection… that must have left a few moments before we arrived.  Dane pronounced the chowder good, but too thick for his liking and devoid of flavor.

  In Avila Beach, we made our way out to the restaurant on the end of the old railroad pier.  It was cold outside and the wind was fierce, but the inside was cozy, the Bloody Mary’s warm, and the chowder promising. 

  What arrived at the table was a blob of lukewarm gray goo that was the least like chowder I’d ever seen. When the waitress asked if it was okay and Dane said no, she admitted that “something was wrong” with the chowder that day.

  So what exactly was Dane looking for? I had heard all the things wrong with the chowders he’d tested and I wasn’t exactly sure what a bowl would look like if it had all the things right. 

  The logical side of me made Dane list off the qualifications of the perfect bowl; not too thick but it still needed to be creamy, there needed to be a lot of clams (after all this wasn’t potato chowder), and there had to be flavor.

  With the desire to make him happy, I set out on a mission to create the perfection that Dane would love. It took several tries and critiques before I’d settled on the right combination of bacon to clams to celery to potatoes to cream.  It’s a delicate balance that I went into blindly, unable to taste my concoctions, moreover know if they were any good.

  Eventually, I produced chowder that he proclaimed was “the best on the West Coast.”  It had become a challenge to me, and I felt satisfied with myself and happy to have ended the search.

  But I should have known better. Old love never dies, and on a recent trip to visit his parents in Santa Barbara, Dane was on the hunt again. 

  I begin to realize that he may just be in love with the thrill of the chase. After all, he’d found his perfect chowder right here at home. What more did he need?

  Unable to answer my riddle, I watched as a cup of steaming chowder from Brophy Bros. arrived at our table. I watched as Dane double dipped the spoon, once for thickness, twice for clam content. 

  He took a precursory small taste of the chowder to check for seasoning and then added a quick dash of Tabasco. A second heartier spoon followed, Dane scratched his head, set down his spoon, and I looked at him in anticipation.

  Perfection. The consistency was spot on, the creamy chowder had a wonderful, garlicky base, the potatoes were done perfectly and the clams… over the top. They appeared to be a different species of clam that were a little firmer, light red in color, and bursting with great flavor. 

  As my fork hung over my salad, I watched Dane try another spoonful.

  “Is it better than mine?” I questioned. 

  He thought for a second.

  “Yours is great, but these clams are so good.”

  Then he asked, “Do you use fresh garlic?”

  I shook my head no. 

  “I think you should,” he responded.

  I stabbed a chunk of lettuce onto my fork and popped a cracker into my mouth. He’s lucky I love him.

  Allison Millner and her chowder-chasing husband, Dane, own and operate Sierra Subs and Salads in Three Rivers.




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
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