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In the News - Friday, July 17, 2009

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

MK bridge deemed

unsafe for traffic

   Every three years when inspectors from Federal Highways make their appointed rounds looking at all the bridges in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, there are bound to be some surprises. On July 13, after inspecting the bridge at the end of the Mineral King Road, an immediate closure was ordered that surprised a number of visitors.
   There were approximately 30 vehicles parked in and around the Disney-owned parking lot area in East Mineral King whose owners were undoubtedly surprised and a little confused. Signs announcing the closure were placed on either end of the narrow bridge that spans the East Fork of the Kaweah River at the uppermost crossing of the Mineral King Road.
   Most visitors to Sequoia National Park never see the tiny bridge or road’s end in the scenic Mineral King valley. Monday’s closure, however, caught dozens of Mineral King hikers off-guard and had cabin owners in East Mineral King pondering the most prudent way to get back and forth.
   Dan Blackwell, chief of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks facilities and who is responsible for getting the bridge repaired, said he wasn’t surprised by the temporary closure.
   In a statement issued after a July 15 squad meeting, Blackwell said the local parks were aware there was a potential problem with the Disney bridge located 25 miles from where the Mineral King Road junctions with Highway 198 east of Three Rivers. Blackwell said a number of the wooden stringers in the substructure showed evidence of massive rotting.
   Park workers recently had completed some minor repairs to the structure, and there is an application pending for more funding to complete the job, Blackwell said. For the time being, outbound vehicles may exit on the upper side of the bridge; vehicles approaching the bridge from down-canyon are being directed to park in turnouts west of the structure and walk across.
   Blackwell said his department hopes to complete a more permanent fix to the bridge sometime next week to accommodate visitors who are planning to attend the Krebs Wilderness dedication ceremony scheduled for Thursday, July 23. Vehicles crossing the bridge, he said, will be limited to four tons of gross weight.
   The Mineral King ranger reported Thursday morning that the bridge will be closed completely starting Monday, July 20. Blackwell agreed that the closure is in the best interest of employees and visitor safety and is confident the repairs will be complete and the bridge reopened by Saturday, July 25.
   The “Disney bridge” gets its name being associated with the parking lot also called the Disney parking lot because it is on land still owned by the Walt Disney Company. Several parcels in Mineral King were acquired by an agent for the famous Burbank-based entertainment company during the late 1960s in anticipation of a ski resort that was never developed.

3R declared official weather station

   When a society and its members are dedicated to collecting the history of a community, what better place to record local weather information? That’s just what the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Hanford was thinking when they established a data collection station at the Three Rivers Historical Museum.
   On Thursday, July 9, Steve Mendenhall, meteorologist in charge of the Hanford office, was at the local historical museum to present its board members with a plaque. The presentation was made after Mendenhall explained what the local station does and how it works.
   The data is collected by a computer-automated program that retrieves information from a small weather station located adjacent to the museum. The hardware part of the station setup measures temperature, wind direction and speed, humidity, and precipitation.

  “Anyone can set up a weather station just like this one,” Mendenhall explained to a small gathering that had assembled to mark the occasion. “It costs between $500 and $1,000 for the equipment, and with a computer and an Internet connection, the station can transmit continuous readings directly to our forecasting office.”
   Mendenhall thanked the local historical society for help in getting the Three Rivers station up and running. The plaque, he said, was a token of his agency’s appreciation. Mendenhall said that anyone interested in real-time weather information being collected at the Three Rivers station may access the current data by logging onto:


President to nominate

Park Service director

   President Barack Obama announced last week his intent to nominate Jonathan Jarvis to be director of the National Park Service. Jon Jarvis, who has been an employee of the NPS for over 30 years, is currently director of the Pacific West Region, which includes Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   As regional director, Jarvis is responsible for the 54 units of the National Park System in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific islands of Guam, Saipan, and American Samoa. He oversees 3,000 employees with an annual budget of $350 million.
   Prior to becoming regional director in 2002, Jarvis spent three years as the superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. In the 1990s, he was superintendent of Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Prior to his superintendencies, he was chief of natural and cultural resources at North Cascades National Park in Washington.

Candidates wanted for 3R boards

   Four director positions on the Three Rivers Memorial District board and two on the Three Rivers Community Services District will be on the November 2009 ballot as long as there are enough candidates to make each a real race. Prospective candidates have until Friday, Aug. 7, to decide.
   Memorial District— There are two available four-year terms on the Memorial District board that must be filled by veterans. Frank Greninger and Frank Capalare currently fill these seats; both were appointed.
   Two non-veteran positions must also be filled; one for a four-year term, another for a two-year term. Dave Sherwood currently fills the four-year seat; the short-term seat is currently vacant as director Shirley Conway recently resigned.
   The Memorial District board oversees the local Veterans Memorial Building and its activities. Throughout each year, the building hosts events for the Three Rivers community and can accommodate 300 guests.
   Eligible nonprofit groups, service organizations, churches, schools, and governmental agencies use the building. And each April it serves as two out of the three Jazzaffair venues.
   Two employees include a caretaker, Jeff Taylor, who maintains the grounds and the interior of the building. A building manager, Nancy Brunson, handles bookkeeping and reservations.
   Community Services District— Two four-year terms are available on the Community Services District board. Rex Black and Michael Cannarozzi are the two directors on the five-member board who are up for re-election.
   Rex, who is currently president, was elected to the board in 2006. Mike was elected in 2001.
   A general manager, Randy Pares, oversees day-to-day operations and reports to the board. The main services provided by the CSD include monitoring of river and well water and reporting findings to the California Water Quality Board; providing water testing for district residents; septic system inspections; and reviewing and providing recommendations to County of Tulare on septic systems and special-use permits.
   Forms for declarations of candidacy may be obtained from the Registrar of Voters, Elections Division, 5951 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia (across from Mooney Grove).



I grew up eating European cuisine.
I thought everyone did.
Tina St. John

TINA ST. JOHN has an impressive pedigree when it comes to food. Her mother, Madeleine St. John, was a native of Belgium and studied at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, where she met Julia Child. Later, she ran the La Bonne Cuisine Cookery School in Denver, Colo. Tina’s father, Bill St. John Sr., was Denver’s first ever pediatric dentist, but in his spare time was wine connoisseur, pie baker extraordinaire, and as you will read in this debut installment of Tina’s “Welcome to My Food Column,” king of the kitchen on Saturday mornings. Her brother, Bill St. John Jr., is a regular columnist for Wine & Spirits magazine, the author of Rocky Mountain Restaurants, and was formerly a food critic for The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.

by Tina St. John

  I love food and think about it often. It’s been like that all my life. After all, I grew up in a family of nine children with a French mother who was a gourmet cook and a father, a pediatric dentist, who made the best pies and spaghetti sauce ever.
   The kitchen was the main room in our home. Perhaps some of my siblings would dispute this, saying the dining room was. At any rate, wherever there was food, either being prepared or eaten, there we all were.
   Saturday mornings were, hands down, the best day to eat. Waking up to the smell of my father’s buttermilk pancake batter cooking on the griddle and butter sizzling in a small saucepan over the stove was nothing short of heaven on earth. His pancakes were his pride and joy.
   His own recipe was “made from scratch,” as my mother boasted. Buttermilk and love were his secret ingredients.
   He customized the pancakes, spelling out our names on the griddle. Boy, did we feel special. I only wish he would have done our last name too!
   They were delicious, dripping in melted butter and browned ever so slightly to give it a bit of a nutty taste. Then there was the maple syrup that dad would warm just right.
   He had it down to an art. He would say, “You have to eat it this way or you won’t get the full benefit of the taste.”
   Whatever you say, Dad; your wish is my command.
So here it is, my dad’s beloved pancake recipe. I just know he’s looking down from heaven right now, smiling, proud that I’m sharing this with all of you.
   Bon appétit!
Tina St. John writes from her Three Rivers studio. Her WELCOME TO MY FOOD COLUMN is scheduled to appear every other week. Next time: “The hungry kids of summer.”


2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbs. granulated sugar
1 qt. low-fat cultured buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten with a whisk
¼ cube melted butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract

   Mix well the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Set aside.

  In a large mixing bowl, mix well the remaining ingredients. Gradually and gently add the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture with a whisk. Mix well but do not remove all the lumps. 

  Bake on a lightly greased griddle set at 375-400 degrees.

Recipe from Tina St. John’s “Welcome to My Food Column,” published July 17, 2009, in THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH.


Hot day, cool car show

by Brian Rothhammer

   Okay, so you may not have thousands of dollars to customize Grandpa’s old Chevy or to restore a Panhead Harley. But on Saturday, July 18, you can enjoy the fine rides on display at the 11th annual Woodlake Custom Car and Bike Show at Woodlake City Park for free.
Not only that, but for the first time, the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce is also hosting remote-control car races. The course will be on Magnolia Street alongside the park.

  “I was at the car show in Visalia and saw all these little race cars,” said Rudy Garcia of the Chamber. “It was like a miniature race track. All these people were there watching and just having a great time. There were trophies and everything.”
   Rudy then sought out Johnny Trovao of Tulare County R/C and invited the club to join in the Woodlake show.

  “It’s all about the cars, and I could see that these little R/Cs really get people out there. It gives them something exciting to watch along with all of the beautiful cars and bikes,” added Rudy.

  “Our club has been around for 15 years, maybe longer,” said Johnny. “What was really cool [about the Visalia event] was the crowd of people who had never seen an R/C race. R/C is fun because you have all the competitive aspects of full-scale racing without putting your body out there. You can still go to work on Monday.”
   Many club members also race motocross and other motor sports.

  “You can put a $35,000 engine in a big car and it might blow up the first time out,” said Johnny. “Someone can set themselves up completely to run MO3-class R/C racing for about $250.”
   The club has regular events twice monthly at their “Xs Speedway” in Visalia. They also have a permanent off-road track in Exeter.
   The Visalia track is a portable setup and is arranged differently every time out so that there is no “home track” advantage. The sport is growing fast and the Tulare County R/Cers often race with other clubs. Currently, there is a point series between Tulare County, Madera County, Fresno County, Exeter, and Bakersfield.
   At the Woodlake Car Show event, the 1/10-scale cars will compete in at least 3 classes; MO3, modified, and expert. Entry fee is $10 for one class and $5 for each additional class .
   Anyone with an R/C car can be in the races with two qualifiers and one main event for each class. Just bring your car and join the fun.
And kids under 13 race for free. How cool is that?
   This Saturday, set-up for the R/C races begins at 7 a.m. and racing starts at 10 a.m. Entrants can register onsite.
   While in downtown Woodlake, be sure to amble through the park and see the life-size cars and trucks, motorcycles, and custom bicycles on display at the car show. Like the R/C races, looking is free.
   There will be vendors set up at the event, and there are several restaurants within a short walking distance.
   It’s not too late to enter your car, truck, or bike in the 11th annual Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce’s car show! Entries will be taken as late as 10 a.m. Saturday morning; judging begins at noon.
   And how does this sound for a great deal? For the $15 entry, entrants get an event T-shirt, a ticket for the 50/50 raffle, a meal ticket worth $5 at any Woodlake restaurant, and a dash plaque to commemorate their participation. Who knows, you may also bring home a trophy.
   Proceeds from the event benefit the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce, so get out there and let’s see what you’ve got!

Compete at Tulare County Fair

   Entry catalogs are now available online at www.tularefair.org for those wishing to participate in this year’s Tulare County Fair. The fair is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Sept. 16, and will complete its run Sunday, Sept. 20.
   There is something for everyone. Even if someone thinks they have no talent whatsoever, just perusing the entry catalog will dispel those thoughts.
   For instance, table-setting is a category, as are several types of floral arrangements. Houseplants is another category open for competition in the Home Arts division.
   Cake decorating and several categories of baking — cakes, cookies, breads, and more, including a category just for men — will heat up county ovens. Salsa, raisins, ice cream, and barbecue are also not overlooked during fair competitions.
   Other divisions include fine arts, viticulture, and agriculture. There are also competitions for school students and all children.
   The theme of this year’s fair is “Let the Good Times Roll.” Live concerts will be held each day, and there will be hundreds of exhibits, demonstrations and, of course, the midway rides and traditional fair food.
   The fairgrounds are located at 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Tulare.

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
© Copyright 2003-2009 The Kaweah Commonwealth