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In the News - Friday, July 20, 2012




St. Anthony Retreat opens youth center

By Holly Gallo

  The new Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center officially opened its doors on Friday, July 6, even though much remains to be completed on the construction of St. Anthony Retreat Center’s newest facility.
  “The construction is keeping us busy,” said Vince Olea, St. Anthony director. “The pool still isn’t ready and the buildings remain unfinished, but we have enough done to get the ball rolling. We’re looking forward to getting it ready for full use.”
   Located on the 25-acre retreat property adjacent to the Craig Ranch, the Santa Teresita center will include dorm accommodations for 120 youth, four chaperone rooms, an assembly room, two meeting rooms, a large craft room, a pool, a recreation room, sports field and courts, and nature trails.
   Despite the center being unfinished, its mission of “Fostering the Spirituality of Our Young People” is already underway. They hosted two events over the last two weekends, and while serving communities from Bakersfield to Los Banos, the staff expects many more to events to come.
   During its first weekend (July 6-8), the 29th annual Hmong American National Catholic Association Retreat Training made use of the Santa Teresita center in conjuncture with the St. Anthony Retreat site.
  “We had the youth staying up at Santa Teresita and adults staying at St. Anthony,” Olea said. “It was an amazing event. They loved it here, and we loved having them.”
   The following weekend (July 12-15), the Retreat hosted 12 Region XI dioceses from California and Nevada for a four-day, bilingual summer course on Hispanic Youth Ministry.
  “It was a packed house, and we didn’t skip a beat,” Olea said.
   Though Santa Teresita will offer partnership programs, leadership retreats, confirmation retreats, and summer camps, Olea expects the majority of bookings for the Santa Teresita center to be from Catholic schools and parish youth groups.
   The center will also provide sixth-grade science and nature camps during the months of October and March to give the youth of the community an opportunity to explore Three Rivers in the different seasons.
   The Santa Teresita Youth Conference Center isn’t the only project under construction at St. Anthony. The full launch of the center’s website, www.StTeresitaYCC.org, has been pushed back to August. However, patrons can visit St. Anthony’s website, www.StAnthonyRetreat.org, for updated information.

Sequoia Outdoor Sports secures park permit

  Let the guided hiking, trekking, backpacking, and snowshoeing begin. Sequoia Outdoor Sports, Three Rivers’s new all-outdoors outfitter and gear store, can now officially begin their guided tours into Sequoia National Park. The National Park Service authorization on the permit was dated July 12 so now locals and visitors alike may use the local guide service for escorted forays into the nearby mountains.
  “We think once anyone interested in hiking or snowshoeing in Sequoia National Park gives us a try they will see what we are offering is really unique,” said Carlolyn Pistilli of Three Rivers, manager of Sequoia Outdoor Sports.
   John Uhlir, Three Rivers resident and owner of the outdoor store, said his dream all along was to furnish a backcountry experience for those who want to hike but may not have all the gear on their trip to Three Rivers or might not feel comfortable taking off into the wilderness on their own.
   Carolyn and her staff are all experienced Sequoia Park backcountry travelers and will share their knowledge and rental gear with all hikers from the novice to the expert peak bagger.
  “We offer the complete hiking experience from a four-hour day hike to an extreme all-day hike where we could summit one of the local peaks,” Carolyn said. “And we have overnight hikes with customized itineraries to backcountry lakes, secret sequoia groves, and some places that few visitors or locals ever get to see.”
   Carolyn said the company will focus primarily on the Hockett Meadow and Mineral King areas for day hikes and overnight trips. All participants will carry a pack but gear will be distributed so that each hiker is comfortable with his or her physical requirements.
  “The guides will carry the extra equipment and do all the work setting up the camp, cooking meals, and packing up the gear,” Carolyn said. “We do the work so you can enjoy some extra time fishing, watching for wildlife, relaxing, and focusing more on the adventure.”
   Sequoia Outdoor Sports has already ordered 40 sets of snowshoes so the guided treks won’t be confined to summer and fall hiking. Snowshoe tours of the Giant Forest will be offered as soon as the snow flies.
   To celebrate their grand opening, Carolyn said she is planning a free guided community hike coming soon to summit Alta Peak.
  “It’s our way of showing hikers of all skill levels what the backcountry experience can be like with a guide who knows the trail and adventure hiking,” Carolyn said.
   Watch for details in the Commonwealth about the upcoming Alta Peak group hike.
   For more information, or to book a backcountry adventure, call 561-1190 or visit www.SequoiaOutdoorSports.com.

Mystery in the Sierra:
Where are the summit registers?

  Earlier this month, the L.A. Times published a feature article about the Sierra’s historic summit registers. For the last few years, the registers have been disappearing from some of the range’s most challenging peaks, and no one is sure what has happened to them.
   These are not your typical summit registers; some are nearing 100 years old. Many of these registers bear the signatures of some of California’s most famous outdoorsmen: John Muir, Joseph N. LeConte, and Glenn Dawson in bound books in engraved metal containers, on scrolls of paper in metal tubes, or on scraps of paper stored in coffee cans, ammo boxes, or tobacco tins.
   These summit registers had lasted so long because the peaks they rested atop of were so challenging. It might be years between successful summits, and climbers often looked forward to reading the historic registers after a grueling climb.
   There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that only a few have come before. Being able to read their comments is a reward to those climbers.
   The reason the summit registers are disappearing is a complete mystery to the mountaineering community. What is known is that over the years, some registers have been removed to be preserved in the Sierra Club’s archives at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, so there is a reason for their absence. Of course, this preservation has been a hotly contested issue in itself.
   While some believe that the registers should be preserved for future generations (some date back to the late 1800s), others have claimed that putting the registers in the library archives is like “putting bighorn sheep in a zoo.”
   What makes this occurrence so sad is that previous generations of Sierra mountaineers never even put a thought toward people stealing the registers.
  “I don’t understand why anyone would take them,” Glenn Dawson said. “It may not be a matter of law, but it is a matter of ethics.”
   Dawson, who turned 100 years old this year, is a true California mountaineer. He has many first ascents under his belt and has a mountain named after him. When he found out that some of the registers have disappeared, some that may even contain his signature, he said, “The Sierra has changed…”
   Users of eBay and Craigslist should be on the lookout for signatures for sale and report this activity if spotted.

Sequoia-Kings Canyon seeks public input
On Wilderness Stewardship Plan’s draft alternatives

No public meeting scheduled for Three Rivers

  Starting in early October, the National Park Service will be seeking public input on the preliminary draft alternatives for the Wilderness Stewardship Plan for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This is the culmination of nearly 900 pieces of correspondence that were received last year in response to a call for public input on the development of the plan.
   Now the National Park Service is interested in the public’s ideas and feedback about alternatives to address future wilderness management at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Topics that may be addressed in the plan include: day and overnight use; permitting and quotas; party sizes; campfires; food storage; camping and campsites; human waste management; pack stock and grazing management; scientific research; natural and cultural resource management; maintenance of signs, trails, bridges, and other recreational infrastructure; administrative infrastructure; education and outreach; the extent to which commercial services are necessary to fulfill the recreational and other purposes of wilderness areas; and front-country support facilities.
   Four public workshops have been scheduled for the fall, but conspicuously missing from the lineup is a meeting in Sequoia’s gateway community: Three Rivers.
  “With limited staff time and resources, Sequoia-Kings Canyon staff will only be able to present four public meetings in 2012,” said Dana Dierkes, public affairs manager, when asked about the oversight. “Public meeting locations were chosen to reach the largest amount of people. We certainly encourage Three Rivers people to attend the October 30 meeting in Visalia.”
   The finalized Wilderness Stewardship Plan will have a bearing on how commercial outfitters, especially those utilizing pack stock, do business in the local parks. Earlier this year, permits for commercial operators like Cedar Grove and Horse Corral pack stations, Bearpaw High Sierra Camp, and Sequoia Outdoor Sports were placed on hold until an agreement was reached following a federal court hearing.
   The judge’s order issued in May stated that interim commercial use may be permitted but may not exceed 80 percent of the 2007 use levels. The attempt to block commercial horse packing stems from a 2009 lawsuit filed by the High Sierra Hikers Association.
   The lawsuit alleges that the NPS did not adequately address the impact of stock use in wilderness areas in the General Management Plan for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, completed in 2007. Park planners have maintained that wilderness issues and quotas will be specifically addressed in a Wilderness Stewardship Plan.
   This issue and more were brought forward during the public scoping phase of the planning process, which occurred from April to August last year.
   To learn more about the process and how to comment, visit the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website (PEPC) at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/sekiwild and consider attending a workshop presentation by the   National Park Service and meet with staff to discuss ideas about alternatives.
   In order to ensure that submitted comments are considered, use one of two methods to comment. To comment electronically, submit comments online at the PEPC website by visiting http://parkplanning.nps.gov/sekiwild, clicking on “Open for Comment,” and then clicking on the link to the document.
   The National Park Service encourages commenting electronically through PEPC, but will also accept written comments. Mail or hand-deliver comments to Superintendent Karen F. Taylor-Goodrich, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Attn: Wilderness Stewardship Plan, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271. Faxed comments will also be accepted at (559) 565-4202.
   In addition, written comments may be submitted during public workshops. Comments in any format submitted by an individual or organization on behalf of another individual or organization will not be accepted. Anonymous comments will not be accepted.
   It is the practice of the National Park Service to make all comments available for public review. Before including address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in a comment, be aware that the entire comment may be made publicly available at any time. While requests may be made to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, the NPS does not guarantee that they will be able to do so.

Wilderness Stewardship Plan workshops

Thursday, October 25
7-9 pm
Eastern Sierra
Tri-county Fairgrounds
Patio Building
Sierra and Fair streets

Friday, October 26
7-9 pm
Los Angeles River Center
California Building Atrium
570 West Ave. 26
Los Angeles

Monday, October 29
7-9 pm
East Bay Regional Parks
Redwood Regional Park
Richard C. Trudeau
Training Center
Main Conference Room
11500 Skyline Blvd., Oakland

Tuesday, October 30
6-8 pm
Visalia Marriott Hotel
Main Ballroom
300 S. Court St., Visalia


Cause of backcountry fire under investigation

  Fire managers detected a new fire on Sunday, July 15, in Kings Canyon National Park. The Woods Creek Fire is burning between 8,300 and 9,300 feet in elevation about eight miles northeast of Road’s End in the Cedar Grove area. It is located north of the Woods Creek trail just west of Window Peak and Castle Domes.
   The Woods Creek Fire reached an estimated 300 acres on the morning of July 16 and is currently being suppressed. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
   A portion of the Woods Creek trail has been closed above Paradise Valley and east to its junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, but is expected to reopen over the weekend (July 21-22).
   Fire growth has been predominately to the northeast from the ignition point near the Woods Creek Trail. The fire is burning in scattered mixed conifer with areas of rock.
   The fire is visible from Cedar Grove and other locations in the Kings Canyon region.   However, there are currently no threats to life or property.
   The southern Sierra Nevada is currently experiencing drought conditions as a result of the significantly low snowpack received last winter.
   Visitors to the parks can assist in preventing unwanted fires by following fire restrictions and taking extra care with campfires, cooking stoves, and lighted cigarettes.

Fire restrictions in effect in wildland areas

  Due to high fire danger, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have instituted fire restrictions inside the parks. Beginning Saturday, July 14, the following constraints must be followed:
  —No wood or barbecue fires are permitted below 6,000 feet, except in designated campgrounds. This includes Ash Mountain Picnic Area, Hospital Rock Picnic Area, and wilderness travel below 6,000 feet. Gas or propane stoves may be used at all elevations.
  —No smoking below 6,000 feet is permitted, except within a developed area, a campground, or an enclosed vehicle (except in designated areas within the Generals Highway construction zone).
   Fire restrictions reduce the possibility of an accidental human-caused fire that could threaten visitors, employees, and natural and historic resources during times of high fire danger.
   Fire restrictions often change quickly due to variable weather conditions. These Stage 1 fire restrictions will remain in effect until further notice.
   If more stringent restrictions are necessary in the future due to changing conditions, the parks will make another public announcement. Fire restrictions help land management agencies reduce fire risk and prevent wildfires during periods of high or extreme fire danger.
   By following these steps, visitors to the local parks can help ensure that their visit is safe and enjoyable while protecting against unwanted fire.
   Three Rivers residents need to limit the use of welding, acetylene, or other torch with an open flame. There should be no operation or usage of any internal or external combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order. If this equipment is to be used, it is best to operate in the early morning hours when humidity levels are higher.
   The current hot temperatures and dry weather continue to create dangerous conditions for fires. And, just a reminder, any fire started by an exempted activity is the responsibility of the parties and they are liable for the costs of fighting those fires.

Mineral King cabin community
hosts summer programs

  When the announcement was received that there would be no interpretive ranger stationed in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park during the 2012 summer season, some cabin owners got proactive and developed a series of talks, hikes, and other activities to entertain valley visitors while teaching them about the fascinating people and places that make Mineral King the special place it is.
   Alysia Schmidt was the Park Service interpretive ranger in Mineral King for the past three seasons. When she was reassigned and her position remained unfilled, a core group of cabin community members — most whose ancestors were among the early settlers of the mountain valley — worked out a roster of weekly events that will continue through Labor Day weekend.
   Watch the Kaweah Kalendar for the listings of what’s approaching and plan a trip to the area. Still to come are a Song Fest at Silver City (Thursday, Aug. 9), two campfire programs at the Mineral King Ranger Station that will take audience members back in time with some re-enacted history, an interpretive hike to White Chief Canyon, the annual Hoedown and Picnic with live music and free supper, and another Alles Cabin Open House, where a cabin tour includes some living history as Grace Alles and her sister, Rose Mullenix, are brought back to life.
   All the programs are free and open to all who wish to attend. A park entrance fee of $20 per vehicle or annual pass is required by the National Park Service to enter and recreate in the Mineral King area.
   All programs are family friendly, although the hike to White Chief is moderately strenuous, so may be difficult for young children.

TRUS alum joins TKC staff

  There’s a Three Rivers kid back in town and she’s working at The Kaweah Commonwealth. If you don’t already know her, meet Holly Gallo.
   Holly recently graduated from UC Berkeley and has returned home to Three Rivers where she is launching her career as a writer, anxious to see where her first job after college will take her. She received a BA in Anthropology with a focus on social anthropology, a curriculum well suited to being a journalist, researcher, and editorialist.
  “We’re thrilled to have Holly join us in our mission to continue to tell our readers things they won’t hear, read, or see anywhere else,” said John Elliott, who with his wife Sarah has owned and published the Kaweah Country weekly newspaper since 1995. “Holly brings a fresh, enthusiastic perspective to covering the news and making this hyper-local venture even more relevant, now and in the future.”
   Holly, since joining the TKC staff two weeks ago, has hit the ground running with stories on the budget woes at TRUS, the search for a superintendent at Woodlake, and articles this week on the new camp taking shape at St. Anthony Retreat and coverage of the 14th annual Woodlake Car show.
   Holly, a TRUS alum ’04 and graduate of Woodlake High School ’08, was raised in both communities and lived some of her early school years in Woodlake. While at Woodlake High, she was editor-in-chief of the Tiger Times and ranked second in her class, only a mere percentage from being named valedictorian.
   Since completing her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Holly has had several offers to attend graduate and law schools. Wanting to spend some time back home was her immediate choice while she mulls over her options for the future.
   Her mom, Jeanette McDonald, a longtime public school administrator currently at Lindsay, gave Holly a good foundation as a student.
  “My mom is my hero,” Holly said. “I never met anyone who moves through life with such grace and poise. She’s a dying breed of true, classy ladies. If I can grow to become half the woman she is, it will be twice as much as I deserve.”
   Spoken like a true writer.

Badger elementary school closes

  In what is an alarming trend everywhere, another small rural community lost its elementary school. Sierra Elementary School in Badger closed its doors permanently effective the end of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, June 30.
   Cutler-Orosi School District officials cited a declining student population that could no longer justify the operating expenses of the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school. The enrollment at the end of the 2011-2012 year was down to 30 students.
   One former student, who completed all nine years at Sierra Elementary School in the early 1990s, said the enrollment has been in steady decline from the 140 students that were there in those days. Her two young children, she said, will have to be bussed 18 miles if they want to attend the nearest elementary school in the Cutler-Orosi district.
   Another impact is the loss of the local jobs in Badger. Several full-time and part-time employees are now jobless and will have to commute if and when they can find a new position.

Spark causes power surge, fire

  When it’s super-dry, power lines can become even more dangerous, especially for birds. On Thursday, July 12, an unidentified bird — often a raven or turkey vulture — landed on a wire by a transformer near the Slick Rock Recreation Area at Lake Kaweah.
   The bird’s landing caused a spark to arc and that created a momentary flicker in the power supply in Three Rivers felt up and down the Kaweah canyon. The accompanying surge, when the electricity came back on, knocked the bird to the grass below and a fire started racing up a nearby grassy hill just after 8 a.m.
   Within minutes, Cal Fire units were on the scene, laying fire hose and cutting line around the potentially dangerous fire. Cyra Doss, fire apparatus engineer at the Three Rivers Station, said the lack of any significant winds were a factor in helping firefighters gain control of the rapidly spreading blaze.
   No structures were threatened by the grass fire. Four Cal Fire engines responded to the blaze that was contained at less than an acre.
   Dozers and air attack units were standing by, but were not was utilized. One Cal Fire unit remained on the scene until 1 p.m. checking for hot spots and mopping up.
   Conditions are currently hazardous for fire, and Three Rivers has already dodged some wildfire bullets this year due to the quick response by fire crews. Conditions are ripe for fire after a dry winter that caused vegetation to dry out earlier and faster and low water levels in the river.

Three Rivers Lions Club
Plans field trip to
Visalia Rawhide baseball game

  The Three Rivers Lions Club will be traveling by chartered bus to the Visalia Rawhide game on Saturday, Aug. 4. All are welcome to join the fun and festivities.
   To reserve a seat on the bus, it’s $15 per person. Two levels of ticket prices for the game are available: the Saloon section for $15 or the Cold Zone for $8.
   Game time is 7 p.m. The bus will leave Lions Arena at 5:30 p.m.
   For information or to purchase tickets, call 786-7502.
   About Visalia baseball: The Visalia Rawhide are a Minor League Baseball team. They are a Class A-Advanced team of the Arizona Diamondbacks operating in the California League.
   The Rawhide play their home games at Recreation Park in Visalia, which opened in 1946 and seats approximately 2,700 fans. In 2009, the City of Visalia completed a multimillion dollar renovation and expansion of Recreation Ballpark supported by a 10-year lease with the ball club, the longest lease in franchise history.
   After two years of fan surveys, polls, focus groups, and direction by players, the team announced a name change to the Visalia Rawhide. This change went into effect for the 2009 season; for the previous 14 seasons, the team was known as the Oaks.
   Pop culture: As a minor league affiliate of the Oakland A’s, the Visalia Oaks were mentioned twice during the 2011 movie Moneyball, which was based on the 2002 season.   The movie starred Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill and received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.



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 2003-2012 The Kaweah Commonwealth