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In the News - Friday, JULY 29, 2005

Motorcyclist killed on

Lake Kaweah highway

   For the second time in as many weeks, a traffic accident on state Highway 198 near Lake Kaweah resulted in a fatality.
   Two weeks ago, a Hanford man died when he was ejected from a vehicle in which he was a passenger when excessive speed and alcohol consumption combined to cause the driver to lose control and roll over, possibly multiple times.
   Last Saturday, July 23, just after 5 p.m., John Montano, 47, was riding his motorcycle with his wife as a passenger westbound on the approach to Kaweah Recreation Area. His 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King collided with a 1988 Oldsmobile Royale that attempted to make a left turn onto the highway from the recreation area’s parking lot.
   Montano, from Visalia, died from injuries he suffered in the crash. His wife also suffered major injuries and was transported to Kaweah Delta Hospital.
   According to a California Highway Patrol report, the driver of the Oldsmobile was a 24-year-old woman from Three Rivers who was returning home with two children as passengers. The woman is reportedly seven months pregnant and was also transported to the Visalia hospital after complaining of abdominal pain.
   The CHP investigating officer said the area in the vicinity of Lake Kaweah is especially busy in the summer on weekends because of boating traffic and visitors driving to and from Three Rivers. The cause of the accident, he determined, was failure of the car’s driver to yield the right-of-way.

DANGEROUS CURVES
   The intersection where the accident occurred is made even more dangerous by a curvy section of highway immediately east of the parking area. Because of a large oak adjacent to the roadway on the highway’s south side, drivers attempting to exit the parking area have only three seconds to see an oncoming vehicle approaching westbound at 55 m.p.h.
   Recently, as the lake’s level has dropped, more vehicles can be accommodated in the recreation area used mostly for swimming and as a secondary boat ramp. The increase in traffic in the area, and the fact that there are more motorcycles on the road than ever, were contributing factors to the accident.

MOTORCYCLE USE CLIMBS,
SO DOES ACCIDENT RATE
   Nearly 4,000 Americans died on motorcycles in 2004 — 85 percent more than in 1997. That total represents about 9 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities (up from 5 percent in 1997).
   The median age of motorcycle riders was 41 in 2004, compared to 27 in 1985. About 45 percent of motorcycle deaths involve riders over 40, compared to 9 percent in 1985.
   The CHP was assisted at the scene prior to their arrival by a Park Service ranger. The road was closed for two hours while the accident was cleared.

3R Golf Course

suffers heat stroke

   A casualty of the recent run of triple-digit temperatures is the Three Rivers Golf Course. On Tuesday, after an inspection tour, owner Steve Oh decided to close the nine-hole riverside course effective today (Friday, July 29) until repairs could be made to several of the greens and some fairway sections.
   At this time, there is no scheduled reopening date. Two employees, Rudy Marinez, golf pro, and Kurt Gardiner, greens-keeper, will be retained to help in the course’s restoration.

  “It’s not the first time we’ve had to close during the hottest part of the summer,” said Ted Faris, who recently worked part-time in the pro shop as a starter. “It’s obvious that the course needs some work and, hopefully, they can reopen in time for the fall season.”

The Orange Tree

puts down roots

in Lemon Cove

   For owner and lifetime citrus farmer Bob McKellar, the weeklong celebration and grand opening of The Orange Tree Restaurant is the next step in his longtime dream of making fresh-from-the-farm produce readily available for his Tulare County friends and neighbors. The timing was right for this latest venture — a restaurant and fresh-produce outlet — because an ideal roadside location became available at the end of last season.
   That location, formerly Foothill Fruit Company and later the Red Barn, is located on Highway 198 at the Woodlake turnoff (Highway 216), an important crossroads for ranchers, boaters, most of the local workforce, and thousands of tourists on their way to Three Rivers and Sequoia National Park.
   In the late 1990s, the location, then known as Foothill Fruit Company, enjoyed some success under the original owner, Jeannie Magan. Magan and her husband, Tom, were the original developers of the property.
   Magan decided to lease the property after a couple seasons of too m any hours and diminishing returns. Joe Harmon and his former wife, Phyllis, then leased the place operating for the next couple of years as the Red Barn.
   The couple really specialized in barbecue and local regulars continued to be the mainstay of the business. In 2003, Harmon transferred his Red Barn interest to an Exeter family partnership that decided not to continue operating the business after the 2004 summer season.
   Earlier this year, Jeannie Magan, who was previously acquainted with McKellar Farms of Ivanhoe, began getting the place ready for its next tenant — The Orange Tree — and, finally, just before the busy Memorial Day weekend, the place opened to a very appreciative audience.
   For the next month or so, employees came and went until McKellar, 73, found what he thinks is the right team to run a very unique establishment.

THE FRESH-FARM CONNECTION
   What will be unique about this place, McKellar believes, is that once the word is out, many new customers will come for the produce but stay for the food.

  “Our aim is to serve as the area’s hometown stop,” said McKellar. “We feature a casual atmosphere designed to make locals and visitors comfortable — cattlemen, farmers, truck drivers, office workers, boaters, and bicyclists, as well as picnickers on their way to the parks.”
   Jeannie Magan has agreed to stay on as assistant manager to oversee quality control. The reins of the day-to-day management of the area’s newest restaurant have been turned over to San Juanita Garcia. Juanita recently was a manager at Serrano’s Mexican restaurant and before that worked for the same family managing three outlets in Fresno.
   Garcia is no stranger to long hours or hard work, certainly a large part of what is required to make any restaurant a success.

  “We joke about the restaurant’s ‘homemade’ salsa and chile verde,” Garcia said. “They are actually recipes that I learned to make in preparing food for my family.”
   There are lots of orange-inspired recipes like mandarin orange pie, orange salads, orange dressing and, of course, fresh-squeezed orange juice. Earlier this week, a new orange muffin was added to the pastry repertoire.
   On the barbecue is Kevin Canter of Three Rivers. Canter is a transplanted New Yorker but it didn’t take him long once he came to Kaweah Country to discover the local grilling traditions. He honed his skills at Village Market in Three Rivers. His style is currently being described as High Sierra-Santa Maria with a touch of hip-hop.
   Commuters and visitors will especially enjoy the attractive takeout dinners featuring tri-tip, chicken, and pork ribs. The value-priced family meal includes a generous serving of all three. The Orange Tree chicken dinner consists of a whole chicken marinated in a scrumptious orange sauce.

Help Three Rivers School

win $1,000 by shopping

   Tulare County schools are preparing to embark on a competition among themselves in an attempt to be the recipient of $1,000, and it’s up to residents in each respective school district to ensure their school is a winner by shopping and telling their friends and family to go shopping, too.
   The annual contest, sponsored by the Visalia Mall, is called “Cash Back for Schools.” The program aims to provide schools with money for special projects and events that may not otherwise be in the budget.
   So, here’s the deal: Whether buying furniture, school clothes, an engagement ring, or just a cookie at the Visalia Mall from Monday, Aug. 1, through Friday, Sept. 30, take all accumulated receipts to the Customer Service Center (near the mall’s north entrance next to Pet Fair) before leaving. The receipts will be recorded, stamped, credited to the customer’s school of choice, and returned.
   For each dollar spent, the school receives the corresponding amount in points. Anybody, no matter what their age or where they reside, is eligible to participate and credit their receipts to Three Rivers School.
   Up-to-date results will be tallied on a wall board in the Customer Service Center so shoppers may check on their school’s points and ranking at any time.
   At the competition’s end, one elementary, middle/junior-high school, and high school each with the most points will be awarded a $1,000 prize.
   The Visalia Mall is located on the southwest corner of Mooney Boulevard and Walnut Avenue in Visalia.

WHS Foundation

plansfall golf tournament

   Get ready to hit the links again this fall in support of Woodlake High School. For the third year, the WHS Foundation is sponsoring a golf tournament with all proceeds going directly to the school to assist in the funding of facilities and programs, as well as a large amount to students in scholarship dollars.
   The tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22, with signup at 10:30 a.m. and a shotgun start at noon; a dinner and awards ceremony will begin at about 5 p.m. The cost per player is $75 or $300 for a team of four, which includes a golf cart, lunch, and Barbecue Rib Feed dinner (non-golfer dinner: $20).
   The Foundation has a goal of having 36 teams participate in the four-man scramble format.
   By winning the hole-in-one contest, golfers will have a chance to win a new car, donated by Bret’s Auto Center in Dinuba. Prizes will be also be awarded for “closest to the pin,” “longest drive,” and the “Las Vegas hole.”
   Not a golfer? You can still support the Foundation by sponsoring a tee for $25 or making a donation of a prize or money.
   The tournament will be held at Hank Swank’s Woodlake Ranch Golf Course.
   To register or for more information, call Diana Pearcy, Foundation president, 564-5212.

New café is

cool cyber stop

   There’s a new café in town and it serves the regular — coffee, tea, soft drinks, and snacks. But this 21st-century café’s main entrée is access to the computer world.
   Currently, the new 3 Rivers Cyber Café is the cool and air-conditioned place to be and a hot spot for visitors and locals to surf, to chat, to game, or just hang around the ‘Net and learn about cutting-edge technology.
   To hear owners Tony and Pat Moreno tell it, they couldn’t be more pleased with what their customers are saying since they opened the doors of the Sierra Drive business that is located just up-canyon from the Three Rivers Market .

  “The number-one comment we are hearing, especially from visitors who surf the Internet everywhere they travel, is how inviting and accommodating we are here in Three Rivers,” said Tony Moreno. “They really love our combination of hometown and high-tech.”
   Moreno says so far his business, which has been open since July 2, has been about 60-percent visitors and 40-percent locals. He expects that trend to continue for the next couple of months during the busy tourist season, but then he will focus on providing more services for locals like computer classes and forums for specific users.

BUYING TIME
   The way the Internet access works is, first, a customer must purchase time by increments as little as 30 minutes for $3.50 or cheaper rates by the hour for unlimited use. In comparison, the rates in Las Vegas, for example, could be as high as $6 per half-hour.
   The Internet customer is issued an access card that works like a gift card or phone card and can be used in any duration as the computer logs the minutes. When time is up, the card can be renewed.
   Visitors are performing an array of Internet tasks including checking email, sending emails with photos, and searching for information.

  “Recently, we had an Australian lady who went online to do her banking and another gentleman who reserved a car rental,” Tony said. “There’s really no limit to the information available at a click of a mouse.”

LOCAL PERKS
   But why would locals use this Internet if they already are connected at home? The Morenos said a number of locals are coming in to do specific tasks that require high speed.

  “Our pro-package DSL is up to 40 times faster than any dial-up service,” Moreno said. “So for those folks who can’t get DSL or live outside of its signal range, our service will become indispensable.”
   Tony also said he has been surprised by the number of customers who have already called about repair and service.

  “I’ll come to your place and pick up your computer just to make certain that everything is disconnected and hooked back up properly,” Tony said. “Then I’ll bring your computer back to the shop and do a complete diagnostic for only $25.”
   If Tony can pinpoint the problem and is able to fix it, the $25 is applied to the cost of the repair. Most problems he has encountered so far have been viruses and spyware that eventually find their way into most personal computers via email and the Internet.
   Pat Moreno says that a list is also being kept for users who have expressed an interest in becoming part of a class or forum.
   In the off-season, Pat said, there will be more time to develop this part of the business that also helps people learn more about all the capabilities of Three Rivers’s first and only cyber café.

FACILITIES AND MANAGEMENT
   Currently, there are five workstations, and wireless users may use the Wi-Fi Hotspot signal that the Morenos manage so there is no waiting in line to use a computer.

  "We expected to go through an adjustment period while we are learning the business,” Tony said. “What we want to do right from the start is build a reputation for great service and make certain that all who come in have a positive experience.”

Lightning sparks fires

in Kings Canyon park

   Two lightning-caused fires are currently burning in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. The fires were first discovered Friday, July 22.
   The fires, which have now combined, have been named the Comb Fire. It is located at about 7,000 feet in elevation and two miles north of Cedar Grove.
   Although being monitored, the fire will be allowed to burn. A wildfire in 1980 and a prescribed fire in 1998-99 have somewhat reduced ground fuels in the area, making it easier to manage.
   As of July 28, about 345 acres had been consumed. As a result, the Lewis Creek Trail, north of its junction with the Hotel Creek Trail is closed.
   The fire could potentially grow to 1,000 acres before reaching rocky areas that will hinder its spread.

THUNDERSTORMS IN FORECAST
   It is inevitable that more lightning-caused fires will be discovered in the Sierra as the weather forecast is calling for thunderstorms throughout the week. If in a remote area and away from people and development, the fires are usually allowed to burn naturally.

SILVER CITY FUEL REDUCTION
   Earlier this month, a mechanical fuel-reduction project was initiated in the Silver City area along the Mineral King Road. The project thinned 15 acres of forest vegetation to reduce the risk of a catastrophic wildland fire in the area that is heavily populated with summer cabins. The collected debris will be burned later this year.
   Additionally, five acres of small trees and dead-and-down wood were also cleared near Park Service facilities in the Atwell Mill area. Since 2002, about 50 acres of forest have been thinned and cleared in these areas.

Master Class concludes

with public concert

   Classical music lovers will have a rare opportunity to hear the extraordinary flutist Tracy Harris perform at St. Anthony Retreat on Thursday, Aug. 4. Tracy will be in town for four days to teach a Master Class for aspiring flute players, some of whom have traveled great distances to study with a performer of Tracy’s caliber.
   A real prodigy, Harris was recognized at age 16 by legendary flute teacher Dr. Julius Baker. Dr. Baker is not a household name by any stretch of the imagination, but among flutists he is regarded with reverence as one of the most demanding and best instructors ever.
   Baker invited Tracy to attend the prestigious Julliard School of Music. Tracy chose instead to attend the New England Conservatory, and after graduation was one of a handful of flutists chosen to participate in a highly-selective Master Class taught by the late Jean-Pierre Rampal, considered by many to be the greatest flutist of all time.
   Today, Tracy’s credentials are extraordinary, and there’s a chance to discover this wonderful artist for yourself in Three Rivers.
   The performance will begin at 8 p.m. and there’s a wonderful evening of music in store. The always-superb Wyndfall Trio will present compositions for flute, harp, and piano. From the Master Class, the three Yamaha prizewinners will perform their competition solos. And a flute choir of all Master Class attendees will charm the summer air with lilting melodies and breathless harmonies.
   Tickets are available at the door. $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 children under 12.

NOTICE OF DEATHS

   WALTER SEABORN— A former resident of Three Rivers and South Fork rancher, recently of Bend, Ore., died Sunday, July 24, 2005.
   ELSIE RAGSDALE— Born Oct. 6, 1919, Elsie died at her Lemon Cove home on Friday, July 22, 2005. She was 85. She is survived by her husband of 70 years, Whitney Ragsdale; four sons; and three daughters. Services were held Monday, July 25.

 
THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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