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Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
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Kaweah Kam

In the News - Friday, AUGUST 11, 2006


Maile Peck

dead at 70

   It would be a small number of Three Rivers residents who could say they never knew Maile Peck. She was a member of nearly every community organization, patronized local businesses daily, and rarely missed a meeting, luncheon, jazz concert, or sports event.
   Until 2004, when a back injury required her to have round-the-clock medical care that wasn’t available locally, Maile JoAnn Peck was a Kaweah Country mainstay, where she had lived since she was three years old.
   In fact, a tour about town just wasn’t complete without seeing Maile walking along Sierra Drive decked out in a souvenir T-shirt and funky hat, lugging a bag filled with the day’s purchases and mail, and carrying “Matilda” or some other beloved stuffed animal. Out of her 70 years of life, less than six were spent someplace other than Three Rivers or Sequoia.
   Maile’s dad, Asa Peck, was a Sequoia National Park ranger for 30 years. Asa began working for the National Park Service in Sequoia during the 1920s.
   For a change of climate, in the 1930s he transferred to Haleakala National Park in Hawaii and moved there with his wife, Ester. The couple’s first and only child was born April 16, 1936, on the island of Maui, Hawaii, and was given the name Maile (pronounced MY-lee) after the fragrant flowering vine that grows in the Haleakala forests.
   The family returned to Sequoia in 1939 and toddler Maile spent her formative years at Giant Forest, Atwell Mill, Colony Mill, Hockett Meadows, Kern Canyon, and other picturesque High Sierra locales.
   Maile was intensely proud of her upbringing in Sequoia National Park. In a 1995 interview with The Kaweah Commonwealth, Maile explained why the family gave up the island lifestyle to return to the Sierra.

  “With Dad it came down to one thing,” she said. “You can take the boy out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the boy.”
   When Maile was four years old, a virus and accompanying high fever resulted in a permanent learning disability. In spite of this, Maile was a walking, talking history book, who not only remembered the year of most Kaweah Country milestones but also the month, day of the week, and exact time that an event occurred.
Maile graduated from Three Rivers Union School and Woodlake Union High School. She attended classes at the College of the Sequoias and, during this one-year period, lived and worked in Tulare.
   When Asa retired from the NPS in 1955, the family moved into their La Cienega Drive home in the new Alta Acres subdivision. A couple of years later, Ester began her career as a librarian, transferring in 1960 from Exeter to the Three Rivers Library, which was in the building where The Kaweah Commonwealth office and Avant Real Estate Center are now located.
   Maile worked alongside her mother as the assistant librarian until Ester’s retirement in 1974. In 1975, Maile became a volunteer aide at Three Rivers Union School, serving in that position for 25 years.
   In 1985, the Three Rivers PTA presented Maile with its annual “Honorary Service Award,” as she followed her mother’s lead in caring for the community’s children. Ester had received the award in 1963 and, again, in 1971.
   A “Neighbor Profile” in the Aug. 23, 1996, issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth provided valuable insight into Maile’s life, which she kept simple and uncomplicated:
   Her favorite book was listed as High Trail, a young adult adventure novel about the High Sierra published in 1948. Her favorite hobby was “being a spectator at Three Rivers School sports events.”
   And her goal? “I want to live to be 95. That would be older than my mom or dad.”
   In November 2004, at the age of 68, while walking along Sierra Drive during her daily round of visiting friends and businesses between Anne Lang’s Emporium and the Chevron Station, Maile fell and injured some vertebrae. The preliminary prognosis was that she would need four to six weeks of rehabilitation.
   Maile never returned to her Three Rivers home. On Saturday, Aug. 5, 2006, she suffered a fatal heart attack at a residential-care facility in Woodlake.
   Maile was preceded in death by her parents, dad Asa in 1981, and her mom, best friend, and constant companion, Ester, in December 1995.
   She is survived by two close friends whom she had known since childhood. Valerie (Simmons) Abanathie of Three Rivers and Nora (Pusateri) Griffiths of Merced have loved and cared for Maile over the years, especially in the past decade since Ester passed away. Maile is also survived by her TRUS family of teachers and staff and the entire community of Three Rivers.
   A viewing was held yesterday (Thursday, Aug. 10) at the Smith Family Chapel in Exeter.
   A memorial service will be held today (Friday, Aug. 11), 2 p.m., at the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers with Pastor Martin Murdock, a former Three Rivers resident and Peck family friend, presiding.
   Maile will be interred during a private service at the Three Rivers Cemetery.
   Remembrances in Maile’s name may be made to:
Three Rivers Historical Society
P.O. Box 162
Three Rivers, CA 93271;
Sierra Traditional Jazz Club
P.O. Box 712
Three Rivers, CA 93271

Motorcyclist dies after

being struck by DUI driver

   Russell Alan Bloom, a Visalia financial controller, took his last motorcycle ride to Three Rivers on Sunday, July 30. Shortly after 3 p.m., while waiting on his 2006 Harley-Davidson Super Glide to make a left turn from Sierra Drive into the River View Restaurant parking lot, Bloom, 43, was struck from behind by a 2000 Chevy pickup driven by Dustin Dean Smith of Exeter.
   According to a report filed by Greg Fox, the California Highway Patrol officer at the scene, following the collision, Smith, 25, exited the vehicle and poured the contents of a beer can onto the roadway. He then reentered the pickup and fled the scene driving eastbound where he was involved in a second accident a short distance from the first crash scene.
   Smith was detained at that scene where he was arrested by Officer Fox and charged with felony DUI (driving under the influence) and felony hit-and-run. Sierra Drive was closed for nearly an hour as the accident scene was cleared.
   Bloom was transported down-canyon by ambulance where he was met by a waiting CHP helicopter and flown to University Medical Center in Fresno. He was reported to be in a coma for the past week and succumbed to his injuries on Sunday, Aug. 6.
   Tyler Ward, 21, a passenger in Smith’s vehicle, was treated at the scene for minor injuries and then released.
   A charge of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated was added to Smith’s pending felony charges.
   Bloom is survived by his wife, Michele, five children, his mother, and a brother and sister. To assist the family, contributions may be made to “Survivors of Russ Bloom,” c/o Washington Mutual Bank, 2735 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA 93277.

Search ongoing

for missing backpacker

   A backpacker has been reported missing in the northernmost reaches of Kings Canyon National Park. Linda Salness, 56, of Hershey, Penn., was last seen Monday, July 31, along the edge of the San Joaquin River near the party’s Aspen Meadow Camp.
   She was on a backpacking trip with her husband, Kym Salness — a critical care specialist and medical doctor for 30 years — and another couple. The foursome had started their trip from Florence Lake, just outside of the Kings Canyon park boundary and at about the midpoint of the 211-mile John Muir Trail.
   After Linda was determined to be missing, her companions began searching the area and asked a group of hikers passing through the area to contact authorities.
   The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was contacted later that evening; the National Park Service was notified at 10:30 that night.
   Search teams arrived on the scene early Tuesday morning. A full-scale search was conducted using several helicopters, three search-dog teams, nearly 30 ground searchers, two horse-patrol units, and eight swiftwater-rescue personnel.
   After searching the area extensively for nearly a week, as well as other locations the victim may have traveled or been accidentally taken via the cold, swift-moving river, no clues have been found. The Park Service will continue searching, but efforts have been scaled back.

Visitor drowns

at Devil’s Postpile

   Laurence Wade, 42, an Irish citizen residing in Merrick, N.Y., drowned Saturday, Aug. 5, while swimming with friends in a pool at the base of Rainbow Falls in Devil’s Postpile National Monument on the Sierra’s east side.
   Reports were received at the area’s ranger station at about 4 p.m. Rangers immediately responded to the scene.
   Wade was seen submerged five to eight feet below the surface and about 20 feet from shore in turbulent water. A swiftwater rescue team was summoned to retrieve Wade, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
   The death appears to be the result of an accidental drowning, but an investigation is continuing.
   Devil’s Postpile is managed by the Sequoia-Kings Canyon administration.

Fires burning

in Sequoia NF

   Fire officials are continuing to monitor three large lightning-caused fires located in the backcountry of Sequoia National Forest. The fires are being allowed to burn as wildland fire use (WFU) projects and the Forest Service is working closely with the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District regarding smoke emissions.
   In the Golden Trout Wilderness, firefighters are working along the Summit Trail on the 2,000-acre Maggie WFU, which has burned between Maggie and Sheep mountains. There are no trail closures in effect in this area, however, hikers are advised to use caution.
   Also in the Golden Trout Wilderness, the Tamarack WFU has burned 384 acres and is currently active near the headwaters of Tamarack Creek and moving toward Rifle Creek and Coyote Pass, which are on the south side of Farewell Gap from the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park.
   All trails are also open in the vicinity of the Tamarack Fire, but these conditions may change as the fire continues to spread.
   On the Kern Plateau at the southernmost end of Sequoia National Forest, the Beck WFU, discovered July 27, located near Beck Meadow, is about 350 acres in size.
   There is private property in this area, so precautions are being taken, but this fire has the possibility to grow to 2,000 acres before being extinguished by fall rains.
   Several other small wildland fires have been ignited by lightning in Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Most of these fires are staffed and being kept under control by agency firefighters.
   In addition, thunderstorm activity in the high country is expected to continue through August. Backcountry travelers who discover a wildland fire are asked to report it to the nearest fire department.
   If planning to travel in any of the above-mentioned fire areas, call the Sequoia National Forest headquarters for fire information and trail restrictions, 784-1500.

Road tax approved

for November ballot
Maintenance planned for

North Fork and South Fork drives

   On Tuesday, Aug. 8, even before Tulare County supervisors had approved a half-cent transportation sales tax for the November 7 ballot, tons of crushed rock had been delivered to the parking area at the Three Rivers Arts Center. The material is slated for an upcoming chip-seal project on North Fork Drive.
   At recent public meetings, several local residents had asked county officials when some of the badly-needed local maintenance might be completed. Now it appears the county is ready to start the work.

  “We’re set to begin the North Fork Drive project September 6 right after Labor Day weekend,” said Bill Montgomery, the county’s resident Public Works employee. “There could be some 15-minute stops but we’ll keep the delays at a minimum.”
   Montgomery said that the three miles of North Fork Drive to be sealed under the first contract is only the beginning. Material is already being stockpiled at a Pierce Drive site that will be used for similar work on three miles of South Fork Drive.
   If the tax measure receives a two-thirds voter majority, more roadwork is likely for the Three Rivers area. The tax is expected to generate $21 million annually for county transportation projects.
   Supervisor Allen Ishida, who supported the road tax, said that some of the regional project money would be used for District 1 projects. It also means that Tulare County would be eligible for matching state and federal transportation funding.

TCAG seeks

planning ‘blueprint’

   In the past several years, planners have been busy seeking input for a variety of plans.
   There have been numerous local public meetings on the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks General Management Plan, the Three Rivers Community Plan, the Foothills Growth Management Plan, and the Tulare County General Plan.
   In an effort that is unprecedented, each of these planning documents is expected to be complete in the next year. So how best do we use this information to plan for the future?
   The Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) hopes to incorporate the highlights of this data into a Tulare County Regional Blueprint that they hope will better define what life will be like in the San Joaquin Valley in the year 2050. This latest effort is part of a comprehensive planning project being touted as the San Joaquin Valley Regional Blueprint.
   On Wednesday, Aug. 9, in a presentation before the Tulare County Planning Commission, Elizabeth Wright, TCAG planner, outlined the goals of what the group, made up of representatives from eight Valley counties, accomplished at their first summit held recently in Fresno.

  “We’re not trying to be as specific as the general planning process, but what we hope to do is create a regional consensus for the Central Valley,” Wright said.
   The region, Wright said, is expected to double in population from its present 3.5 million to more than 7 million by the year 2050.

  “The median age of our population is 28.9 so we need to develop the infrastructure and services to meet a whole range of future needs,” Wright said. “Examples of the type of ideas that are being discussed for the blueprint are the creation of walkable communities and preservation of open space.”
   After a July 19 tour of Tulare County by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, planners from that organization, who are also participating in the regional blueprint, were impressed by what they learned.
   Supervisor Allen Ishida, a conservancy board member working on the Tulare County blueprint, said these folks who take a closer look at Tulare County see that planning and conservation go hand in hand. The fact that large areas still remain in agriculture means that we have large undeveloped tracts and plenty of open space, Ishida said.

  “We’re an undiscovered county relative to other Sierra Nevada counties,” Ishida said. “When these folks look at Tulare County, they see a lot of potential.”
   Ishida said that the big attraction of the recent conservancy tour was getting a chance to see firsthand the Yokohl Valley land where the Boswell Company is proposing the build The Yokohl Ranch, a master-planned community. The big question of where the water will come from remains to be answered as they proceed through the process, he said.
   While the Sierra Nevada Conservancy hopes to assist foothill communities with small projects relating to tourism and conservation, TCAG is a funding conduit with the potential to steer millions of dollars to any area of Tulare County, especially when it comes to transportation enhancement activities. Tom Sparks of Three Rivers is the local TCAG liaison.
   Public meetings for citizen participation opportunities in the Tulare County portion of the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint are currently being scheduled. Information: 733-6291.

Local family

seeks assistance

   While traveling in India last week, Yuga Bob Carreras became seriously ill and required hospitalization. He has recently been moved from ICU into recovery.
   His family has since traveled to join him. They are currently in need of assistance to defray the medical and travel expenses.
Donations may be made to the Bank of America, account number 08355-43314.
   The family, which owns the Heart’s Desire gift shop in Three Rivers, also announced that the store will have limited hours for awhile due to this medical emergency.

Stop the thistle
by Bill Haxton

  Anyone who doubts the destructive potential of yellow star thistle should take a drive north of Sacramento. For miles on both sides of the road, yellow star thistle is nearly all you see.
   Statewide, the amount of land lost to yellow star thistle is staggering — 15 million acres. And much of that land was usable.
That’s grazing land that can’t be grazed, farmland that can’t be farmed, recreational land that can’t be enjoyed. Putting a dollar value on the lost productivity involves a lot of guesswork, but be certain it’s a very large number indeed.
   The cost of restoring that 15 million acres is staggering, too, running in the multiple billions of dollars. Worse, the restoration —assuming it’s even possible — will take years to accomplish. And new parts of California are being invaded all the time.
   Which brings us to Three Rivers. We’re not immune.
   Yellow star thistle has arrived, and we’d be out of our minds to let it spread. It ruins pastures, it scars the landscape, it lowers property values.
   Luckily, it hasn’t completely established itself. Yet. We still have time to get rid of it before it’s too late.
   That’s why a number of Three Rivers residents and businesses formed the local Weed Management Group that you may remember hearing about last spring. The idea was to locate and map yellow star thistle wherever it was found and then to proscribe a treatment program for controlling it.
   Other invasive thistles were included for mapping, too —tocalote, Italian and milk thistles. Having a dedicated and expert group of volunteers was a great start.
   But for the weed management program to succeed, there is one other essential ingredient —cooperation from landowners.
   With that in mind, WMG volunteers made presentations to the Three Rivers Lions and Woman’s clubs, Redbud Garden Club, and the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce. The Kaweah Commonwealth helped by publishing several weeks of public service articles about invasive thistles.
   Not least, Century 21 Three Rivers made a generous sponsorship donation for the purchase of essential equipment and materials.
   The response from the community was overwhelming: 84 call-ins; 72 surveys covering over 2,000 acres; 48 properties treated; 57 agreements for long-term monitoring. Eleven yellow star thistle sites were found and of those, 10 property owners have agreed to let us start a treatment program to bring it under control.
   According to Elizabeth Palmer, a local resident whose job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture involves tracking weed management programs statewide, Three Rivers broke new ground.

  “This level of community participation is unprecedented,” she said.
   Three Rivers should feel proud. It’s true that we’ve made a good start. But there’s more work to do. For next year, the Weed Management Group hopes to fund its activities through a combination of federal, state or private grants, with enough in the budget to hire a full-time employee who will be qualified to both survey and treat properties where invasive thistle is found.
   That should solve one of the glitches in last spring’s operation, in which a few call-ins didn’t get surveyed and a few properties that should have received weed control didn’t.
   Recent checkups of those 11 yellow star sites indicates that the treatment seems to be effective. Most of the plants wilted before they produced seed.
   However, because the seed bank in the ground can remain viable for five years or more, those sites will all sprout yellow star again next year. Probably fewer plants though, and the year after that, fewer still.
   It’s important to bear in mind, however, that these are the yellow star sites we know about. Almost certainly there are other yellow stars sites in Three Rivers we don’t know about.
   Yellow star thistle is amazingly agile; it migrates on birds, on truck tires, in feed hay, in animal pelts. It could be anywhere. Already, a new site has been detected in the Cinnamon Creek area of South Fork.
   That’s why help from everyone in Three Rivers is so important. We need eyes on the ground. Without this help, we lose the battle with yellow star thistle. With it, we probably win.

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