In the News -
Friday, AUGUST 18, 2006
David Quintero of Three Rivers, an Iraq war veteran, died
Tuesday, Aug. 15, at University Medical Center in Fresno after suffering
massive head trauma resulting from a solo vehicle accident. The crash
occurred Sunday, Aug. 13, at approximately 5 a.m., when Quintero, 22,
lost control of the 1999 Chevrolet that he was driving eastbound on Highway
According to a report filed by an investigating officer with
the California Highway Patrol, Quintero’s vehicle left the roadway
on the right side just before reaching the Horse Creek Bridge. The vehicle
collided twice with the adjacent rocky hillside before Quintero may have
attempted to steer it back to the left. The vehicle then struck a road
sign and rolled over twice.
Quintero’s rate of speed at the time of the accident
is unknown. He was not wearing a seatbelt and ejected out the passenger-side
A passing motorist came upon the accident and reportedly
called 911 from a payphone in Three Rivers. Quintero, who was alone in
the vehicle, was returning from a party in Visalia though there were no
indications that alcohol was a factor in crash.
Quintero was employed as a seasonal firefighter at Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks and had returned the previous day from
a two-week tour of duty at some other Western parks. A family member stated
he was exhausted after his trip home and may have fallen asleep at the
On March 26, 2005, Quintero was awarded a Bronze Star medal
at a Fresno ceremony honoring members of the 1072nd Transportation Company
of the California National Guard. The company had been previously deployed
A viewing will be Monday, Aug. 21, at Miller Memorial Chapel
in Visalia. A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 22, 10 a.m.,
at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
It had to happen sometime. The 80-year-old Generals Highway
needs upgrades, widening, and maintenance so it can continue to offer
visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks the thrill of traveling
on one of the most scenic and dramatic roads by which to experience a
And after several previous phases of work on the road, the
National Park Service has figured out how best to minimize delays for
travelers or to not have them detour around the highway altogether, which
also means they bypass Three Rivers.
Instead, Park Service staff will inform visitors in advance
of the construction schedule and provide a time schedule so they may enjoy
other attractions before arriving at the construction zone as traffic
is being allowed to pass.
Until Monday, Aug. 21, delays will be sporadic and, at the
most, 20 minutes in length. Beginning next week — on Tuesday, Aug.
22 — traffic will be allowed to pass at the top of every hour.
On Sunday, Aug. 27, work will occur round-the-clock, stopping
only on weekends and holidays.
Uphill traffic will be allowed to pass on the hour every
hour from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.; downhill traffic will pass after the uphill
traffic. Also during this time, from 9 at night until 5 in the morning,
cars will be allowed to pass at midnight only.
The construction work is estimated to last two years. The
current phase takes place on a 1.5-mile section from Big Fern Springs
to Amphitheater Point.
This is a steep, narrow, scenic portion of roadway located
9.5 to 11 miles from the Sequoia entrance station. The elevation ranges
from 3,800 to 4,400 feet.
on pot-harvesting season
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK— While taking in the view from
the top of Moro Rock, one can see the Great Western Divide and the Central
Valley, forests and mountains… and a marijuana farm?
On Wednesday, Aug. 9, rangers raided a pot plantation within
the boundaries of Sequoia National Park and well within view of Moro Rock,
which is climbed by hundreds of people each day during the summer months.
Rangers removed 2,152 marijuana plants with an estimated street value
of $2 million.
Eradicated were different varieties of the plant, including
several strains that may have been genetically altered, according to a
National Park Service press release. These had just three leaves, are
shorter, and take less time to mature, which means growers may be able
to harvest more than just one crop per season.
No arrests were made during this raid.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK— Almost concurrently with the
Sequoia raid, pot plants were being seized on the western boundary of
Yosemite in the Merced River canyon. In this operation, three plantations
consisting of more 12, 451 marijuana plants were eradicated after being
spotted during reconnaissance flights in July.
The plants had an estimated street value of nearly $36 million.
Two of the gardens had suspects on site but they eluded capture. Two firearms
were discovered along with other evidence.
ESHOM VALLEY— On Tuesday, Aug. 15, in the foothills
of northeastern Tulare County just south of the Sequoia National Forest
boundary, more than 1,800 marijuana plants were plucked from the ground
during a raid. The pot plantation was located east of Badger near the
junction of Eshom Valley Road and Cemetery Drive.
SHARING INTELLIGENCE— In this escalating pot war that
is being waged on public lands, law-enforcement officers raiding massive
marijuana farms 300 miles apart are discovering that the same brands of
fertilizer, pesticides, and shovels are often used to grow a plantation
of high-grade pot plants.
Government analysts are now using this seemingly innocuous
information, plugged into a shared database by drug agents, to search
for patterns linking diverse operations across the West and into Mexico.
It has become evident that large-scale growers have acquired
a “Costco mentality,” taking advantage of purchasing in bulk
to cut costs and maximize profits.
The intelligence-sharing units were set up with federal money
so law-enforcement officers can begin to go after the brains and financing
behind the increasingly sophisticated marijuana-growing operations instead
of prosecuting impoverished Mexican immigrants who were illegally imported
to guard the mega-pot farms.
The intelligence units that pull together information from
California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho are credited with helping break
up two major growing operations in California’s Central Valley in
the last couple of years. One member of a Central Valley drug task force
described the sophistication and scale of some of the growing operations
Candidates gear up
A school board race will be the only local issue appearing
on the ballots of Three Rivers and Lemon Cove residents during the general
election that will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7. The deadline to register to
vote is Monday, Oct. 23.
There will be 13 state propositions for voters to decide.
Voters will also determine whether incumbent governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger,
keeps the state’s top spot or if a challenger will unseat him.
The state controller race has local significance. Warren
Mark Campbell, a pastor at the Church at Kaweah and longtime area resident,
has declared his candidacy in this race that has no incumbent since Steve
Westly left the post in a failed attempt to become the Democratic candidate
for California governor.
Campbell’s opponents are Elizabeth Cervantes Barron,
a retired teacher on the Peace and Freedom party ticket; John Chiang,
Democrat and current member of the State Board of Equalization; Tony Strickland,
Republican who lists his occupation as a “Taxpayer Organization
President”; Donna Tello, tax accountant and Libertarian; and Laura
Wells, a financial systems consultant and member of the Green party.
Local voters will also decide races that include the following
incumbent legislators: Dianne Feinstein (D), U.S. Senator; Devin Nunes
(R), U.S. Representative; Bill Maze (R), State Assemblyman; and Roy Ashburn
(R), State Senator.
The terms of three incumbents on the Three Rivers School
board are expiring — Roberta McDowall Harris, Marie A. Powell, and
Moises Garza — but only one will run for re-election. Bobbie Harris
is on the ballot in which four are vying for three spots.
The other three are: Robert Burke, a high school teacher
who is relinquishing his seat on the Woodlake High School board in an
attempt to return to TRUS where he was previously a trustee; Arthur
Ogawa, a computer consultant; and Scott Sherwood, a retail store manager.
Three seats are also up for re-election on the Woodlake Union
High School governing board. Charley Mills of Woodlake and Edmund Pena
of Three Rivers, incumbents, both filed to run again. Bob Burke, as mentioned
above, did not file for re-election. Richard Rochin (no occupation given)
declared his candidacy and will be appointed to the vacant seat and the
race will not appear on the November ballot.
In Lemon Cove, four will vie for three available seats on
the Sequoia Union School governing board. Appearing on the ballot are
Rocky Garbarino and Robert Rutherford, incumbents; Jenny Ayres, appointed
incumbent; and challenger Bradley Ward.
It’s the same scenario on the Woodlake Union Elementary
School board. Challenger Jack Persall will face incumbents Debi Baker,
Joe Hallmeyer, and Joe Martinez as the four vie for three seats.
For more information, call the Tulare County Elections Department,
Dinner is ready
When you think of We Three Bakery & Restaurant, what
comes to mind? If you think of award-winning breakfasts, tempting baked
goods, and tasty lunches then you are already acquainted with this venerable
institution. Not much has changed in the 27 years that the Sierra Drive
eatery has been owned and operated by Pete Chavez and family.
That is until earlier this year when Pete’s son, Craig,
and his wife, Beverly, took over as new owners. The place had been closed
for nearly a year for an extensive remodeling project and reopened in
“I was really hearing
it from all the locals who kept asking me when were we going to be open,”
Craig said he was almost glad during that time when his other
job as business manager at Avenal State Prison required him to be out
of town. But now that We Three has reopened, he looks forward to the time
away from that job when both he and his wife can take a more active role
in running the restaurant.
Beverly Chavez is also employed at the Avenal prison, serving
as the warden’s administrative assistant. But their Three Rivers
restaurant is their current side project or what Craig describes as the
“After we opened
for Jazzaffair, we’ve been hearing from many of our customers about
the need for another dinner place in Three Rivers,” said Craig.
“We think our regulars and the tourists will really like the new
So instead of closing after lunch at 2:30 p.m., starting
today the We Three kitchen staff will transition to a new dinner menu
that will be available Fridays through Mondays. Craig says seniors and
all the early birds should really like the discount dinner specials they
will be serving from 4 to 6 p.m.
All dinner entrees will be served with a freshly-baked roll,
vegetable, self-serve salad bar or soup, and a choice of another side
dish. Diners may choose grilled chicken breast, top sirloin steak, chicken-fried
steak, potatoes “with the works,” hot roast beef sandwich,
Several vegetarian and low-carb dinners will be among the
menu selections. The lunch menu will also be offered during the dinner
The new We Three dining rooms have been attractively updated
and feature plenty of plush, comfortable booths.
“We know there
are going to be questions about our new menu so give us a call and be
sure to ask about our daily specials,” said Craig. “A takeout
menu is also available. We hope to see you all real soon.”
Kings Canyon backpacker
It’s the most common cause of accidental death in Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks — drowning. And that is what searchers
think is the cause of the disappearance of Linda Salness, 56, of Hershey,
Salness was last seen by her companions Monday, July 31,
while bathing alone on the shore of the San Joaquin River in the northernmost
section of Kings Canyon National Park. She was on a backpacking trip with
her husband, Kym, and another couple. Searchers arrived in the area early
Tuesday, Aug. 1. Utilizing helicopters, dog teams, horse-patrol units,
ground searchers, and swiftwater-rescue personnel, the search yielded
The effort was scaled back Friday, Aug. 4. Currently, a ranger
is checking the area daily, posters inform hikers to be on the lookout,
and a search team will periodically be dispatched to the area. If Salness
was swept away in the swift-moving water and became trapped underwater,
her body may become visible at any time as the river level continues to
Salness and her husband have four daughters and one grandchild
with another on the way.
Before finalizing any backcountry itineraries that may include
the northern part of the Golden Trout Wilderness, managed by the Sequoia
National Forest, be sure to understand what trails are being affected
by some lightning-caused fires that continue to burn in the region.
For instance, the trail between Farewell Gap and Coyote Pass
is closed due to the Tamarack Wildland Fire Use Project, which has grown
to over 1,500 acres. Several other area trails are also closed.
If planning to take any of the following trails, call the
forest headquarters (784-1500) prior to departing for the current status:
31E10, 31E11, 31E12, 31E13, 31E23, 32E01, and 32E02. Closures are expected
to remain in effect through Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Closing in on the end of its first century of providing a
secondary education to teenagers in the Three Rivers and Woodlake areas,
Woodlake High School has certainly witnessed some changes.
For instance, the Fighting Bantams of the 1920s are now the
Tigers. A staff of eight teachers has quadrupled.
Girls today wear shorts for P.E. instead of skirts and long-sleeved
blouses. The Dewey decimal system has been replaced by Google and Wikipedia
And the “W” that was placed on the hill north
of Woodlake in 1924 is no longer there.
One of the most recent changes, which took effect as of the
2006-2007 school year that began Wednesday, Aug. 16, is the school has
reverted back to the trimester system. This divides the school year into
three 12-week class sessions rather than the two available on the semester
A benefit of the trimester, as opposed to semesters, is that
students will attend five classes per day instead of seven.
They will also spend more time in those classes, 65 to 70
minutes, instead of 45 to 50 minutes. And, over the course of the school
year, students will have taken 15 total classes, one more than when on
the semester system.
Several new teachers and staff have been hired. These include:
Ashley Bastian, special education; Tony Casares, athletic director, activities
director, and teacher; Pearl Clarke, school psychologist; Melissa Dietz,
Intensive English Training (IET) teacher; Melissa Garcia-Ramirez, counselor;
Bethanie Hansen, band director and teacher; Scott Hernandez, social science
teacher; Brent Stahl, math teacher; and John Werner, English teacher.
A new head football coach will take the field this year.
Rick Ruiz, who resides in Exeter, will be the head varsity coach and assisted
by Scott Hernandez, social science teacher.
The first football game of the 2006 season will be played
at Exeter on Friday, Sept. 1, with the JVs kicking off at 5:30 p.m. Home
games are on Sept. 8, 15, 29, October 13, and 20.
Other fall sports are volleyball, girls’ tennis, and
To view up-to-date information on the high school, visit