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of KAWEAH COUNTRY —
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In the News - Friday, AUGUST 18, 2006

 

3R man dies

after solo crash

   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 198.
   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 window.
   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 wheel.
   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 in Iraq.
   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.

Construction begins

on Generals Highway

   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 national park.
   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.

Law-enforcement officers

embark 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 as mind-boggling.

Candidates gear up

for November election

   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, 733-6275.

Dinner is ready

at We Three Restaurant

   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 April.

  “I was really hearing it from all the locals who kept asking me when were we going to be open,” recalled Craig.
   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 couple’s hobby.

  “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 menu.”
   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, and codfish.
   Several vegetarian and low-carb dinners will be among the menu selections. The lunch menu will also be offered during the dinner hours.
   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

feared drowned

   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, Penn.
   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 no clues.
   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 recede.
   Salness and her husband have four daughters and one grandchild with another on the way.

Trails closed

due to fire

   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.

WHS goes

back to school

   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 for research.
   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 system.
   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 cross country.
   To view up-to-date information on the high school, visit www.whstigers.org.

 
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