In the News -
Friday, OCTOBER 7, 2005
Local priorities being
There are a growing number of residents concerned that they
are not in the loop when it comes to decision-making that will affect
the future of Three Rivers. At least that’s the consensus of the
board of the Three Rivers Village Foundation.
The new advocacy group, which was founded last year, now
has nearly 100 members but is still searching for an identity as a viable
player in the community-planning process.
some other groups, we don’t have any other agenda than to do something
positive for the community,” said Roy Franson, who moved to Three
Rivers to retire several years ago and is now a Foundation board member.
“To accomplish our goals, we need to have input from the community
and more communication with the county.”
Tom Sparks, a spokesperson for the Foundation and an elected
member of the Three Rivers Community Services District board, said the
role of groups like this are especially important now that the county
has put the local community plan on hold.
is no funding in the current budget for completion of the Three Rivers
portion of the community plan, so it remains an unfinished document,”
Sparks said. “Without a plan in place, we are very concerned how
growth and development will occur in our community.”
At a recent meeting in Three Rivers, Supervisor Allen Ishida
said it is important that the Three Rivers community come to some consensus
on key planning issues like a village center, the protection of the river,
noise and light pollution, and how and where development is appropriate.
like water quality are so important that they just might dictate if you
have any growth at all,” Ishida said.
Sparks agreed that it is frustrating when there is no one
group or advisory council that can gather information and then let the
county know the concerns that Three Rivers may have relative to certain
issues or proposals. After looking into what went wrong on the failed
rest-stop/visitor center, he said his group is convinced that the way
to go is to pursue a scenic-highway designation for Sierra Drive.
scenic-highway program is the path we’ve been given by Caltrans
if we want to use more of the transportation enhancement (TEA) funding
that has been made available in the past,” Sparks said. “The
designation ensures a standard of quality and imposes some restrictions
against ugliness that occurs when development proceeds haphazardly.”
Sparks said there are lots of communities with haphazard
development and what the Village Foundation is advocating is “smart
growth.” His group is currently putting together a volunteer scenic-highway
task force that will work for three to four years on a process that would
culminate in an official designation.
But some actions are needed now, Sparks said, because he
knows of at least two new proposed developments that are seeking permits
for Sierra Drive businesses. One is the new Three Rivers Mercantile down-canyon
from the old county fire station and the other is a wedding/special events
facility that is being proposed for a riverfront property on the highway
near the Old Three Rivers Drive junction.
not opposed to these projects but we think some sort of public forum would
be desirable where county planners and applicants could inform local residents
as to their plans,” Sparks said. “The best way to do these
projects is to keep the community up to date.”
For any local groups to be effective, they will need the
cooperation of Supervisor Ishida. He is scheduled to be in Three Rivers
next Wednesday evening for the quarterly gathering of the Three Rivers/Lemon
Cove Business Association.
Ishida is always willing to answer questions and listen to the concerns
of Three Rivers. He may be reached at 733-6271.
Living in a small foothill community like Three Rivers, most
locals will reveal that at this time of year it just doesn’t get
any better. It’s quiet, the air quality is good, it’s cool
at night and most of the day, but still pleasantly warm in the afternoons.
Case in point
But along with the ideal weather, it seems that the change
in season also brings criminals who annually target Three Rivers homes
and businesses when children are back in school and most locals are in
an off-season routine. One law-enforcement officer, who formerly patrolled
Three Rivers regularly, said that some summer visitors who come to the
area to swim and party at the river look around and remember Three Rivers
as easy pickings.
are always a few bad guys who sooner or later think a Three Rivers heist
would be a pushover,” the former deputy said. “The reality
of the situation is that most of the folks who live here are way too trusting
and, without thinking, they are actually encouraging the criminal types
to give it a try.”
Burglaries are not a novelty in rural communities and they
do occur in Three Rivers.
The most recent one happened on Wednesday morning, Sept.
28, at a Kaweah River Drive residence. According to the victim, a person
or persons broke into his residence and stole photographic equipment including
a large format camera, two boxes of checks, three cast-iron horse heads,
leather jackets, a knife collection, and a .38 Special revolver.
The victim estimated the value of the losses at more than
Friday, somebody tried to cash two of the checks at a Kragen Auto Parts
store in Visalia,” the victim said. “The detective told me
that after a suspect was unable to cash the second check, they left the
scene in a green Ford van.”
At least one witness reported seeing a green van in Three
Rivers the morning of the burglary. A vehicle matching the same description
was traced to a Woodlake location but so far no suspects have been arrested.
Anyone with information about a break-in or who sees a suspicious
vehicle or activity in Three Rivers is asked to call Detective Martin
King, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, 740-4355.
Everybody knows that breaking up is hard to do, but imagine
ending a relationship that has been going strong for 70 years.
At a special meeting on Monday, Oct. 3, the Tulare County
Board of Supervisors heard from Gary Gilbert, a former CDF fire chief
who was hired in March as a consultant, say that breaking up, or in this
case creating a new Tulare County fire department, may be one of two viable
alternatives to alleviate current budget woes. The other, he said, would
be to continue the long-standing relationship but make some important
Gilbert’s statements were part of his findings contained
in a 44-page report that he prepared outlining more cost-effective ways
to furnish fire protection for the unincorporated areas of Tulare County.
The fire consultant’s report revealed that if Tulare
County ended its current contract with the California Department of Forestry
(CDF) and created a new fire department there could be a savings of approximately
$1 million annually. That figure represents nearly 10 percent of the CDF’s
$11.7 million bill for 2004 and 2005.
Tulare County barely survived a $1.5 million shortfall earlier
this year, so the decision-makers are certainly open for suggestions.
By eliminating two battalion chief positions and paid firefighters at
five stations, the CDF’s Amador Plan continued to provide an adequate
level of service under the current contract.
But Gilbert, who is also currently a Madera County supervisor,
says the rising costs of the CDF service are far outstripping the increase
in any services. After hearing Gilbert summarize his findings, the supervisors
directed Brian Haddix, Tulare County administrative officer, to form a
committee that would include Tulare County Fire Chief Steve Sunderland,
a couple of local supervisors, and several other key players.
The committee will study the county’s options and report
to the Board of Supervisors in December on preferred alternatives. Sunderland
also made some recommendations as to whether or not the county opts to
continue its CDF contract.
One of these recommendations is that fire personnel should
cut down on the number of medical aid calls. More than 65 percent of all
calls, he said, are medical-related and ambulances could handle them.
But these cuts could have dire consequences for outlying
areas like Three Rivers that depend on firefighters as first responders.
Local volunteer ambulance personnel in Three Rivers have
been telling Tulare County officials for years that the only way to alleviate
the inconsistent coverage in the foothills is to implement a paramedic
ambulance service countywide.
Currently, it’s unknown how changes in the Tulare County
Fire Department would affect Three Rivers. Under the Amador model, CDF
firefighters remain on-call at the Three Rivers fire station with assistance
of local paid-call firefighters (PCF).
Nearing the end of a rather routine fire season, Three Rivers
received more than adequate service this summer. At several recent fires,
CDF personnel responded immediately and prevented small flare-ups from
becoming big disasters.
But there were some obvious problems with all the new personnel
handling local calls. Paid-call firefighters (PCFs), who were standing
by during the Three Rivers fire calls, were “toned out.”
That means that the beepers of the local firefighters, who
could have arrived on the scene within minutes, were not paged, letting
the PCFs know that there was a fire in progress. Only CDF personnel responded
initially at two recent local fires and, fortunately, neither call turned
out to be a major emergency.
According to one local PCF, who asked not to be identified,
the oversight was inadvertent and happened because new personnel had not
been advised that they were supposed to summon PCFs.
After the most recent incident last Saturday, when Three
Rivers firefighters responded to a call on Kaweah River Drive, Chief Sunderland
informed dispatchers that PCFs should be summoned in all areas where they
new chief [Sunderland] is really the right guy to take on a very difficult
job,” said one Three Rivers PCF. “He’s a Tulare County
guy who understands what it takes to do the job. He appreciates the role
of the PCFs and has been very supportive of our organizations throughout
Fire crews began ignitions on the first phase of the “Highbridge
Prescribed Fire” in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park.
Crews planned to complete approximately 450 acres of the 1,517-acre project
yesterday (Thursday, Oct. 6).
Depending on weather, fire managers estimate that the remaining
two-thirds of the project will be ignited within a week or two.
The fire is located north of the Mineral King Road and the
community of Silver City. No roads, trails, or facilities will be closed.
The fire will be lit by dropping ignition devices called
“fusees” out of a helicopter.
The section of the prescribed fire that was ignited this
week is near the top of the ridge between 8,800 feet and 10,000 feet elevation.
This effort will create a “black line” or burned area that
will help crews hold the fire when the rest of the project is ignited.
Since most of the Highbridge project area has not burned since the park
was established, the fire will reduce fuels and restore the natural role
of fire to the landscape.
project is also an important step in reducing the threat of wildfire near
the community of Silver City,” said David Allen, Sequoia district
fire management officer and burn boss for this project.
A fire reported by a Forest Service lookout on Tuesday, Oct.
4, was determined to be intentionally started by marijuana growers who
had an illegal garden in the vicinity.
In fact, firefighters were delayed in suppressing the fire
because the area had to first be secured by law-enforcement personnel
due to the illegal activity.
The fire was in the Wishon Canyon area of the Tule River
Ranger District. About 2,500 plants with a street value of more than $10
million were eradicated.
Valley smog levels
Following all the bad news about air quality in the local
parks this summer, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District
announced last week that summer smog levels are actually improving. In
fact, they say the improvement is dramatic in the last three years and
they know one of the reasons why.
Officials attribute at least some of the improvement to Valley
residents taking to heart well-publicized "Spare the Air" tips
such as driving less, carpools, decreasing the use of gasoline power tools,
and voluntarily making behavior changes when unhealthy air quality is
in the forecast.
Spare the Air is a voluntary emission-reduction program that
targets ozone formation, or smog, and is coordinated by the Air District
each summer from June through late-September.
In 2005, Tulare County had approximately the same amount
of Spare the Air days (18) as it did last season but has significantly
improved on 2003 when there were 39 unhealthful days (a reading of 151
or higher). District-wide, which encompasses an eight-county area, the
18 days this season is down from 41 in 2003.
seeing continued improvement in summertime air quality,” said Jaime
Holt, the district’s education administrator.
This week’s readings for Tulare County, based on atmospheric
conditions and historical data, are predicted to be in the moderate range
(50 or above). However, the observed readings remained in the good range
for three of the days suggesting that the high price of gas might have
had the effect of reduced emissions giving Valley lungs a little more
in Three Rivers a century ago
By Sarah Elliott
There were houses built before it, but none have outlasted
the ranch house on North Fork Drive that was built in 1880. And, In that
time, the oldest home in Three Rivers, located at the confluence of the
Kaweah River’s Middle and North forks, has been owned by just two
families — the Bartons, then the Pierces.
On April 30, 1865, the Barton family left Davenport, Iowa,
and began their 2000-mile journey by covered wagon across the plains.
James and Susan Barton and their nine children — ranging in age
from 22 years to nine months — arrived September 6 in the California
mining town of Columbia, where they met up with James’s younger
brother, Stephen, who had come West in 1854.
The Bartons stayed in the Mother Lode mining region for just
a month before heading south to Visalia. In his possession, James had
a land grant for 120 acres that had been given to his father in partial
payment for his service in the War of 1812.
Upon location of the parcel, situated west of Elderwood,
son Hudson later said: “A poorer piece of ground we couldn’t
The family then homesteaded in the Auckland area, in the
foothills north of present-day Elderwood. It was here where their 11th
child (one had died childhood), Milton Montgomery “Mont” Barton,
was born on Feb. 14, 1867.
James and Susan later moved to Three Rivers after their son,
Orlando (1847-1917), had acquired some property on the North Fork in 1878.
They lived in a log cabin along the North Fork river near present-day
Kaweah River Drive until they completed their ranch house in 1880.
James was a member of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors
for 17 years. He would walk from Three Rivers to attend the meetings in
In 1888, Mont married Harriet “Hattie” DeMasters.
The Barton house and 120 acres was subsequently deeded to Mont.
On Sept. 16, 1910, Mont was tragically killed while installing
the first electric irrigation pumps in the area for the Elderwood Citrus
Development Company, owned in part by his brother, Jason. The commercial
use of electricity was largely untried and Mont’s electrocution
was caused by a lethal combination of water, electrical lines, and a misinterpreted
signal that caused a switch to be thrown too soon.
He was the first person to be buried in the newly-created
Three Rivers Cemetery.
Susan Barton died Jan. 19, 1912, on the couple’s 69th
wedding anniversary, at the age of 88. Less than eight months later, on
Sept. 1, 1912, James died at the age of 93 at his beloved Three Rivers
Both are buried in the Three Rivers Cemetery.
Hattie and her youngest of four children, daughter Lois,
left the Three Rivers ranch and resided in Elderwood. In 1920, when Lois
was 12, they moved to San Jose where Hattie felt she could ensure a better
education for her daughter.
Lois was the first in the family to graduate college, earning
a master’s degree in chemistry from Stanford University.
James and Susan Barton are my great-great-grandparents. They
are the first of what has now been six generations of Bartons to reside
in Three Rivers, all on land originally owned by them or their children.
* * *
The next owners of this historic ranch house were James and
Julia Pierce, beginning in 1911. Today, the property continues to be owned
by Pierce descendants.
Next week: Memoirs of life on the ranch, as written by James
and Julia’s granddaughter, Juanita Tolle.
Juanita spent her adolescent years on the ranch, from 1932
to 1945, and describes in detail life there before electricity and indoor
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Tigers tamed by Dinuba
With minus-four yards in offense at halftime, there was no
doubt that the Woodlake Tigers (0-1, 1-3) faced an uphill struggle to
get the momentum back in last Friday’s game. But on the first series
of the second half, and even being down 28-0 to the Dinuba Emperors (1-0,
2-2), Woodlake showed signs that they could turn the tide and get on the
The Tigers offense mixed a couple of runs with some pinpoint
passing and suddenly the Tigers had the ball first down and goal at the
Emperors five-yard line. Everyone in Robinson-Painter Stadium expected
the Tigers to use a play or two and smash the ball into the end zone,
using the power offense that had been so impressive the week before against
Instead, on the very next play, Ryan Baker, junior QB threw
a pass to the corner of the end zone that was picked off, one of three
interceptions that Dinuba had on the night. Perhaps a quick strike was
the right call but on this night it simply led to another half of futility.
all honesty, they were quicker than us, and when our line did open a hole,
a Dinuba defender was there waiting for our running back,” said
Mike Payne, a Tiger assistant coach. “There just wasn’t time
for any of our plays to develop.”
The Tigers finished the night with 65 yards of total offense;
five fumbles, and couldn’t stop the Emperors, who scored at least
one TD in all four quarters. When the final gun sounded, the Emperors
had their first league win, 49-0.
Coach Payne also said that Dinuba’s big, strong QB,
Nathaniel Lester, who had not been their starter in three previous games,
was a senior southpaw that was impossible to stop.
Dinuba’s credit, Lester and his ability to scramble really caused
us some serious problems on defense,” Payne said.
Lester finished the night with 139 yards of passing, 45 yards
rushing, and two touchdowns, one on a 19-yard run and one on a 75-yard
This Friday, Woodlake travels to Grizzlies Stadium in Fresno
for an East Sequoia League match-up with rival Immanuel. It’s an
interesting place to play a football game but the dirt infield can be
treacherous footing and fans are seated a lot farther away from the action
than at most high school fields.
In the JV game, the Emperors overpowered a much younger Tiger
was a game that we could have won by that same score,” said Larry
Arroyo, the Tiger JV head coach.
The loss evened the JV’s record at 2-2.
Fall ball and foot races
Cross Country— On Wednesday, Sept.
28, Woodlake hosted the season’s first ESL meet at Lake Kaweah.
The Tiger boys finished first overall. Woodlake’s Javier Ceballos
ran the three-mile course in 17:12. That time was good enough for second
place overall as Tiger runners finished in fourth (Gilbert Flores), seventh
(Joseph Spahn), and 10th (Jacobo Villasenor) for the win.
Exeter girls won team honors. Best finisher among the Lady
Tigers was Damaris Mendoza who finished seventh.
This Saturday, Oct. 8, Woodlake hosts its annual Invitational
at the Lake Kaweah course. Because of its unique setting and mountain
scenery, the event is quickly becoming one of the premier events of the
season. For start times call 564-3307.
Girls’ Tennis— On Tuesday, Woodlake
continued an impressive run in girls’ tennis with a solid win at
Orosi. Woodlake was led by the No. 1 singles play of sophomore Priscilla
Ruiz. The Lady Tigers won five of six singles matches. The victory raised
the Tiger record to 6-3 in league play and 8-4 overall.
Volleyball— Woodlake won a three-set
match at Orosi on Tuesday, raising their league record to 4-1. They were
led in scoring and digs by seniors Kaitlin Beck and Sonni Fultz. Only
the undefeated Exeter Monarchs (5-0), powered by Tiffany Marinos of Three
Rivers, and the Immanuel Eagles, who beat Woodlake on September 22, stand
in the way of an ESL title shot for a rapidly improving Lady Tigers team.