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In the News - Friday, OCTOBER 13, 2006

Prescribed fire ignited

in Mineral King

   On Monday, Oct. 2, Park Service fire crews were thwarted in their plans to light the Wallspring Prescribed Fire in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park. The 175-acre fire was postponed due to precipitation that caused moist conditions.
   On Tuesday, Oct. 10, it looked like the next scheduled prescribed fire, this one in Mineral King, might also have to be postponed as the day dawned with overcast conditions. But by 10 a.m., the ominous clouds had significantly parted and fire crews moved forward with ignitions.
   The fire is located on the south side of (below) the Mineral King Road, but above the East Fork of the Kaweah River. The unit consists of areas between Silver City and the Faculty Flat group of cabins in Mineral King.
   Ignitions were accomplished by firefighters on the ground with handheld drip torches as well as by personnel in a helicopter. The entire project is eventually planned to encompass 354 acres, but this initial phase will consume about 190 acres on the eastside of the burn block.
   According to David Allen, Sequoia District fire management officer, ignitions on the 164-acre western portion of the unit are planned to begin Sunday, Oct. 15, depending on weather and air quality. Rain that is forecast for this Saturday (Oct. 14) could also be a factor in the scheduling of the second phase of ignitions.
   The ultimate goal of this project is to reduce forest fuels to protect the area’s cabins and Park Service facilities in the Mineral King area in case a wildfire occurs.
   No roads or trails will be closed. Travelers on the Mineral King Road should use caution when driving in the area due to firefighters and equipment that may be on the road.

Pollsters will

examine rural drug use

   One year ago, in October 2005, two canvassers knocking on doors along South Fork Drive created quite a stir. Several residents called to report suspicious persons asking some very personal questions and perhaps gathering information to target certain residents for crimes.

  “She [Ms. Bender] always seemed to be not quite sure where she was going, but she didn’t look very threatening,” recalled one local tipster.
   The woman, who looks more like your average grandmother than a criminal or a government researcher, turned out to be Artis Bender of Fresno. After the Commonwealth first published a story about the reports in an attempt to learn the identity of the woman, Bender’s employer called to say she was on official government business under contract with the Office of Applied Studies to gather information for The National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
   Now Bender and her associate, Valerie Hunk, an address-finder from Hesperia, are returning to Three Rivers this weekend.
   The duo’s employer notified the Commonwealth earlier this week so that, this year, Three Rivers might be forewarned.

  “We will have the same two ladies working another set of addresses in the Three Rivers area,” said a spokesperson for Research Triangle Institute. “The data will be used as a part of the ongoing National Study on Drug Usage and Mental Health.”
   Bender’s job is to input data about the effects of drug use on rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley. She inputs the subject’s responses directly into her computer.
   The information is then packaged and downloaded to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where it is made available to federal agencies including the various congressional committees. The data, the spokesperson said, are then used to generate funding for drug prevention and rehabilitation programs.
   Each household that the duo is planning to visit should have received a mailer stating the purpose and approximate time of the visits. For more information, visit or call toll-free 1-800-848-4079.

Meeting will adress

growth, fire service

   A special Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, will include discussions on local fire protection and planning for growth in Tulare County. Supervisor Allen Ishida, who recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., will open the meeting with some remarks and present Steve Sunderland, the former CDF fire chief who has been hired to head the new Tulare County Fire Department.

  “A number of Three Rivers residents have expressed their concerns about the fire protection service and lack of coverage,” Ishida said.
   Chief Sunderland will explain how the county’s department will work and answer questions.

  “I think you will see an improvement in the local coverage,” Ishida said. “Starting in July, Three Rivers will actually have three fire stations in addition to the support of local volunteers.”
   Following the fire part of the agenda, Ishida will turn the meeting over to representatives of Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth (TCCRG). Jeff Steen, a citrus rancher and member of the nonprofit organization, will present a slideshow and lead a discussion on what’s at stake in Tulare County and some possible scenarios.

  “The group is made up of people like me, farmers, park people, and lots of folks who are very concerned about future growth,” said Laurie Schwaller of Three Rivers. “We want to see smart growth that protects our natural resources and focuses on new development in our existing communities.”
   Schwaller said she became alarmed when she heard about the plans of the Boswell Company to build a new town in Yokohl Valley. She joined the TCCRG to become more involved in the planning process.

  “I’ve seen the group’s presentation and it is very well done,” said Ishida.
   Schwaller is the local contact for TCCRG information and may be reached at 561-0111 or

Longtime president of

Yosemite Association

killed in car crash

   Steven Medley, 57, died in a single-vehicle accident on Highway 140 near El Portal on Thursday, Oct. 5. Steve, a resident of Oakhurst, was reportedly driving from his office in El Portal to the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley for a luncheon meeting of the Yosemite Rotary Club, of which he was president, when his car hit a tree.
   The highway was wet from rain and there were some rocks in the road, but the cause of the crash is still unknown. The California Highway Patrol is investigating why his car apparently went out of control.
   The Yosemite Association is the nonprofit support organization of Yosemite National Park (similar to the Sequoia Natural History Association at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks).
   Steve was born July 11, 1949, in Palo Alto. He was raised in Gilroy, graduating from Gilroy High School in 1967.
   After receiving his bachelor’s degree in film and broadcast from Stanford University in 1971, Medley took a job as a seasonal ranger at Yosemite. He received a degree in library science from the University of Oregon in 1975, then worked as a librarian at Yosemite’s research library.
   In 1976, he married his wife, the former Jane Rowley, whom he had met at Yosemite. In 1981, he received a law degree from UC Davis and was in private practice for four years in Oregon.
   Steve was hired as president of the Yosemite Association in 1985. Since that time, he transformed the organization from a small group to an influential one with a membership of 11,000.
   During his years with the association, Medley produced more than 50 publications.
   He wrote The Complete Guidebook to Yosemite, which has sold nearly 100,000 copies, and The Animals of Yosemite, a children’s book.
   In addition to his wife, Jane, Steve is survived by three sons, Charles, 25, Joe, 23, and Andy, 20; his mother, Hermie Medley of Santa Cruz; and his sister, Robin Medley of San Jose.
   A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 4. at 1 p.m. Details will be made available on the Yosemite Association’s website:

3R youth rides home a winner

   Fallon Souza of Three Rivers has been around horses her entire life. In fact, on the maternal side of her family, she’s a Britten, which is a pioneer Three Rivers family, so her skill on a horse was determined before birth.
   Fallon, 8, is on the youth board of directors of the California Christian Barrel Racers, as is her older sister, Shyan. Along with about 42 other members of the club, Fallon enters competitions each month from January through September.
   This season’s competition concluded last month. It proved to be a very successful year for Fallon as she received the group’s top award — 2006 Year End All-Around Youth Champion.
   For her efforts, she received a custom saddle and breast collar adorned with inlaid purple crosses.
   To be named All-Around Champion means that Fallon competed in both barrel-racing and pole-bending. She and her horse, Toby, had acquired more points than other competitors ages six to 18 at season’s end.
   In her division this past year, Fallon also won a Red Bluff buckle for pole-bending and a wool felt saddle pad for barrel-racing.
   For her efforts in the 2006 season, sister Shyan received a saddle pad for barrel-racing and a silver-and-gold bracelet and head stall for the pole-bending event.
   To understand the events in which these youngsters compete is to realize how skilled they are on the back of a horse.
   Barrel-racing is a timed event where the horse and rider must negotiate a 360-degree turn around each of three barrels that span the length of an arena then sprint back to the start-finish line. The rider receives a “no-time” if a barrel is knocked over.
   The pole-bending competition is also a timed event and is the equivalent of the slalom in skiing. The rider must run their horse the length of the arena while weaving in and out six poles placed 21 feet apart without knocking any over, then sprint to the finish line.
   Fallon, a third-grader at Three Rivers School, and Shyan, an TRUS eighth-grader, are the daughters of J.P. and Tammy Souza of Three Rivers.


Auction bidder

wins shopping spree

  It all began at the All Town Dinner Dance, held Saturday, Sept. 30. That’s when Sue Slater (center) of Three Rivers submitted the winning bid for a Village Market shopping spree during the silent-auction fundraiser benefiting the Three Rivers Historical Society. 

  On Friday, Oct. 6, Sue made her mad dash to stock her cupboards. With a time limit of 60 seconds, Sue was able to grab $188 worth of groceries.

Sequoia scientist leads hike

   The last seminar of the Sequoia Natural History Association’s 2006 lineup will be held Saturday, Oct. 14. Hikers will have the opportunity to explore the world’s largest trees, which only grow on the west slope of the Sierra.
   Nate Stephenson, a research scientist based in Sequoia National Park, will take participants on a hike through Redwood Canyon in Kings Canyon National Park. This locale is being highlighted because it is where many studies on the ancient giant sequoias have occurred.
   And that is Nate’s passion. Over the last two decades, his research has focused on fire ecology, giant sequoia ecology, and the restoration of sequoia groves. Nate also is the scientist who developed a new technique for estimating the ages of mature sequoias, actually causing a decline in age from previous estimates and proving that the largest of the Big Trees are not necessarily the oldest ones.
   The excursion will depart from the Grant Grove Visitor Center on Highway 180 in Kings Canyon at 9 a.m. Then a caravan of carpoolers will travel another half hour to the trailhead.
   The hike will be about six miles roundtrip, all on developed trails with some short side trips to visit trees.
   The hike will be held rain or shine; participants should be prepared for the weather conditions.
   The cost of the outing is $75 (SNHA members, $50). Proceeds benefit Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks.
   Reservations are required. Call 565-4251 or go online to

Al Stoppel Day revived

to clean up town

   As legend has it, in the 1970s Three Rivers resident Al Stoppel organized a fall cleanup day in which folks banded together to pick up trash along the community’s roadways after a summer of heavy visitor usage.
   Al Stoppel has long since passed on, but over the years, various community groups have revived the cleanup day as a community service.
   This year, Wyatt Bloetscher, an Exeter High senior from Three Rivers, is breathing life back into the Al Stoppel cleanup day by coordinating efforts to pick up roadside and riverside trash.
   Wyatt has designated Saturday morning, Nov. 4, as Al Stoppel Day. In preparation of this day, community members are requested to select a section of road where they will collect the litter.
   This can be done as a solo or family venture on a small section of roadway or river, or as a group project with a “neighbor-hood captain” contacting volunteers to assist in the effort.
   Dumpsters to dispose of the trash will be available at the Lions Arena. If this is not convenient, Wyatt will also retrieve the trash at prearranged locations and deliver it to the dumpsters.
   As past Al Stoppel Day participants may recall, there was the traditional pancake breakfast that followed the cleanup effort.  Currently, there is no breakfast planned, but if this year’s event is successful, a breakfast might be coordinated with next year’s event.
   For more information, to receive a location assignment, or pick up trash bags, call Wyatt at 561-4550.
   Students will receive community-service hours for their participation. And, remember, use extreme caution when working along local roadways and don’t attempt to remove anything hazardous, but report it, either to Wyatt or the proper authority.

Halloween candy donations

needed for Cherokee Oaks

   Three Rivers trick-or-treaters are fortunate in that they have a safe neighborhood upon which to descend on Halloween night. And they are also lucky because the folks in Cherokee Oaks are such good sports.
   In fact, some of these Cherokee Oaks residents could be accused of enjoying Halloween a little too much. They decorate their yards, play spooky sound effects, and have even been known to dress in costume and lie in wait for unsuspecting trick-or-treaters to arrive so they can let out a bone-chilling “Boo!”
   But the cost of candy for an entire community of children can get rather pricey, so another local Halloween tradition is to donate treats to the Cherokee Oaks residents to offset the expense.
   This year, donations of unopened bags of candy may be dropped off at the Bank of the Sierra during business hours from now through the day before Halloween. The candy will then be distributed in the neighborhood in time for the Halloween onslaught.

Punt, Pass and Kick

debuts in Three Rivers

   It’s a national competition for all boys and girls in grades three through 10. No special football skills are required other than the fundamentals — punting, passing, and kicking.
   Sponsored for more than 25 years by the Ford Motor Company and the National Football League (NFL), the regionals and finals of the competition have always been held during halftime in November and December at various NFL stadiums around the country.
   Now, thanks to David Lowe, a Three Rivers resident and former regional finalist as a 13- and 14-year-old in the early 1980s, Punt, Pass, and Kick will debut in Three Rivers on Saturday, Oct. 21.
   David says this first annual affair, to be held at the upper field at Three Rivers School, is a trial run to see if this event can qualify for NFL sanction.

  “I’ve been in contact with representatives from the NFL and they asked me to send some photos of our competition,” David said. “If we can show them some numbers then we could become ‘official’ with really neat prizes.”
   This year, David said he will award ribbons for the top finishers in each of the four categories.

  “It was a great thrill and one of my best childhood memories to be a part of a Seattle Seahawks game and compete on the field in the Kingdome,” David said. “I am hoping there’s the next Joe Montana or George Blanda out there somewhere and they could say they got started right here in Three Rivers.”
   There is no entry fee, and competitors should be on the field and warming up at 11 a.m.
   Information: 561-3521.


WHS girls’ tennis

on the upswing

   When you think of a winning tradition in Woodlake High School sports, what comes to mind? Perhaps you remember the great football teams of the Leo Robinson era or the dominant girls’ basketball teams of the 1980s that won a state championship in 1985.
   In recent years, the Guerra brothers have coached several soccer teams to titles so that sport has been a new source of Tiger Pride. But the new kid on the block that is currently poised to win Woodlake’s next league title is girls’ tennis.
   Coach Mike Judson is proof that good coaching can build a successful winner. In each of the past three seasons, his teams have shown steady improvement and attracted more players.

  “I now have some players who have already played tennis before they get to high school,” said Coach Judson. “It makes a lot of difference, especially because we can compete against the bigger schools.”
   According to Coach Judson, who also teaches nearby at Woodlake Middle School, tennis is a numbers game. The current roster is deep and includes 24 girls equally divided between the varsity and junior varsity.
   The No. 1 player is Priscilla Ruiz, a junior who was slowed earlier in the season while on the mend from foot surgery. She’s a powerful hitter and is capable of playing even better than her 9-1 record in doubles matches would indicate.
   Coach Judson said he was forced to sacrifice a number of No. 1 singles matches while Ruiz was out. Senior captain Amanda Garcia, the current No. 4 player, stepped in and played most of those tough No. 1 players. She performed much better than her 6-9 singles record in pressure-packed matches.
   The rapid development of Heather Wood, a sophomore who graduated from Three Rivers School, has also been a pleasant surprise. According to her coach, Heather is the current No.2 player.

  “All she lacks is consistency and is already a very good all-around player,” Judson said.
   For the first time in many years, Woodlake beat Exeter in a non-league match. It was Heather down 0-3 who came from behind to win 8-6 in a key match that ensured the win.
   There are many other highlights in what is shaping up to be an outstanding season. There was also a nail-biter win against Corcoran. In that match junior Karla Thompson won a tie-breaker and senior co-captain Sandra Zequeida came from behind to win 8-6.
   The team also played in the Wawona Peach Tree Tournament in Fresno for the first time. Against some of the biggest schools — Bakersfield East, Golden West, Hanford — in the field of 85, Woodlake finished 2-4, which included an impressive win over Fresno High.
   Ruiz was undefeated in the tournament, playing in the No. 1 doubles paired with various teammates. She won three of those matches with Wood as her partner.
   Coach Judson admits that the new realignment has helped level the league playing field in tennis. The East Sequoia League for tennis, besides Woodlake, also includes Corcoran, Lindsay, Orosi, and Strathmore.
   The Lady Tigers are currently 11-6 overall and 5-0 in league play. Last season, Judson’s Tigers finished 8-6 and tied for third in ESL play and 10-7 overall.

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