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In the News - Friday, OCTOBER 20, 2006



THREE RIVERS HAS a long and colorful tradition when it comes to its public meetings. For nearly a century, the all-town forums have been necessary for Tulare County and Sequoia National Park officials to communicate with businesses and residents scattered about the three principal forks of the Kaweah River.
   Last Tuesday’s meeting, playing to a packed house at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, featured timely discussions on future growth and the newly created Tulare County Fire Department.

Captain Courageous:

Fire Dialog is flowing

   THE FIRE PROTECTION issue was made a local urgency because of a recent Speaking Out editorial (“Three Rivers deserves better fire service,” Sept. 29, 2006) published in the Commonwealth.
   In that statement — which Captain Steve Green, a career CDF employee, felt obligated to make — several risky cost-saving tactics of his department were revealed. Because of the public’s response to Green’s article, Supervisor Ishida felt that Tuesday’s meeting was an opportune time to update the local community on progress in the transition from California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to the Tulare County Fire Department as the area’s primary service provider.
   In a show of unity, both Chief Steve Sunderland of Tulare County’s fire department and the local CDF-Tulare Unit chief, Ed Wristen, were in attendance to explain how the departments plan to co-exist after July 1, 2007, in their coverage of Three Rivers.
Chief Sunderland began by saying that the former county fire station on South Fork Drive at Highway 198 is being cleaned up and placed back into service.

  “It’s not state-of-the-art and it is a little small to meet all our needs, but we will make do,” Chief Sunderland said.
   The new county chief also announced that this week the Board of Supervisors had authorized the purchase of six new fire engines and the hiring of 79 new employees. Among that number, he said, would be six battalion chiefs, 25 captains, 48 firefighters, and hundreds of “extra-help employees.”
   The extra-help employees would be similar to the sheriff’s department VIPs (Volunteers in Patrol), but would also include the volunteer paid-call firefighters.

  “The main difference in the two departments is that CDF is in Three Rivers to protect against wildland fires while our focus is the protection of structures and property,” Chief Sunderland said. “If CDF personnel are called elsewhere in the state on a fire, we will still be here on duty in Three Rivers.”
   Chief Wristen reiterated that Three Rivers is a “priority area” and that CDF will continue to maintain its current station. After stating that Captain Green is a valued and experienced CDF employee, he said that he [Captain Green] had spoken out “in an inappropriate manner.”
   Chief Wristen said Captain Green neglected to mention that many of his agency’s policy-making decisions, like the deployment of captains to single-engine stations, are dictated by the terms of the firefighter’s union contract. One of the key points in Captain Green’s statement was that policies like these are short-changing Three Rivers and fuel the potential for a catastrophic fire.

  “In 2004, the county was forced to make budget cuts and staffing was reduced,” Chief Wristen said.
   Chief Wristen also said that throughout the transition period, a Tulare County engine would now be available to Three Rivers during all shifts. This added equipment has been made possible by the support of the Board of Supervisors.

  “Tulare County and CDF have had a very tight relationship over the years and they [CDF] have been very helpful during the transition,” Supervisor Ishida said.

Where do we grow from here?

   WITH SPOKEPERSON JEFF Steen leading the discussion, the presentation by the Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth (TCCFRG) made it clear that their newly formed group does not oppose growth but chooses to see that it is done responsibly.
   Steen said his group plans to become more involved in the county’s process of creating a new general plan. He called the plan a blueprint and a constitution that will govern all future growth in Tulare County for many years to come.
   A Lindsay citrus grower, Steen said he was particularly concerned with the potential loss of farm and rangeland. Simply put, he said, let’s put “oranges with oranges” and “people with people.”
   TCCFRG, Steen said, is hearing about the potential of building new towns in rural areas.

  “I’m sure that most of you have heard about the Boswell Company’s proposal to build a new town in Yokohl Valley,” Steen said. “If approved, there would be 23,000 residents living in that town and everyone will be affected by the impact.”
   Other new developments, Steen said, are also being planned for Springville (800 homes), where he lives, and Earlimart. The Earlimart development “makes more sense” because it is near existing transportation and some services are already there.
   Steen said his group, which currently has about three dozen members, has identified some of the key issues confronting planners: (1) traffic problems as they relate to urban sprawl; (2) water quality; and (3) air quality.

  “We are also concerned about the loss of habitat,” Steen said. “Urban sprawl is the number one threat to wildlife.”
   TCCFRG, Steen said, advocates compact development like condos and townhomes arranged in more sustainable communities.
   The increase of impact fees, he said, is a necessary way to help planners and government agencies oversee this process.

  “We’re not against something, we’re for something, and we want start a conversation and create a forum where we can educate each other,” Steen said. “We want to preserve the values we came here for… and continue the historical ways this county has developed.”

October means it’s

Carnival time

all over Three Rivers

   Preparations are underway by a small but dedicated group of Three Rivers School parents to bring the annual Fall Carnival to fruition on Saturday, Oct. 28.
   This event has been ongoing in Three Rivers for nearly 60 years as a fundraiser for the local elementary school. And all of Three Rivers gets involved in the festivities.
   Pre-Carnival events— The Pumpkin Sale, which has taken place over the past week-and-a-half, is wrapping up today. Posters, created by Three Rivers School students, will be mounted all around town.
   Students will also be participating in the Pumpkin-Carving Contest with the judging to take place the Friday before the Carnival and all pumpkin creations on display at the event.
   Traditional Carnival events— The crowning of the Carnival king and queen (eight-graders elected by the student body) is the traditional kickoff to the evening, immediately followed by the costume parade, in which all grades, kindergarten through eighth, participate.
   The Carnival has something for everyone.
   There are newly constructed game booths, a cake walk, and the Sweet Shoppe. There’s a bounce house, face-painting, dunk tank, and a prize booth. There are hamburgers, hot dogs, Frito boats, an array of beverages, and more.
   For more than a decade, a major draw to the Carnival has been the Pick-a-Prize. Table upon table will be laid out with prizes from CDs to local art to complimentary hotel stays and everything in between.
   Bidders buy tickets, write their name and phone number on them, then drop them into the corresponding container for the prize or prizes they want a chance to win.
   Any prize that’s not at the Pick-a-Prize can be found at the raffle. Raffle tickets are available during the Carnival.
   Donations needed— “We are still in need of donations for the unforgettable Pick-a-Prize and raffle,” said Susan Goode, an Eagle Booster Club board member. “We’ve had such great support from a lot of local merchants and community members, but we could still fill in a few holes.”
   To donate an item to the Carnival prize-giveaways, call Susan at 561-0553 or drop it off at the TRUS office during school hours.
New this year— And for pure family fun, and if fear is not a factor, join the inaugural “Fear Factor” competition. Contestants will compete in pairs and be presented with a number of physical and mental challenges.
   The top teams based on points will then compete in a four-round elimination to determine the Fear Factor champions.

  “The championship team will receive an award of the sweetest proportions,” hinted David Lowe, an organizer of this new addition to the Carnival.
   To participate will cost each competitor four tickets. Solo contestants will compete against another solo entry that fits the age limit (if available).
   Only two-person teams will be eligible for the grand prize, however, and the total combined ages can be no more than 25 (all adults will count as “18,” which means adults will have to team with someone 7 or younger).
   Musical lineup— Again, something for everyone. Five groups have volunteered their talents to perform on the upper field’s stage.
   There will be hay bales for seating near the stage and tables and chairs nearby where Carnival-goers may enjoy the performances. But the entire area is compact enough that the music can be heard from wherever one happens to be.
   Autumn Harvest Dinner— Another anticipated Carnival activity is the sit-down dinner. This is the last hurrah for the eighth-grade class that has been fundraising for more than a year to earn funds for their San Francisco trip in May and for graduation expenses.
   This year’s meal has been planned by Kristina Roper Graber and David Lowe, eighth-grade parents. The menu includes a delicious barbecue chicken leg quarter or a tantalizing four-ounce pork loin with a choice of pomegranate or pesto sauce.
   Side dishes will include a cornucopia of seasonal roasted vegetables, black beans, and French bread.
   The extraordinary three-course mean will begin at the soup station, where diners may choose from a savory New England clam chowder, a delectable lentil stew, and a gratifying green bean with pesto soup.
   Dessert will be an autumn favorite: apple crisp a la mode.
   A vegetarian meal will include all of the above except for the meat at a reduced price.
   The meal will cost $8 for adults; $6.50 for the vegetarian plate; and $5 for children.
   What ticket where?— And about those tickets… here’s how the Carnival works:
   The main ticket booth on the upper field of Three Rivers School is where folks trade cash for tickets that are good for everything on the upper field — games, food, cake walk, Sweet Shoppe. No cash is accepted at any of these booths; tickets only.
   Then, located next to the ticket booth is the raffle booth. This is where folks trade cash for raffle tickets, complete them with name and other pertinent information, and turn them back in.
   Down in the McDowall Auditorium, separate tickets are required for the Autumn Harvest Dinner and the Pick-a-Prize (no game tickets or raffle tickets accepted here).
   Line up for the dinner at the far end of the facility and pay in cash.
   Pick-a-Prize tickets may be purchased on the stage side of the building. These tickets are for the Pick-a-Prize only and will not be accepted at the booths on the upper field.

Art in Kaweah Country

By Grace Ogawa

   Sometimes the things that we think don’t mean very much actually make the biggest difference. Ask a child which is better: baked beans or a chocolate bar, and you can bet the sweet tooth will win.
   And although baked beans never gave anyone cavities, they never did anything to improve a child’s mood either (in most cases, the opposite). Sometimes it is not what we need, but rather what we want that we really need.
   Such is the case with art, whether it be musical, dramatic, painting, or sculpture. Throughout history the arts have given more joy to humanity than any number of beans ever will.
   And what is more important to art than inspiration?
   What is an artist worth if her muse, fleeting, leaves her stranded to drift aimlessly through life like a cast feather blown on a chill wind?
   Well, she’s not worth the time you spend listening to her woes if she catches you unaware at the bar, that’s for sure.
   Fortunately for the artists of Three Rivers, this country is a wellspring of inspiration. It is filled with natural beauty of every sort, from mountains to forests to glades to rivers to streams that run chattering down with the autumn rain; from hidden dells tucked away in the arms of the foothills to the barren grandeur of the High Sierra.
   My! It’s enough to make one write like Ursula K. LeGuin, isn’t it?
   Beyond all this, we artists have a chance to display the fruits of these inspirations to the world at large. Or at least the small portion of the world that wanders into gift shops on weekends.
   Through the efforts of such friendly local businesses as the Whitewater Gallery and Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs, and now also with the help of the incomparable Denise Grewal and the Cort Gallery, artists from all over Kaweah Country may have their work displayed and admired and, Lady Luck willing, maybe even sold.
   For those of you who haven’t visited Cort Gallery, it embodies all the energy and magic of Three Rivers boiled down and encased in wood, brick, and stone. Not surprising, considering the nature of its creator, Gary Cort.
   Add to this Denise’s indefatigable enthusiasm for bringing in artwork that has a magic all its own, and you have a truly amazing place. When you have 10 minutes or so of free time, go and check it out, and see just what inspiration can do for art and, in turn, what art can do for you.
   It might be even better than a chocolate bar, but don’t tell that to the kids.
   Grace Ogawa, 19, is a Three Rivers artist with several pieces displayed at Cort Gallery.

It’s prescribed fire season

for public agencies

   The first phase of the Silver Prescribed Fire went according to plan, with 190 acres ignited by a National Park Service fire crew and burning slowly in a rugged swath of land between the Mineral King Road and the East Fork of the Kaweah River and from Highbridge Creek to the westernmost end of the Mineral King cabin community.
   Although the final 164 acres from Highbridge to Silver City was scheduled to be completed this past week, weather conditions preempted those plans.
   The latest, according to Jody Lyle, Sequoia-Kings Canyon fire information officer, is that segment will be completed next week.
If so, that fire will coincide with several others that are planned in the Tulare County foothills as early as next week.
   The Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday that it plans to conduct a prescribed burn on Case Mountain, just east of Three Rivers, as soon as conditions warrant. The burn could begin as early as Monday, Oct. 23, but could be as late as mid-November, depending upon when the most desirable weather conditions occur.
   This burn, when it occurs, is expected to take up to three days and extend 135 acres. Case Mountain, along the Salt Creek Ridge, is home to a giant sequoia grove.
   Sequoia National Forest will also commence its planned burns sometime between now and mid-November. These fires will mostly consist of debris piles that were manually cut while creating fuelbreaks around homes.
   Combined, more than 500 acres of piles will be burned in areas southeast of Three Rivers.
   All three of these public agencies coordinate burning operations with the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District. The fires are intended to reduce overcrowded vegetation and minimize the potential for a catastrophic wildfire.

New NPS director

takes oath of office

   Sequoia National Park was one of the last official visits for Fran Mainella who, since 2001, has been the Director of the National Park Service and the first woman appointed to this high-ranking position. The energetic Mainella, 59, was in Sequoia during mid-September for a whirlwind tour that included several meetings and an Ash Mountain picnic luncheon with employees, area politicians, and park supporters.
   Fran retired this month but endorsed the nomination of Mary Bomar, director of the NPS Northeast Region, to take the helm of the Park Service.
   On Tuesday, Oct. 17, Mary Bomar was sworn in as the 17th director and second woman to oversee the NPS. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne administered the oath.
   The ceremony was held in historic Congress Hall at Independence National Historical Park where Congress met when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. Mary joins some prestigious company as this was where George Washington was sworn in for his second term and John Adams took the oath of office as the second president.
   Mary’s leadership will come into play as the Park Service heads toward its centennial anniversary in 2016. The agency is already planning for the celebration with its “Centennial Challenge.”

  “The goal of the Centennial Challenge is not to gear up to begin projects in 10 years, but to start now so that we can celebrate victory 10 years from today,” said Secretary Kempthorne as he introduced the new director to the audience. “In the near future, we will establish specific performance goals. When achieved, these goals will ensure our parks continue to be places where children and families can learn about our national heritage.”
   And, thus, is the “Challenge.” When Mainella was in Sequoia, she revealed that she is very concerned with the decline in outdoor activity in which children engage.
   And these children are the National Park Service’s next generation of visitors.


Vivian Seruntine
1921 ~ 2006

  Vivian Seruntine, a 51-year resident of Three Rivers, died peacefully at her home on Monday, Oct. 9, 2006. She was 84.
   Vivian, known by her family as “Snooks,” was born Dec. 24, 1921, in Omaha, Neb. After living in Everett, Wash., and El Monte in Southern California, she moved to her dream home of Three Rivers in 1955, just in time for the “Big Flood.”
   Vivian’s home is on the upper North Fork, just across and downriver from the North Fork Bridge. Her property includes a pristine stretch of river.
   Vivian described her first impressions of Three Rivers in an interview with The Kaweah Commonwealth for a special Flood of 1955 section commemorating its 50th anniversary (December 2005).

  “When I first moved here, the river was so peaceful, just a meandering stream,” she said. “On that Christmas [1955], I watched the water rise and rise until it even took out the bridge. I was a city girl, and I was wondering what I’d gotten into.”
   Vivian participated in many community activities. She was a faithful member of the former “Our Gym,” where she earned a brown belt in karate and learned to tap dance.
   She also enjoyed painting, practiced yoga, and spent time with her pet horse (Vivian did not ride her).
   More recently, she exercised with the local Senior League and attended Three Rivers Community Services District meetings, where she took copious notes and actively engaged in the proceedings.
   Vivian spent many happy days at the river, swimming and fishing with family and friends. Everyone who had the pleasure to spend a day at the river with her learned to find hellgrammites, or at least where to look for them, pick blackberries, and to watch for rattlesnakes. Vivian enjoyed looking at the underwater river sights with goggles and her grandchildren in tow.
   Vivian is survived by four daughters, Lillian Sellers of Arizona, Dorothy Brown of Woodlake, Patty Moore of Three Rivers, and Loretta Saenz of Eureka; son Wes Seruntine of Hanford; eight grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

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