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In the News - Friday, OCTOBER 21, 2005


COLD CASE
Frozen body discovered

in Kings Canyon Park

   Two ice-climbers found the sport more exhilarating than usual on their recent outing to a remote area of Kings Canyon National Park. While on the upper reaches of Mount Mendel in the northernmost portion of the park, the pair, from Washington, discovered the remains of what is thought to be a U.S. Army corpsman who was the victim of a plane crash in 1942.
   Most of the body was frozen into the glacier and it was only a portion of the billowing parachute that alerted one of the climbers that something was out of place. Upon identifying that what he found was indeed a person, the climbers marked the location on their GPS and cut out a section of the parachute that was still strapped to the victim to present as proof upon reporting the incident.
   The find was reported on Sunday, Oct. 16, to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. The Park Service was notified and rangers attempted to access the site via helicopter that day but were deterred by overcast conditions.
   An investigation team was finally able to reach the location on Tuesday. While processing the scene, rangers found evidence that the victim was indeed a member of the Army Air Corps (the predecessor to the Air Force).
   Because of this information, the Park Service now believes that the serviceman was part of a crew aboard a Beech AT-7 navigation-trainer aircraft that reportedly crashed on Nov. 18, 1942. The location of the aircraft and its crewmembers remained a mystery until 1947, when hikers on the 13,691-foot mountain found a portion of the plane and four bodies.
   The recently-discovered ice-entombed body was carefully excavated using ice axes, trowels, and other tools on Wednesday, Oct. 19, and flown to Fresno where it was released to the county Coroner’s Office. Nearby miscellaneous items such as clothing were also recovered, but there was no identification on the body such as dog tags.
   Assisting in the body’s recovery was a forensic anthropologist dispatched by the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, the military unit in charge of recovering and identifying the remains of lost soldiers. When confirmed as a military serviceman, the body will be delivered to the family for burial with military honors at government expense.
   Mount Mendel is located on the Glacier Divide between and east of the McClure Meadow and Le Conte Canyon backcountry ranger stations on the John Muir/Pacific Crest trails. It was named, interestingly, after Johann Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), an Austrian geneticist, for the sole reason of adding another advocate of the theory of evolution to the so-named Evolution group of mountains (Mount Darwin is just to the south of Mount Mendel).
   Glacier Divide is the shared boundary of Kings Canyon National Park and the John Muir Wilderness portion of Inyo National Forest, as well as divides Fresno and Inyo counties.
   The Park Service reports that between 1940 and 1950 there were 25 to 30 plane crashes in the Sierra range. Many of those aircraft have not been found to this day.

Arson suspected

at Lake Kaweah

   Tulare County firefighters would all agree that the waning 2005 local fire season has been one of the most uneventful in recent memory. But on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 13, somebody tried to dramatically change that by lighting what could have been a tragic wildfire just down-canyon from the entrance to Slick Rock.
   The bizarre incident began shortly before 10 a.m. when three separate blazes were ignited in tinder-dry brush adjacent to Highway 198 on the east side of the roadway. Two of the fires were started in a deep canyon area and another on the top of a knoll adjacent to an old road cut.
   Within minutes, a passing motorist called 911 and two California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) engines from Three Rivers were at the scene.
   It took two more nearby engines and nearly two hours to extinguish the flames and mop up the rough roadside terrain.

  “We don’t really have a confirmed cause of these fires, but it’s so unusual that it was probably arson,” said Captain Paul Marquez, an investigating officer with Tulare County Fire Prevention. “Two separate fires in the canyon below the roadway look as if they burned together into one larger blaze.”
   Captain Marquez said there were a couple of key factors that prevented the fires from racing uphill and burning two nearby homes and then perhaps posing a very real threat to the community of Three Rivers. The fires were mostly contained by trails that act as firebreaks, which were dug and are maintained on an annual basis by Mountain Home and Miramonte CDF fire crews each summer as a training exercise.

  “There was almost no wind and the humidity was above 30 percent,” Marquez said. “With the quick work of the personnel at the scene, the fire never really reached the nearby brush on the steeper terrain.”
   What appeared to be just another routine grass fire to passing motorists was yet another narrowly averted tragedy. The Tulare County Fire Department is still investigating the incident.
Anyone who might have seen something or someone suspicious in the Slick Rock area on the morning of October 13 is asked to call a fire prevention officer at 732-5954.

Local firefighters promote

high-visibility address signs

   One of the great things about Three Rivers is the isolation of living in a mountain community. Some driveways lead to several secluded residences and even the county planning department is not certain how many homes are actually occupied year-round.
   Many part-time residents and lots of locals have not, for whatever reason, made the effort to clearly delineate where they are when it comes to finding their home address. That’s why the current campaign being waged by the Three Rivers Volunteer Fire Department and its message — “We can’t help you if we can’t find you!” — can make the critical difference in saving a life or saving a house.

  “If there’s one thing Three Rivers residents could do to improve public safety in their community, I would say it is to clearly mark their property to direct us in when we’re answering a call,” said Justin Tashiro, a CDF firefighter who was raised in Three Rivers. “I couldn’t count all the times that we’ve been called to an address and then went to the wrong house because there were no numbers posted.”
   But now thanks to the local volunteer firefighters and the Tulare County FireSafe Council, a highly visible, reflective sign makes it easy for emergency personnel to locate addresses. Both street signs and a sign for fire hydrants are available through the local fire station and they will even help with installation.
   There is no good reason not to purchase at least one of the signs to display your address at the property’s entrance. For more information, call 561-4362.

Business Association

seeks new direction

   In its more than a decade of existence, the Three Rivers/Lemon Cove Business Association (TRLC) has undergone the typical spurts of enthusiasm as new members volunteer and become involved in its board of directors. In the most recent past, Wayne Lance, who worked as the general manager of the Holiday Inn Express while serving as the organization’s president, guided the business group.
   During those Lance years, from 2000 to 2004, the TRLC enjoyed some renewed support from the business community and became more visible at area events like the Tulare County Fair, the International Ag Expo, regional travel shows, and California Welcome Centers.
   The primary vehicles to promote the Three Rivers and Lemon Cove areas have been a Three Rivers visitor map and a four-color brochure that contain tourist information. Members’ advertising has supported the publications.
   At the group’s Wednesday, Oct. 12, quarterly meeting, it was announced that nearly 25,000 maps had been distributed and a new version of the map and brochure is being prepared for the upcoming visitor season.

Tourism promoter
   Lance, who stepped aside as president of the group earlier this year, recently relocated to the Central Coast. The position of president has been filled by Mark Tilchen, executive director of the nonprofit Sequoia Natural History Association (SNHA) and a longtime national parks booster.
   Tilchen is also involved as a board member of the newly formed Three Rivers Village Foundation.
   At the recent meeting, Tilchen announced that he is building a relationship with the City of Visalia.

  “I have recently been selected by the Visalia City Council to sit on a 13-person committee overseeing the new Visalia Visitors and Convention Bureau,” Tilchen said. “My presence will ensure that the area from Lemon Cove through Three Rivers and into the national parks is included in the city’s efforts to increase the region’s tourism.”
   The enhancement of tourism is currently part of the efforts of the SNHA, which maintains several key visitor centers, Tilchen said. That group, he said, is working with the Visalia Chamber of Commerce and will also ensure that Kaweah Country is well represented.
   But in order to do that, Tilchen said, he is going to need more support, manpower, and a financial commitment from the local community. Currently, the Business Association’s 82 members represent about 40 percent of all the businesses in the Three Rivers-Lemon Cove area.
   One of the obstacles to garnering more support is the public’s perception of the Business Association. Tilchen believes the best interest of the larger community might be better served by forming a chartered chamber of commerce.
   That idea of a chamber of commerce is nothing new in Three Rivers. A local Board of Trade was formed nearly a century ago and in about 1940, it was officially chartered as the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce.
   Among the accomplishments of the local chamber was to start the publication of the Three Rivers Current in 1950, the area’s first weekly newspaper since the original Commonwealth ceased to publish in 1890.
   The local Chamber of Commerce thrived until the late 1960s when a schism developed in the community pitting pro-Mineral King development interests against those who wanted to preserve a slower-paced quality of life in the Kaweah canyon. The leadership of the chamber never recovered from that bitter communitywide struggle and the organization was disbanded in the early 1970s.

Member survey
   In order to measure the current membership’s willingness to take a new direction, Tilchen and his board of directors have developed a comprehensive survey. The primary focus is on, he said, whether the business association should consider dissolving and chartering a new chamber of commerce.
   Tilchen explained at the recent meeting that a chamber of commerce would be better recognized by visitors as the place to go for visitor information. It would also serve those local businesses not involved in tourism.
   The key to making a chamber work, Tilchen said, is bringing more outside dollars to tourism-based businesses that would increase the economy of the town. Those dollars, he continued, would also have a direct effect on the businesses that rely on spending by local residents.
   Some of those dollars, Tilchen said, could come from the county bed tax. As much as 75 percent of the bed tax generated annually in unincorporated Tulare County comes from the Three Rivers area. Supervisor Allen Ishida, who attended the recent meeting, said that the Three Rivers community needs to ask county officials why some of the money is not being used to promote area tourism.
Tilchen said the bed-tax issue will be at the top of the Business Association’s next board meeting. The meetings, which are open to the public, are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7 a.m., at the Holiday Inn Express.
   To get involved or for more information, call Mark Tilchen, 565-3759.

Weavers show and

share their craft

   Handweavers of the Valley will present their Harvest of Handwovens show and sale on Saturday, Oct. 29. The event, now in its 26th year, will be held at the Exeter Memorial Building, 324 N. Kaweah Ave. (Highway 65), from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is free and open to the public.
   Attendees will enjoy an increasingly popular event that features the work of 25 local handweavers. Presentations will include beautiful handwoven and handspun articles such as towels, scarves, throws, rugs, jackets, coasters, and baby blankets.
   There will also be holiday-themed items, such as Christmas placemats, runners, towels, and “Mug Rugs.”
   A fashion boutique, yarn shop, and displays of supplies and tools will also be available. Spinning and weaving demonstrations will be held throughout the day, and guests will have an opportunity to try their hand at a loom.
   Exquisite pine needle baskets and weaving on gourds will also be featured. Basket-making will be demonstrated against a backdrop of completed award-winning work.
   Handweavers of the Valley is a guild of weavers and spinners that spans a large portion of the San Joaquin Valley, from Bakersfield to Squaw Valley, Three Rivers, Visalia, Hanford, and Lemoore. Many of the members are from the Porterville and Springville area.
   The guild was formed in 1953 with the intent to exchange ideas and samples and show woven items. The objectives of the bylaws were to promote the development of handweaving in Central California, to foster growth in weaving skill among the members by sharing, and to help those with physical disabilities who could develop through the art of weaving.
   In more recent, years, interest has been expanded to include spinning, basket-making, and weaving on gourds.
   The Harvest of Handwovens contributes to the guild’s goal of public awareness of the fine craft of handweaving and serves as an educational experience for those wishing to learn more about one of the ancient arts.
   Fibers featured at the show and sale will include organic cotton, sheep’s wool, angora, alpaca, llama, silk, rayon, cotton, and linen.
   There will be door prizes awarded throughout the day and a drawing will take place featuring a large basket of bathroom accessories, including handwoven towels, washcloths, and a rug.
   For the first time this year, Visa and Mastercard will be accepted.
For more information, call Nikki Crain, 561-4048. .

Big Tree causes concern

   The Big Stump entrance station building and adjacent parking area were closed on Thursday, Oct. 6, after the reassessment of a hollow giant sequoia determined the tree as a potential hazard to visitors, staff, and the facilities.
   Visitors can still access Kings Canyon National Park via this Highway 180 route but instead of stopping at the entrance station, they are being asked to continue to the Grant Grove Visitor Center to pay fees and obtain the park map and information.
   A previous assessment of this tree was accomplished in 1986. A recent inspection, conducted by the lead park forester of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and the forest health pathologist for Sequoia National Forest, indicated that the tree has “multiple defects,” including extensive heart rot and a large fire scar at its base that occupies almost one-half of its circumference.
   The report was submitted to park officials on October 5 and is the basis for the closure of the facilities.
   The report also states that the width of the thin shell that is supporting the weight of the upper branches has been reduced to as little as seven inches, which is below the minimum safety standard, especially in its environment where strong winds and heavy snow are common.
   An independent arborist was contracted to survey the tree and assist with recommendations as to a long-term solution to this hazard.
   A request to the Park Service for an update on the status of the tree has not yet been answered.

NPS officer dies in Yosemite


   A National Park Service law-enforcement official died last month while hiking to help recover a body that had been trapped underneath a Yosemite National Park waterfall for eight weeks.
   Daniel Madrid, one of 48 NPS special agents, was the first agent ever to die in the line of duty, reported Adrienne Freeman, park information officer.
   The 51-year-old suffered cardiac arrest on Saturday, Sept. 24, while hiking the park’s popular Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. It was reported that he had complained of shortness of breath shortly before his heart attack.
   A fellow park ranger and a passing doctor were unable to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Madrid was stationed at Ozark National Scenic Riverway in Missouri, but was sent to Yosemite in September to work temporarily while other park officers were assigned to assist hurricane-response efforts along the Gulf Coast.
   Born and raised in Arizona, Madrid had worked for the Park Service since 1987. He is survived by his wife and two grown children.
   Madrid was hiking to help out with the recovery of a San Francisco-area resident who was swept over the 317-foot-high Vernal Falls on July 30.
   In Sequoia and Kings Canyon, 11 people have perished during 2005, making it one of the deadliest years on record.
   Yosemite National Park has had its share of tragedy this year as well. In addition to the July 30 incident, the body of an Arizona woman was also recovered during September from the Merced River above Nevada Falls.
   In August, an Irish man was found at the bottom of 1,430-foot Upper Yosemite Falls. Other accidental deaths in the park this summer include a rock climber found dead near the base of Half Dome, a South Korean college student who planned to hike the John Muir Trail, and a man who fell from Lembert Dome in the Tuolumne Meadows area.
   On Sept. 30, the bodies of two Chinese tourists — a mother and son — were found in the wreckage of their rental car in a steep ravine just outside the park’s Tioga Pass entrance. The pair had been missing for a week.

Tigers win… and lose


   The Woodlake Tigers’ (0-3, 2-4) roller coaster season continues and in a very unusual twist, they get a win and a loss in the same week. The loss came to Coalinga (3-0, 6-0) but the 20-6 score was no indication of how these Tigers played last Friday night.
After the third quarter, the Tigers led the Horned Toads, 6-0.

  “We played some of our most physical football of the season and really stuck ‘em like the Woodlake teams of old,” Coach Costa said. “In the fourth quarter we just ran out of gas and the last two scores happened very late in the game and never should have happened. As far we [the coaches] were concerned we should have won 10-7 but we couldn’t get our kicking game going.”
   After the tough loss at Coalinga, the Central Section of the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) awarded Woodlake with its second win of the season by forfeit vs. Kingsburg, a non-league game played Sept. 16.

  “I’m not big on winning by forfeit but the bottom line is that they used four ineligible players and there has to be a penalty,” Costa said. “That win will help us in getting a betting playoff position.”
   It seems odd talking playoffs when the Tigers have yet to win a league game. But two of the losses have come against Valley powerhouses and now the Tigers begin a stretch in their schedule against schools more their size and talent level. Coach Costa still believes this team is coming together and is very capable of going on a winning streak.
   What better time to start that winning trend than tonight vs. Lindsay in front of a huge Homecoming crowd.

  “We know they run a spread offense and we have the cover defenses that can match up with their skill players,” Costa said. “Last week we played on the road without Baker, our starting quarterback, and we gave Coalinga, ranked third in the Valley, all they could handle. I am expecting even more of a team effort in the Lindsay game.”
   Coach Costa said Baker’s injury should only keep him out one or two more weeks. John Gomez-Carretero, sophomore quarterback, has stepped in and is really starting to get comfortable. Daniel Tiller, senior running back, gained 81 yards against the Horned Toads and averaged better than five yards per carry.





 
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