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In the News - Friday, October 21, 2011



BLM seeks comments on 3R sites


  A team of Bureau of Land Management planners from the Bakersfield regional office was in Three Rivers on Tuesday, Oct. 18, to gather input for the agency’s new Resource Management Plan. The meeting was held at the Three Rivers Memorial Building and conducted by Tim Smith, field manager.

  “It’s great to see the interest here in Three Rivers for what we are doing with the new management plan,” Smith said. “At the meeting at Lake Isabella we had only 15 attend, so we got the feeling that folks were just not interested.”   

  The more than 60 who turned out for the dinner-hour meeting wanted to hear what might be in store for local recreation areas like Salt Creek/Case Mountain and North Fork, the latter being closed for the last two years.

  Smith presented an overview of what the BLM is charged to do by the federal government and the priorities of an agency that oversees 17 million acres nationwide.

  The agency, Smith said, wants to provide recreational opportunities on these public lands but must balance this access with protection of sensitive resources. Among other priorities of BLM are to permit livestock grazing, furnish areas for off-road vehicle use, energy development, and other types of outdoor activities like shooting sports that are not traditionally permitted on other public lands. 

  Smith said that the current management plan for the Bakersfield region includes a diversity of lands within its 400,000 acres of project area. The new plan and its Environmental Impact Statement seek to develop guiding principles from one of five alternatives that have been proposed.

  The alternatives, Smith said, are similar to any management plan and span the range of activity that might be permitted under the umbrella of the region’s updated plan. This is where the public can play a role. 

  “Each comment is carefully considered in choosing the preferred alternative,” Smith said. “Don’t tell us you hate us or that we’re doing a great job. That won’t help us complete the documents.”

  Comments like these are important feedback, Smith explained, but for inclusion in the plan the agency needs to hear more specific ideas or suggestions on what is working and what isn’t — that’s the type of input that helps in making management decisions.

  The five alternatives seek to prioritize what’s important in a given planning area. In this Bakersfield regional plan the five alternatives are as follows:

  —No action: Operate under the existing plan.

  —Preferred: Find a balance between current uses and protection of critical resources.

  —Conservation: More protection less use.

  —No grazing: Elements of all of the above without permitting livestock.

  —Development: Approve and permit more development of the land’s resources.

  These alternatives were proposed after the first-phase scoping of the project that has been ongoing since 2008. The comments of all interested parties including other public agencies, will help choose a final alternative and fine tune the policy.

  The consensus of Three Rivers users, according to audience comments, was that locals were most interested in access for equestrians, mountain bikers, kayakers, hikers/trail runners, and livestock grazing. The preferred alternative, Smith said, offers 336,500 acres of the 400,000 project area available for grazing.

  Smith said his agency is searching for ways to furnish access and manage these lands but have no guarantees for any funding and, in fact, are bracing for more budget cuts.

  Suggestions were made that the BLM might develop partnerships with the NPS (Sequoia National Park) and Army Corps (Lake Kaweah) to keep an eye on BLM lands. Another proposal is in the works to designate an eight-mile stretch of the North Fork within BLM lands as a Wild and Scenic River. If that happens, new funding sources might become available to enhance the BLM presence in Three Rivers and furnish a ranger position.

  “If anyone can find us some money we would be more than happy to put it to good use,” Smith concluded.    

  Comments are due by Friday, Dec. 9. For more information or to view the plan, go to www.ca.blm.gov/bakersfield.


Park plans prescribed fire


  On Wednesday, Oct. 19, Ash Mountain fire personnel announced plans to ignite one or two segments in Round Meadow north and west of the Generals Highway in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park.

  “We are looking at Sunday [Oct. 23] but plans are still tentative depending on weather and air quality conditions,” said Deb Schweizer. “Round Meadow is a popular visitor area so the fire is an excellent opportunity for visitors to experience how fire encourages giant sequoia germination and provides a healthier habitat for these trees.”

  If both segments (22 and 50 acres) of the proposed burn are ignited, the fire will take two or three days to complete. Portions of the Big Trees Trail will be closed and motorists may experience temporary delays due to smoke on the Generals Highway.


Alles house demolished


  One of the last remaining vestiges of Old Three Rivers  — the Grace Alles House — was demolished Tuesday, Oct. 18. Heirs and current owners of the historic property, Norman and Steven Schwartz, were on site to salvage contents, knock down the old house, and complete the site cleanup.

  The house has not been lived in for many years, but the current owners have maintained the site during their periodic visits to Three Rivers. Norm lives in Lafayette while Steven travels here from his home in Hercules. The brothers, who are great-grandsons of Grace Alles, also own a couple of other adjacent parcels.

  “We really don’t have any plans for the site,” Steven said. “If we had a better source for water we were thinking some type of tourist or RV park accommodations might work here.”

  The Alles family first came to Three Rivers in 1885, living for a time six miles up the South Fork. When Conrad Alles Sr. died in 1891, the family moved closer to town, which in those days was clustered around a store and the Cove School in what is today known as Old Three Rivers. The house was believed to have been built in the 1890s and lived in by Phil Alles, one of 10 children of Conrad, and his wife, Christina.

  Grace, who married into the Alles family, lived in the house for many years until her death in the 1980s. Grace was a Mullenix, whose family owned Atwell Mill in the late 19th century, hence the personal connection to the East Fork sawmill and the source of the redwood lumber used to build the house.


Chocolate gold


Reimer’s Candies goes nuts for panning


  Those in the know may tell you that gold in the Sierra Nevada is to be found farther north than Three Rivers. They may also tell you that small business is on the decline, or that economic growth is at a standstill.

  Don’t bother Lynn Bretz with such naysaying. Lynn’s panning operation alongside the Kaweah River is up and running with sweet profits and sustainable, local employment in the forecast.

  Before anyone grabs pick and shovel in a mad dash for the river, let me explain. Lynn is panning for chocolate, or I should say panning with chocolate. Absurd, you say?

Lynn and Mary Anne Bretz have owned a gold mine of sorts on the Kaweah since 2005 when they purchased the renowned Reimer’s Candies and Gifts on Sierra Drive. Since the acquisition, Reimer’s reputation for freshness and quality has been expanded upon with the addition of a seaside location at Avila Beach in 2008 and some new treats made with old-world quality.

  The latest addition is the panning operation. “Panning” is the addition of coatings to a host product in successive layers by way of carefully adding coating(s) to a rotating drum filled with product under specifically controlled circumstances of temperature and speed. This is the process behind  familiar treats such as Peanut M&Ms, Jordan almonds, malt balls, and others.

  “This has been one of the primary projects that I have been working on for the past three years,” said Lynn. “I have developed relationships with a few wholesale accounts, providing them with almond brittle, toffee, chocolate clusters, and have been able to produce all but the panned items for them right here at Three Rivers. For items like chocolate covered raisins, we had to send them out to another producer, then repackage them.”

  After a lengthy search, the ideal chocolate panning delivery system was located in Chicago, Ill. The massive chocolate tank has a panning pump that delivers a precise amount of chocolate over time to the pan, then stops when the chocolate required for the recipe has been dispensed.

  “We were ready to widen a doorway just to squeeze it into the shop,” said Lynn. “But it just fit.”

  Having researched and studied volumes of information about panning, along with advice and consultation from experts, Lynn Bretz was ready to begin his panning operation. He struck it rich on his first try when, on Wednesday, Oct. 12, he produced a batch of beautifully panned and polished milk chocolate almonds.

  Along with a better profit margin, panning in-house allows Reimer’s to substantially reduce the turn-around time for clients’ orders, meaning they are now provided with the freshest possible product of the highest quality.

  “Most suppliers require a minimum order of 300 to 600 pounds per item for panning. With our operation, we can provide orders as small as 150 pounds, ideal for small to medium shops and retail venues.”

  With their diversity of products and flexibility of in-house production, Reimer’s is sure to attract more wholesale clientele. And as business increases, Reimer’s is able to provide more employment opportunities to local Kaweah Country residents. In fact, their staff has doubled in the past six years, proving that with hard work, perseverance, and a little panning, one can indeed strike gold on the Kaweah River.

  Experience Reimer’s Candies at 42375 Sierra Drive in Three Rivers, at their Avila Beach store, or view and order products online at www.reimerscandies.com.

And for those who it can’t be the holidays without Reimer’s stollen bread, mark the calendar for November 1.


Woodlake Pride founder receives cash award


  The California Wellness Foundation will honor three community leaders at its 19th annual California Peace Prize ceremony. The event is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17, in San Francisco.

  One of the recipients of the 2011 California Peace Prize and the accompanying generous cash award is Manuel Jimenez, a lifelong Woodlake resident who is a farm advisor with Tulare County’s University of California Cooperative Extension. The UCCE is a unique institution that brings together federal, state, and county governments into a voluntary partnership to provide the citizens of Tulare County access to University of California educational and research programs.

  In his spare time, Manuel lends his expertise to youth by teaching them about responsibility, leadership, confidence, and respect through beautification projects in Woodlake, most notably at the Woodlake Botanical Garden.

  In 1993, Manuel and his wife, Olga, founded Woodlake Pride, a volunteer organization that puts youth to work on community-service projects.

  In recognition of Manuel’s innovative efforts to “prevent violence and promote peace,” he and the two other deserving recipients will each receive a cash award of $25,000.

  Also being honored are Ray Balberan, a San Francisco consultant for nonprofit outreach and response centers and health clinics, and Priscilla Carrasquilla of San Jose, who for 15 years managed the Clean Slate Tattoo Removal Program at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.


Park crew nears completion of MK bridge work (photo captions)


  The Mineral King bridge’s projected date of completion (October 20) has come and gone, but with an early-season snowstorm earlier this month, certain forces of nature can get in the way of major projects occurring at 7,800 feet in elevation and at the end of a remote mountain road.

  Top photo, left: The concrete abutment that is cracked and showing other signs of wear and tear, which is part of what necessitated the complete renovation of the bridge over the East Fork of the Kaweah River.

  Bottom photo, left: The four stringers are in place, which will be secured in place by iron cross-pieces. Next up, the wooden planks and railings.


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EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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