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In the News - Friday, October 25, 2013




Parks prepare for

winter hibernation



   It’s a sure sign of the changing season. When the kids return to school in August and September, visitor numbers to the nearby national parks begin to decline.
    The throngs of families who visit in July and August are replaced by lesser numbers of couples and Europeans who want to visit desert destinations, too, but enjoy the temperate weather here.
    The fall colors are currently peaking in the Giant Forest with the always dramatic dogwood putting on a show amid a backdrop of giant sequoias. Concurrently, park officials have begun downsizing staff and closing front-country facilities that experience little use or simply are too difficult to maintain when the snow flies.
    The Mineral King Road remains accessible until the gates are locked for the season on Monday, Oct. 28. The ranger station is closed; Silver City Store will close following the weekend. Cold Springs and Atwell Mill Campgrounds remain open until Oct. 28 although the water was turned off October 15.
    The Giant Forest Museum, with pay phone and first aid, will remain open through the winter. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Starting Monday, Dec. 2, the Museum will be open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays only until spring.
    The Lodgepole Visitor Center, market, gift shop, and food service are closed until spring 2014. Wuksachi Lodge with restaurant, market, and gift shop is open year-round.
    The Kings Canyon Visitor Center at Grant Grove is open daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After November 2, the Kings Canyon Visitor Center will be open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.
    The park’s most popular ticketed attraction, Crystal Cave, and its access road will close for the season on December 1. Check before you go on availability for this weekend’s Halloween-themed tours; they are spooktacular.
    The Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Road will close for the winter on Tuesday, Nov. 12, the day after the Veterans Day holiday weekend. After the road closes, hike, ride a bike, snowshoe, or ski — whatever the conditions demand — the 2.5 miles to Crescent Meadow and have John Muir’s “Gem of the Sierra” all to yourself.
    Two of Sequoia National Park’s foothills campgrounds — Potwisha (42 sites) and South Fork (10 sites, primitive) — are open year-round. Potwisha costs $18 nightly with no hookups; South Fork is currently fee-free for the off-season.
    Lodgepole has limited camping until it closes for the winter Sunday, Nov. 3. Buckeye Flat Campground in the foothills near Hospital Rock and Dorst Campground are both closed. Fall/ winter campers may use Azalea Campground near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, which is open year-round (110 sites or 20 sites when snow accumulates).
    Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon will remain open for a couple more weeks for day-use only. Caltrans will close the highway into Cedar Grove at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 12 (after the Veterans Day three-day weekend).
    All other campgrounds in Grant Grove and Cedar Grove are closed for the season. Several other camping opportunities are available between the parks in Giant Sequoia National Monument. Call the Hume Lake Ranger District for national forest and monument information (559) 338-2251.
    There will be no entrance fee required when visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks or neighboring U.S. Forest Service-managed lands during the Veterans Day holiday weekend (Saturday-Monday, Nov. 9-11). It is the last fee-free weekend of 2013.
    During this time of year, weather can change abruptly in the mountains. Visitors may be required to have snow chains in their possession when entering the park to ensure their safety in the event of a winter storm.

California bans lead in ammunition

   Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Friday, Oct. 11, banning the use of lead ammunition in hunting weapons in California. The legislation was hailed as a victory by environmentalists.
    The passage of AB711 makes California the first state to take formal action against the use of lead ammunition. The bill was offered by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and takes effect in 2019.
    While environmentalists were rewarded for their efforts on AB711, National Rifle Association members cheered Brown’s veto of a more controversial measure to ban certain semiautomatic rifles.
    The vetoed semiautomatic rifle bill, Senate Bill 374, was the broadest of more than a dozen gun control bills passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. SB374, authored by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) would have banned the sale of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines capable of rapid fire.
    The proposed bill also required anyone who has legally owned an assault weapon in the past 13 years to register it with the Department of Justice. The NRA stated its opposition publicly against all the legislation and had threatened a lawsuit over SB374, the bill it called the “worst of the lot.”
    Following Brown’s veto, Clint Monfort, a lawyer whose Long Beach firm, Michel & Associates, represents the NRA on the West Coast, expressed his pleasure that Brown had exercised his veto authority. Monfort was quoted in the Sacramento Bee as saying that Brown had respected the rights of gun owners by vetoing the anti-gun bills, but that the NRA was taking a closer look at the bills he did sign.
    Brown has been outspoken about his personal gun ownership in the past; his record on gun control has been mixed since he took office in 2011. He is the former mayor of Oakland and said that cities should enact their own strict regulations.
    In a message to the Legislature, Brown wrote he didn’t believe a bill like SB374, with what he called a “blanket ban” on semiautomatic rifles, would reduce crime or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on the rights of gun owners.
    Of the 18 gun control bills on the governor’s desk in 2013, Gov. Brown signed 11 and vetoed seven.
    Gun-owners groups said Thursday, Oct. 24, they are considering recall campaigns against five Democratic lawmakers in California, including Assembly Speaker John Perez, for supporting a variety of firearms bills this year.


By Sarah Elliott

   “Life Without” is a 12-month project that I embarked upon last month.
    Life Without Sitting was September’s goal. And it is going well. In fact, I don’t know what took me so long to get a stand-up desk. My years of sitting while working are now history.
    In the beginning, my legs got very tired after a few hours of standing while working. Now I can easily stand throughout the workday.
    I also choose to stand as often as possible at other times. At a recent two-hour meeting, I chose to stand and actually felt better than previously when I would have been squirming in my chair, trying to stay awake and find a comfortable position.
    Knowing that standing can also have adverse effects if done too much, I pay attention to reversing the blood flow in my legs. Being a runner, I do this often anyway, but if wanting to eliminate blood-pooling in the lower extremities, lie on your back and put your legs in the air at a 90-degree angle for a few minutes.
    A recent study that caught my eye said that standing at least three hours a day raises the heart rate by about 10 beats per minute, which translates to burning 50 calories more per hour versus sitting. One of the researchers said, “If you want to put that into activity levels, then that would be the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year.”
    That’s all I need to hear to keep me standing for a long time.
    Overall, the next 12 months will be my way of finding out what’s truly necessary. I will be testing the boundaries of my wants and needs.
    Everything I give up will be to my benefit and overall health and longevity or for the betterment of the planet.
    I’ll give up something for a month, then evaluate whether it is something I enjoyed giving up and whether it’s worth, or even possible, leaving out of my life forever.


   Cutting back on plastic is going to be a challenge. These days, nearly everything we consume or interact with is made of plastic.
    I have used reusable shopping bags for many years. I’m in the habit of taking them into grocery stores. In fact, if I happen not to have my own bags, I forgo grocery shopping until I have them.
    However, I often forget the reusable bags when shopping for household goods and other merchandise. That won’t be acceptable this month.
    We see the evidence of plastic trash around Three Rivers with shopping bags and single-use straws, cups, bottles, and utensils littering the roadsides and other heavily trafficked areas.
    Single-use plastic bags represent a huge threat to the environment. This threat is not only related to the sheer volume of them ending up in landfills, but also to the resources needed to produce, transport, and (occasionally) recycle them, and the emissions resulting from these processes.
    Some friends in Florida choose a different beach each weekend to clean up. The sheer volume of plastic that is washed ashore is mind-boggling.
    Much of it is from other countries. More often than not, it has bite marks from sea life that mistakes it for food (thousands of marine animals and more than one million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution).
    You see, just because we throw plastic away doesn’t mean that it goes away. It doesn’t.
It ends up in a landfill where it doesn’t biodegrade in any meaningful time frame, but continues to pile up, or blow away, or leach chemicals into the soil and groundwater.
    I am making a commitment to reduce my plastic consumption with a concentrated focus on single-use items. In addition to reusable grocery bags, I now use muslin bags for produce and bulk foods.
    I have packed away all my old plastic containers and now use glass storage containers, jars, and ceramic bowls to store bulk foods, leftovers, and various culinary concoctions.
    I keep a set of flatware in my car and stainless steel containers for impromptu meals away from home. And I never drink water from a single-use bottle. I have carried my own water bottle with me for most of my adult life.
    While single-use plastic is a threat to the environment, there are health hazards associated with plastic too. The latest scientific research has given us many good reasons to think carefully about how we use plastics.
    The main concern with several types of plastic is that they contain endocrine disruptors — substances that, when taken into our bodies, alter normal hormonal function. Think of the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, celiac disease, ADHD, and autism in society today.
    Over the past several years, scientists have been searching for answers to mysteries such as early-onset puberty, declining fertility rates, hyperactivity in kids, the obesity epidemic, and the devastating scourge of cancer. Although multiple factors play a role in all of these conditions, one recurrent theme is the mixture of endocrine disruptors infiltrating our lives.
    One of the most troubling endocrine disruptors is a common ingredient in plastic called bisphenol A (commonly called BPA). BPA is found in many drink containers, the lining of most food and beverage cans (including soda cans), bottle caps, plastic cutlery, plastic food storage containers, toys, dental sealants, some dental composites, water pipes, eyeglass lenses, and more.
    The problem is that BPA migrates from the plastic into neighboring substances such as food, water, and saliva. Centers for Disease Control studies have shown that 93 percent of the adult population has BPA present in their urine.
    In addition to the potential health risks, there are many more reasons to reduce the use of plastic food containers, dishes, bottles, bags, and cutlery. Plastics consume resources that are largely nonrenewable (crude oil and natural gas), their use contributes to needless waste, and their production and degradation create pollution.
    I haven’t mentioned Styrofoam in this Life Without pledge. That’s because I have lived without Styrofoam for years, long before I became annoyed by the inundation of plastic. I refuse to purchase any product that utilizes Styrofoam. And Styrofoam as a takeout food container is a deal-breaker.
    Avoiding single-use plastics (and Styrofoam) is not just personal responsibility, it’s an environmental mandate and should be as common in our global society as turning off the lights when leaving a room. There is no easy solution to the world’s plastic addiction, but I do have a new resolve and a new mantra: “No Plastic.”

City of Woodlake celebrates

opening of new transit center

(photo captions)

   Woodlake's new transit center is located on Lakeview Avenue just north of First Choice Foods.

   On Monday, Oct. 21, local dignitaries participated in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, including Leonard Whitney, who donated a portion of the land for the transit center.


3R youth offer their talents to Raven Festival

Raven Festival Writing Contest

   The writing contestants made it quite difficult to choose a single winner in each category. In grades 4-6, we were impressed by the charming writing voice in Leah M’s “The Girl and the Raven,” the unexpected plot twists of Caitlin Smalley’s “Pitch Black,” and the moving depictions of friendship and courage in Lizzie Garcia’s “The Adventures of Buttercup.”   Ultimately, we chose Danica Belman’s “The Warnings of Raven” for its depth of imagination and rich detail.
    In grades 7-8, we loved the transformation in the untitled piece by Christina Sherwood and the layered narrative and drama of “Boo’s Big Halloween Adventure” by Kimberly Martino. We were truly impressed with Katie Pfaff’s poem “An Amazing Bird,” which deserves a category of its own. First place, though, goes to the well-wrought mystery “The Raven at My Window” by Shelby Parker.
    The winners receive $50 each, and the honorable mentions will receive a gift certificate for an ice cream at Reimer’s. We hope these talented young writers keep writing!
Stacy Brand
Landon Spencer

First Place: Grades 7-8

The Raven at My Window

By Shelby Parker
Eighth Grade

   Every morning when I wake up there’s a Raven at my window. My bed lies in front of the window he comes to. It’s moderately large; I can see all nature from it. I try to ignore the fact that he’s there, but it’s too hard to overcome his stare. I’ve tried to shoo him and poison him, but it doesn’t seem to work. I despise seeing him every morning. Once I get out of my bed, he leaves.
    So I went to a woman who knows all about Ravens, hoping she’d get rid of the Raven at my window. I told her it had been happening every day for the last several years. “If this has been happening I will come and see for myself. I’ll spend the night,” she told me at the end.
    She came over before I was to go to sleep. She had brought a sleeping bag and a pillow ready to see the Raven at my window. “Welcome, welcome, put your bed here,” I said after I showed her to my bedroom. We went to sleep about nine, expecting to see the Raven at my window. She woke me up. I didn’t know what time it was, and I looked at the window. My   Raven was not there. “Nice little joke I see,” she snapped. I just gasped and said, “But this has never happened. Every morning! Every morning the Raven has been at the window when I wake up!” The woman just left disappointed. I was disappointed too.
    The long day of thinking why that happened went by, and I went to sleep again. When I woke up I checked for my Raven, not really expecting him to be there. But he was! I got up quickly and went outside. The Raven was gone, out of my sight. “Why did he leave me?” I said to myself. So I went back inside and had some breakfast. As I chewed the crunchiness of my cereal, I couldn’t figure out why the Raven was doing this . . . maybe to make me crazy and upset, maybe the Raven wasn’t even there and I was just imagining him?!
    At the end of the day, I came to the conclusion of setting a video camera in front of my window to make sure I wasn’t crazy and that I wasn’t imagining the Raven. I went to sleep anxious and worried. When I woke up I looked at my window and the Raven was there. I got up, got my camera and ended the video. When I looked up again he was gone. I watched the video and skipped through the entire night recording. It went to a few seconds before I woke up. I watched the video of me awakening. When I looked at my window in the video, there was no Raven. “Am I imagining all this? Has there really not been a Raven for the last three years at my window?” I went outside and sat in my chair, disappointed and sad. I almost broke into tears, but then my Raven flew to my feet, pecked me, and croaked . . . and then he disappeared.

First Place: Grades 4-6

The Warnings of Raven

By Danica Belman
Fifth Grade

   One dark October night, I heard the calls of the raven. Raven was calling out, “Kaweah, Kaweah!” when crow answered, “Danger Inside!”
    I noticed the river flat, its beaches rocky, full of bark. Something wasn’t right here. As I looked upon a tree, I saw ten ravens and seven crows perched. “Ravens don’t flock together,” I thought out loud.
    Days passed. Each morning I could hear them. Several days ago, I noticed everything fine. Today, I felt like the dead were rising.
    To my surprise, I heard a voice. “Come, my angel,” the voice said. “It is time.”
    I crept closer. I didn’t think of it, but he may have thought I was his daughter. I tried to act along the best I could. This dominant male in black, covered with feathers on a raven cape, turned into a raven himself and flew away. His wicked caws died out. As for me, I mainly wondered what that even was.
    Once again ravens and crows gathered to caw. Each time a different answer came, from “Danger Inside” to “Five days left.” This warning shocked me.
    “What are they talking about?” asked my cousins.
    “Nobody will know until a few days pass unless we sample these birds’ saliva!” I screamed, excited.
    “That’s dumb,” my oldest cousin scolded. “That would be nothing. I bet you that those birds just say random words.”
    “Maybe this is like that movie Spiderwick. We could make a salt barrier or a circle of mushrooms!” My smallest cousin said, “This morning the birds cried out, “Tick tock, caw, four days on the clock!”
    The last few days we spent making barriers and circles of salt and mushrooms. Finally, the day the ravens warned about came. In my house I felt safe until an arm slammed against the window! Luckily, I found it was a boomerang, not an arm. I checked out the door. Guess who it was? Outside stood a dark, raven-like figure.
    I called my cousins and told them what I just saw. They told me that millions of black birds were swarming the circle of fungi. Part by part, they told me, the birds picked their way into the barrier. What was this leading to? My question was answered in less than three seconds for the sky, pitch black, turned gray and it seemed that there were ravens as spies. The ground mumbled, trees shook, and finally, something broke out of the ground! Seemingly strong, a dead soul ripped a tree! Suddenly, the zombie started to play football.
    Again, the ground rumbled, or maybe it was my bed for it was all just a dream. I woke happily smiling, telling my family about my wonderful, odd dream.

Honorable Mention

An Amazing Bird

By Katie Pfaff
Eighth Grade

There is a wonderful bird
Who is bold and not all craven
He has a large beak and dark black feathers
And we call him a raven

The raven is a scary thing
For superstitious men
‘Cause its group is called an inconvenience
And its as black as the ink from a pen

Ravens have a curious caw
That sounds like someone is choking
Or maybe like an evil, sinister laugh
It is deep and powerful croaking

All day the raven flies around
Showing off his purpley wings
Scavenging for road kill
And other decaying, dead things

Ravens are very interesting birds,
They can live to age 40 in the wild
All the time flapping and scouring the earth
Their lives sure aren’t very mild!

Ravens live all over the place
Like in stick nests on coniferous trees
Or on cliffs overlooking the ocean
Or in the desert in rock cavities

Ravens eat fruit, seeds, and nuts
But also small animals and fish
They might even eat garbage and waste
That doesn’t sound like an appetizing dish!

Ravens and their cousins, crows
Are among the smartest birds
They even have their own language
With hundreds of distinctive words!

Ravens can also do other cool things
Like unknot a difficult tie
And zip zippers and unfasten Velcro
They are the geniuses of the sky

They are also the largest perching bird
With a wingspan of up to four feet
They’re extremely adaptable
With an endurance that can’t be beat

They are very special
Their magnificence is beyond words
And I truly believe
That ravens are amazing birds

Raven Festival Art Contest

Under the talented tutelage of Kacey Fansett of Three Rivers, local youth have been creating all things raven during October. According to Kacey, about 200 pieces of art have been created. Now that’s something to be ravin’ about!
Depending on the grade level, Three Rivers Union School students used several media to depict the large black birds that are so prevalent in Three Rivers.
“There were 155 entries from the Raven Art Sessions [at TRUS], plus about 10 entries from home, plus the additional 16 ‘cut paper’ from the kindergartners,” said Kacey. “If we count the Raven Art that Jami Beck’s class did for the Three Rivers Library, that’s 19 more entries for a neat round number of 200. Wow!”
Kacey, along with artist Nadi Spencer, judged the art. The two winners each received $50.
The student art was on display earlier in the month at Cort Gallery. On Saturday, Oct. 26, it will be displayed at the Halloween Carnival at Three Rivers School.

Art Contest student winners

First Place: Grades 5-8 - Katie Pfaff

First Place: Grades K-4 - Zach Schumacher


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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