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Mineral King designated historic

planning begins for historical preservation of the area.   MORE

EnlargeHigh road: This isolated stretch of the Mineral King Road is part of a 14.5-mile segment of roadway that is the focal point of the newly-designated Mineral King Historic District.
High road: This isolated stretch of the Mineral King Road is part of a 14.5-mile segment of roadway that is the focal point of the newly-designated Mineral King Historic District.
  In the News - Friday, November 7 , 2003
click to enlarge photos

Mineral King designated historic

After transferring Mineral King from Sequoia National Forest to Sequoia National Park in 1978, park managers informed the public that all structures should be eventually removed from the scenic area. Now, 25 years later, they must begin planning for the historical preservation of the area.


Peak experience: Sawtooth Peak, at 12,343 feet above sea level, towers above the newly designated Mineral King Historic District.
EnlargePeak experience: Sawtooth Peak, at 12,343 feet above sea level, towers above the newly designated Mineral King Historic District.

On Friday, Oct. 24, in what is an anticlimactic event in the history of one of the great environmental battlegrounds of the 19th century, Mineral King was officially entered in this country’s "National Register of Historic Places." The new district is the 22nd historic property to be listed on the National Register within the boundaries of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and the first new listing since 1979.

Rather than being the end of a process that actually began in 1986 when a small group of Mineral King cabin owners started to research the history of that remarkable place, the historical designation is actually the beginning of a unique management challenge.

The challenge is how to plan for the preservation of an area that includes both public and privately-owned property and contains 58 buildings, sites, and structures that are now afforded protection because of the historical listing.

Yet to be determined is how the National Park Service will deal with the 1978 legislative mandate that asked for eventual removal of the privately-owned cabins when the permittees of record had passed away or relinquished their privilege to renew the annual permits. But the new historical designation will make it difficult to remove any of the historic structures unless the NPS proves they have no other viable alternatives but to do so.

"It’s a great victory for all of us who worked together in the 1970s so effectively to keep the Disney company from building a ski resort up there," said Jim Barton, a Three Rivers resident whose family built the first cabin at Mineral King in 1873.

The district, now called a "cultural landscape"by park planners, stretches from Lookout Point to the Disney Corporation’s parking lot at road’s end in the Mineral King Valley, a distance of 14.5 miles. The historic district contains buildings, structures, and sites, including ranger residences, the remains of the only redwood sawmill in a national park, and more than 50 recreational cabins located in Cabin Cove and Mineral King.

It does not, however, include the Silver City tract of privately-owned cabins, store, and restaurant located on former timber claims that are entirely surrounded by national park lands.

Before the Mineral King properties were officially listed, some last-minute negotiations were undertaken with the Department of the Interior so as not to confuse the public as to the implications of the historic properties.

"We [the staff historians at the State Office of Historic Preservation in Sacramento] felt the name on the nomination papers, ‘The Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District,’ was just too confusing as to the resources and their significance," said Marilyn Lortie, SHPO chief historian." We asked, and the Department of the Interior concurred, that the name simply be ‘Mineral King.’"

Due to the foresight and efforts of the Mineral King Preservation Society and several resolute consultants, Sequoia National Park has a newly-designated, unique cultural resource that is destined to become a Three Rivers attraction for the enjoyment and education of visitors for generations to come.




Three elected to CSD board

In an unusual November election, consisting of just one race for Three Rivers voters to decide, 26 percent of those who live within the boundaries of the Three Rivers Community Services District (CSD) elected three of the candidates who had campaigned that they could accomplish more by working together.

Newcomer Dennis Mills received the most votes (265), while appointed incumbent Tom Sparks (224) and elected incumbent Vince Andrus (200) were also elected to four-year terms. Rod Simonian, a longtime resident who tried to make a distinction between his candidacy and special interests, received 158 votes.

"I’m happy with the results and the fact that the three who were elected will guarantee that we have a positive board," said Vince Andrus." Our priorities will be to work on the rest stop project and help Improvement District One [Alta Acres] secure financing to upgrade their water system."

The Alta Acres district has more than 70 users and must comply with new water rules to update aging community facilities. The Alta Acres district was the predecessor to the Three Rivers CSD that was formed in 1972.




COMMENTARY: License to kill
The burning of the Washington Tree

The [Washington] tree seems very alive and humanlike,
as if it has feelings and knowledge of its mortality…   
 —Sarah Elliott, Hiking the Parks, 2001
Grave situation: A branch that was the size of a mature fir tree fell from the Washington Tree after it caught fire during a prescribed burn in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park.
EnlargeGrave situation: A branch that was the size of a mature fir tree fell from the Washington Tree after it caught fire during a prescribed burn in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park.

When playing with fire, someone’s going to get burned. And burned we are, as a community, a nation, and a civilization.

With the recent destruction of the Washington Tree in and by Sequoia National Park ["Washington Tree burned," Oct. 31], deceptions, policy flaws, and disturbing information have been brought to the forefront regarding Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park’s fire-management program. These are glaring weaknesses that call for a complete reexamination of controlled fire and its use in the parks before one more torch is lit or lightning bolt strikes.

Fire is the new science. It’s not fueled by just downed branches and pinecones any longer but, even more so, by big budgets... the bottom line... MONEY! All this fire — which comes with an entire glossary of terms that are being invented with each newly sparked blaze — is based on the hypothesis that it improves forest health and, in sequoia groves, stimulates germination of seeds.

The research, however, is proving to be subjective and severely flawed as is always the case when money is involved, whether in funding a program or cutting a paycheck. And, thus far, the Big Trees and Three Rivers residents are the experiments.

Sadly, no conclusions will be reached about the benefits or risks of fire on these two important resources for another generation or more. But, most certainly, giant sequoias that are burned to death cannot produce the seeds needed to germinate in a fire and smoke damage to lungs and immune systems is difficult to document, especially because such research is not a line item in the local fire budget.

Fire is a natural process as is the wind, the rain, and the sunshine. But when manipulated by humans, it is no longer natural and neither is the landscape on which it burns.

What was once a statuesque symbol of eternal life is now a charred, burned-out trunk. With some green branches still intact about 200 feet up, there is a chance the Washington Tree, the second largest tree in the world, will survive, but it is severely maimed.

But this is about more than preserving the physical attractiveness of a forest or protecting a "named"tree. These trees are the very reason there is a Sequoia National Park, which was created in 1890 to protect giant sequoias. The Big Trees are held in public trust, and the National Park Service is charged with preserving them, using our tax dollars to do so.

These trees were threatened by special interest groups 113 years ago and they are again now. Except this time the threat is coming from within and we must demand accountability, as well as capability, competency, and integrity.

It is irreprehensible that the very people we, as a nation, entrust to take care of these national treasures have erred. They have acted irresponsibly and with negligence under the guise of science — a science they have convinced themselves is correct, but remember, fire is still an experimental theory, just as suppression was 50 years ago.

It’s job security to ensure that the prescribed-fire program is supported. Great lengths are taken by Sequoia-Kings Canyon to pass this one-sided message along to visitors and the local community.

In the nine years of owning this newspaper, I have been a skeptic of fire, but not because I don’t believe fire can benefit the forest. It can and it does.

As has now been proven, I don’t believe that, as mere mortals, the Park Service can successfully manipulate such a powerful tool, nor can they turn unnatural into natural, revert a landscape back to "pre-European settlement," or play God in any other way.

To this end, I have done some observational analysis of my own over the years that has further validated my skepticism.

For years, along the Crescent Meadow Road in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, I admired a pair of mature, unnamed Big Trees. I would enjoy them as I drove, ran, or rode my bike past in the summer and would ski right up to them in the winter. Then, along came the Huckleberry Fire, intentionally ignited by the Park Service.

The following winter, I noticed the trees had been seriously burned by the fire. They were reduced from glorious, cinnamon-colored, healthy trees to hollowed, blackened toothpicks.

By the next winter, they had both fallen. Dead. Gone.

In an attempt to give the Park Service every chance at proving that fire is a good thing, I began observing a giant sequoia about a quarter-mile off the Mineral King Road after the Paradise Fire, another burn intentionally lit by the Park Service. Sure enough, within a couple of years, hundreds of tiny sequoia seedlings were pushing through the blackened soil.

I watched these seedlings grow, checking on them each spring, summer, and fall. Here was a case of a mature sequoia surviving a fire and the regeneration of new ones. But, alas, the Park Service has since reburned this area, and the seedlings are gone and the parent tree is burnt.

There is no one on Earth who can re-create nature. When a human-managed fire harms trees that were here before Jesus walked the Earth, then severe reprimand and sanctions are in order. A complete review of fire policy is necessary to ensure the protection of old-growth sequoias.

No one had the right to allow the Washington Tree to catch fire, intentionally or not, especially when at the very core of the job is an oath to protect these ancient trees.




Washington Tree damage not
immediately disclosed to the public

The news about the damage to the Washington Tree trickled into the office of The Kaweah Commonwealth first on Wednesday, Oct. 22, by way of a Three Rivers resident who heard it from someone who heard it from someone. On Thursday, Oct. 23, at 10 a.m., in a telephone conversation with Jody Lyle, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks fire information officer, to obtain a routine fire update, an inquiry was made as to if any Big Trees had been burned in the Giant Fire.

She confirmed that the Washington Tree had sustained fire damage, as had some others, and we were referred to a park press release dated Sept. 20. As we rechecked our files, we found that we had received this press release by fax and email on Sept. 22. It was similar to the previous half-dozen we had received in the past month, listing updates methodically by fire name.

The headline of the release in question announced "Park Officials Assign Management of Kaweah-Kern Complex to Fire Use Management Team." We reported on this transition in TKC’s September 26 issue, but overlooked the mention of the burning of the Washington Tree. It was in the third to the last paragraph of the two-page release.

Other media sources to whom these regular releases are sent missed this vital piece of news as well. The burning of this landmark had been overlooked and the public was yet to be informed.

But, within hours of our phone inquiry with Lyle, a press release was distributed announcing the damage to the Washington Tree. This was 40 days after the tree caught fire on Sept. 12 or 13.

When asked why it took so long to inform the public about this event, Lyle wrote," In reference to the timing of news releases, we prepare and distribute releases as information becomes available and it is confirmed."




Local B&B owners publish ‘Plantation Brunch’ cookbook

In the past eight years as owner and chef at Plantation Bed and Breakfast in Lemon Cove, Marie Munger, along with her husband, Scott, has served more than 20,000 breakfasts to guests from 89 countries. Creativity and diversity in the kitchen are keys to Marie’s success, and she is now sharing her acclaimed recipes with her guests and the general public.

This Sunday, Nov. 9, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the public is invited to experience a special brunch at the Gateway Restaurant in Three Rivers. There will be scrumptious samples prepared by Chef Marie, who is celebrating the release of her first book, Plantation Brunch.

All who attend will want to have Chef Marie autograph a copy or two of her new book and then swap culinary experiences with one of the best-known Kaweah Country chefs. Marie Munger’s wealth of recipes, developed in the kitchen at Plantation Bed and Breakfast, are now available in a hard-cover 128-page cookbook with color photographs by husband Scott.

The book, which is on sale for $30, reflects the casual elegance of the Mungers’ bed-and-breakfast. It is a practical how-to publication that will have even the novice cook making scones, torts, breads, muffins, and cakes in short order and, with a little more effort, creative entrees like Eggy Plant Parmesan, Zucchini Frittata, and Sleeping Asparagus, the very dishes that transform breakfast into brunch.

Even more amazing than the 73 recipes contained in the book is the story of these two unique personalities and how they came to own Tulare County’s finest and most successful bed-and-breakfast.

Marie is a former registered nurse who turned her patient list in for a guest list and likes to play with food, paint, and in the dirt.

Scott was an air traffic controller, who now directs traffic at the inn as business manager, marketing guru, and all-around handyman.

The Mungers left Connecticut and followed their dream to Lemon Cove, finding they really can come true.

For those wishing to taste a piece of the Plantation pie by purchasing Plantation Brunch, attend the book-signing Sunday or call the Mungers at 597-2555.




Schools work toward API target scores

Kaweah Country schools are working steadily toward a score of 800 or above, the state’s target on the Academic Performance Index. Of all the local schools, Three Rivers School is the closest to achieving this goal but, ironically, was the only one that did not achieve their growth target, which is also assigned by the state Department of Education.

Released Friday, Oct. 31, API scores are based on results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting program, or STAR tests. Second through 11th-graders took the test in spring.

Resulting API scores range from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000, with 800 being the state’s target goal.

Schools are not in danger of sanctions as long as they are improving. Under present policy, low-performing schools that do not improve API scores for two years in a row could be taken over by the state, made over into charter schools, or shut down.

Schools must show a five percent increase in the difference between their last score and the 800-point target.

Three Rivers School, one of the top-ranked schools in the county, did not meet their assigned growth target. Just six points shy of reaching the 800 benchmark, the school’s 2002 API was 794.

With a growth target of just 1 point required, TRUS wasn’t able to increase their score, but didn’t lose points. The school’s 2003 API was also 794.

At Woodlake High School, the motto for the past couple of years is "655 by ‘05." WHS took one giant step toward the goal it has set for itself by increasing their score by 48 points, from 520 to 568.

Sequoia Union Elementary School in Lemon Cove and most Visalia schools won’t have data available until December. This delay is based on demographic information that is being changed or revised.

Exeter High School increased their score by 24 points to 641.

Next on the state schools’ accountability calendar is the API ranking. The state’s schools are ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 being the best – according to students’ API scores.

The state Department of Education goes through those scores and ranks each school so parents can have a report card on their children’s schools. The purpose of the API ranking is to easily measure the academic performance and progress of schools.

Three Rivers School was one of four Tulare County schools that scored an 8 in the state ranking in 2002. No Tulare County school scored above this, although several schools statewide did.

The state Department of Education also creates a "similar schools"rank by comparing each school's recent API to the APIs for 100 schools in the state with a similar demographic profile.




Emperors dash Tiger title hopes

After Friday’s loss versus the Dinuba Emperors (4-0, 8-1), The Tiger coaches were the first to admit that their Woodlake Tigers (2-2, 5-4) should have won. If Woodlake could have held its 20-16 fourth-quarter lead, a share of the East Sequoia League title would have been within reach of the upstart Tigers.

But a nifty 24-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Duran Orosco to Brandon Chamberlain gave the Emperors a two-point lead they never relinquished. When time expired the Emperors were on top, 22-20.

"They [Dinuba] really didn’t do anything we didn’t expect on offense or defense," said Steve Tindle, Tiger assistant coach, stationed in the announcer’s booth with headset high above the crowd." I thought our kids did an excellent job stopping their high-powered attack all evening."

On one series in the first half, the Tigers turned back the Emperors who started first and goal from the one-yard line. To add insult to injury, Tiger nose guard Abraham Rodriguez chopped down Dinuba’s 390-pound bruiser back on two consecutive scoring attempts inside the five-yard line.

As has been the trend this season, the Tiger defense played well enough to win, but the offense mostly stopped itself. To the credit of senior quarterback Manuel Reynoso, it was by far his personal best game.

Reynoso scored twice on three-yard dives into the corner of the end zone. He also had a string of nine consecutive completions that led to the go-ahead touchdown.

Reynoso finished the night with 14 of 29 passes completed for 181 yards. Stephen Porras led the Tiger defenders with seven tackles.

"If it weren’t for a 90-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown at Orosi, and a kickoff return for a TD by Dinuba, we would be undefeated in league play," said Craig Baker, Tiger assistant coach." We still feel we have a strong chance to make the playoffs but we need to win this Friday [tonight] versus Exeter."

The Tiger JVs concluded a winning season with a thrilling 19-18 come-from-behind win over Dinuba. Ryan Baker, frosh QB hit Jose Marquez, wide receiver with a five-yard scoring pass as time expired.

In youth football, the Woodlake Bengals crushed the Lindsay Rams 51-0 in the regular season finale. The Bengals, who are the Sequoia League North Division champs, host Reedley on Saturday, Nov. 8, in a first-round playoff game.

After a loss to Lindsay, the lightweight Woodlake Tiger Cubs finished with a 2-8 record. Coach Jack Persall played all his players in each of the games and now has the next wave of wannabe-Bengals loving the game and ready to challenge for another league title.




WHS hires new coaches

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, the Woodlake High School athletic department announced the hiring of four new coaches for winter and spring sports programs. Frank Ainley, WHS athletic director, also said that Linda Diaz, who formerly coached boys’ junior varsity wrestling, will be retained.

The new varsity wrestling coach will be James Smith, former coach at Divisadero Middle School in Visalia. Smith, a Mt. Whitney High School graduate who wrestled at Lassen College, replaces Richard Diaz who resigned.

Steve Katz, a WHS counselor and Three Rivers resident, was hired as the coach of the newly created freshman Lady Tigers basketball team. More than 30 girls signed up to play basketball, the most ever in the history of the program, making a third team necessary.

In Spring 2004, Salvador "Sal"Rodriguez will take over the head coaching position in varsity baseball. Rodriguez is a ’91 Woodlake grad and played both football and baseball.

"My early morning job with Coca-Cola in Fresno is ideal for coaching," Rodriguez said." I see coaching as an opportunity to get youth baseball going again in Woodlake from the very youngest players through the high school level."

Chuck Mosley, with Visalia youth league baseball experience, will guide the Tiger junior varsity baseball team. Mosley is also a Mt. Whitney grad and currently works for the California Highway Patrol in Porterville.




THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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