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In the News - Friday, November 18, 2011



Generals Highway to close this winter

  National Park Service officials announced Wednesday, Nov. 16, several new closures that will remain in effect until spring. These closures are weather-dependent so call ahead at the Ash Mountain Visitor Center for the latest roads and facilities information.
   New this winter is an extended closure from January 2 to April 1 of the Generals Highway between Wuksachi Lodge to Montecito-Sequoia Lodge. An earlier closure of this section of roadway could occur in the event of snow accumulation.
   This section of road was always subject to closure in winter during and after snowstorms, but never remained closed for the entire season. After a storm and when other park roads were cleared, plowing would begin on the between-the-parks segment. Depending on snow depth, closures could have been brief or lengthy.
   The NPS cites budget constraints and concerns for operator safety as reasons for the closure. Every day that the road between the parks is closed translates to less winter-time traffic for tourist-related businesses in Three Rivers.
   Also new this year is that both parking areas that provide access to the Giant Forest Museum in summer will be closed and not plowed. With the museum closed for the winter last year, these parking areas were only used by visitors who wanted to play in the snow near Beetle Rock or snowshoers and cross-country skiers who accessed the Crescent Meadow Road.
   Those visitors are being directed to Round Meadow where there will be a plowed parking area and restrooms.
   Another new closure is that the Lodgepole Campground will no longer offer winter camping and it will be closed from November 28 through April. Snow-free campsites are available at Potwisha in Sequoia National Park, and snow-camping will be available at Azalea Campground, in Kings Canyon National Park, accessible via Highway 180.
   As in the past, the Sherman Tree upper parking area will be closed after snow accumulates. Visitors may park in the handicapped-accessible lot adjacent to the Generals Highway for the winter.
   Other traditional closures on the roads to Mineral King, Crystal Cave, and Cedar Grove remain in effect. The unpaved Redwood Mountain Road and the steep Panoramic Point Road in the Kings Canyon National Park area will not be plowed and, with sufficient snow, afford cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities.

AT&T announces major upgrades

  Officials at AT&T in Lindsay announced Wednesday that the company had completed some major upgrades to the Three Rivers network. The upgrade will provide AT&T users in the local network with faster speeds, increased reliability, and what they call their “best-in-class” wireless service.
   The additional capacity and expanded coverage in Three Rivers was one of 48 cell sites upgraded in Tulare County. Some local users have already reported three bars of reception where there were previously one or two or none; and even an occasional four bars of reception that until now was unheard of Three Rivers.
  “Adding more capacity to a cell site is like adding more lanes to a freeway so that voice and data traffic flow faster,” said Terry Stenzel, AT&T vice president and general manager.   “Whether customers are talking, texting, emailing, surfing the net, streaming music or video, using their favorite apps, or conducting business, we want to make sure they have a good mobile broadband experience.”
   That so-called “good mobile broadband” was more like hit-or-miss until recently with dropped calls and unresponsive data requests being the rule rather than the exception. These recent upgrades have lots of implications for smartphone and tablet users.
   A major improvement to local cell sites, an AT&T spokesperson said, is the ability of these sites to make faster connections with the central switching stations. The AT&T broadband network provides several important advantages to customers, including the ability to talk and surf the net at the same time.
   The new service is fueling a multitasking explosion that has given a person talking on the phone the ability to look up an encyclopedia of information, check a social network site or bank account, look up directions, see if a flight is on time, or run a background check on the person who is on the other end of the conversation.
   Currently, AT&T data plans are capped at 2GB of data use for a $25 monthly fee. If a user isn’t concerned with how much data is uploaded or downloaded, these fees can be staggering.
   If, on the other hand, a user can search out one or more of the 29,000 AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.S. or use a home or office wireless network, these data transactions are free of additional charges. In Three Rivers, Wi-Fi is currently available at locales like Antoinette’s Coffee and Goodies, Three Rivers Historical Museum, and We Three Bakery and Restaurant. Other free unrestricted wireless hotspots are being added continuously as a way to draw customers.
   High-tech analysts are predicting that within two years the entire planet could be one giant wireless network if the service providers can agree on one key provision: how to collect and divide the revenue stream. The key to that dilemma lies in ownership and distribution of content.
   In other words, who owns the apps, the movies, the music, the podcasts, the e-books or whatever commercially viable commodity can be digitized. This revolution will not be televised; it will be streamed via an app you purchased for your mobile device.

Hiker rescued in Sequoia

  An overdue hiker was rescued Wednesday, Nov. 16, from his campsite near the High Sierra Trail in the Kaweah Gap area of Sequoia National Park. The male hiker, 54, from Porterville, had intended to take a five-day, round-trip hike from the Wolverton parking area to Big Arroyo and Black Kaweah.
   The man’s orange tent was spotted along his intended route from the air by a search-and-rescue helicopter. He told rescuers that his backcountry travel had been hampered by snow on the trails and the potential of snow slides from the unstable slopes.
   After being examined at the scene, the man appeared to be in good physical condition. He was airlifted to Ash Mountain.

Prescription for health:

The benefits of national parks

  Amid the twin crises of health care and a tough economy, national parks and protected lands are a largely unrealized source of public health benefits. National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis says, “Being outdoors has positive effects on health that don’t cost a dime.”
   Jarvis shared these thoughts in a keynote speech last month in Washington before thousands of public health leaders at the 139th meeting of the American Public Health Association.
National parks have always been loved for their symbolism and scenery, Jarvis said, “but they can also act as medicine and therapy.”
   Simply taking an hour-long walk in a natural environment can bring about a drop in blood pressure and heart rate because of the immediate relaxation you experience.
   And because health care costs are center stage in the debate about the nation’s economy and its future, “When you consider the power of the outdoors and its universal – and free – availability, there’s no health care investment that yields a better return,” Jarvis said.
   National parks and all public lands and open space have enormous potential for our good health but we need to move beyond potential, Jarvis said. “The National Park Service is engaged in a wide-ranging effort to bring the outdoors into the public discussion about public health and to expand alternatives for Americans seeking a more active lifestyle, making choices about nutrition or reawakening their relationship with nature.”
   National Park Service actions include:
  —A pilot program with concessioners in select parks to offer nutritious, locally grown food. It encourages healthy eating habits and sustains the local economy.
  —“Park Prescriptions” are partnerships with local health care providers who actually prescribe a park visit to get patients outside to exercise and get the benefits of sun and fresh air. Three national parks – Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, Indiana Dunes, and Golden Gate – are participating so far.
   Jarvis said local, regional, and state parks are also part of the greater outdoors health resource. The National Park Service, for 45 years, has helped communities develop local places where residents can get physical exercise through its Rivers and Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
  “In Little Rock, Ark., we partnered with the city and doctors to establish a trail known as the Medical Mile that offers not only a waterfront view but exhibits and media with a focus on health and exercise.”
   The connection of people and nature is at the center of the worldwide Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement. Last spring, the National Park Service hosted the Healthy Parks, Healthy People – a U.S. conference to discuss ways to address America’s human and environmental health challenges.
   The actions and partnerships Jarvis describes are part of a five-year plan – A Call to Action – to prepare the National Park Service for its second century of stewardship when the bureau turns 100 in 2016.
   Given the unprecedented challenges we face, the future demands not only a new way of looking at the natural world and our place in it, but an understanding of how our physical well-being is tied to that of the environment.
  “Parks are going to be a critical factor in this equation,” Jarvis said. “For the health of the human species and of the global ecosystem that supports us, we need to reach back to what our rural forbears instinctively knew: That we are part of the natural world, that it sustains us in ways that are profound and absolutely essential, that whether we’re aware of it or not, there is a part of us that is always outdoors.”
   Information about national parks may be obtained at www.nps.gov.

Let’s get fit, Kaweah Country!

Run/walk event dedicated to Laura Olson

  The Kaweah Country Run, in lieu of the untimely passing of Laura Olson, will dedicate the proceeds from this year’s event to the memorial fund that has been established at the Bank of the Sierra. Laura was a single mom who leaves behind a son, Jordan, who is currently attending USC, and daughter McKenzie, a ninth-grader at Woodlake High School.
  “We hope folks will come out and walk or run in Laura’s memory,” said John Elliott, the event organizer. “Laura was a devoted mom and a beloved member of the community, and her kids are going to need love and support.”
   The second annual Kaweah Country run/walk event is a great way to spend the Saturday morning (November 26) of the traditional four-day Thanksgiving weekend. The overall winner of the 10K run will be awarded a night’s stay in Sequoia National Park at Wuksachi Lodge with dinner for two.
   Also new this year is a raffle with lots of prizes from local businesses including gift certificates from Sierra Subs and Salads, Antoinette’s Coffee and Goodies, River View, Anne Lang’s Emporium, a night’s stay at the Rio Sierra, and more.
  “It’s conceivable you could win a prize worth more than the price of the entry fee,” said John. “And don’t forget the health benefits of a little exercise. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
   Each registrant gets a tech T-shirt that is ideal for any workout. The top three finishers in their age group of the walk and the run will be awarded distinctive leather medallions custom crafted by Sayler Saddlery.
   Even the weather is threatening to cooperate with one of those picturesque, clear, crisp Three Rivers mornings in the forecast. The recent intermittent rains have been just what the doctor ordered for the running and walking courses.
   The surface of both trails is packed, smooth dirt, ideal for the three or six miles of foot work, depending on which event the participant chooses. Thanks to the staff at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Lake Kaweah, the cockleburs are cleared and the trails have been manicured for those who like a fast, forgiving track.
  “There’s not a better surface or prettier place around for running or walking, so we’re hoping that everyone will come out and enjoy the recreational opportunities at Lake Kaweah before next season’s runoff,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general manager.
   The Lake Kaweah staff is also waiving the parking fees at Slick Rock on the morning of the event. Parking in the new lot adjacent to the boat ramp will be available for participants on a first-come, first-served basis.
   Sign-up sheets for the Kaweah Country Run are available at local Three Rivers businesses, the office of The Kaweah Commonwealth, Sole 2 Soul stores in Visalia and Fresno, or by following the link on the home page of this website. For more information or to pay by credit card, call 561-3627.
   If walking 3.1 miles or running 6.2 miles is not something you want to do, then volunteer for three hours or so and receive a T-shirt for your efforts while enjoying all the festivities of a fitness-oriented, community-fundraising event. To get involved, call John, 260-2909.

Training Tip No. 4


  Run your own race. Don’t take it personal when that 75-year-old guy bolts past you. And it’s not a big deal if an eight-year-old sprints by at the finish line. It’s all about being out there, working toward optimal fitness, the camaraderie with friends and other runners/walkers, raising dollars for a worthy cause, and feeling good about you and your effort.
   When you line up on the starting line, take a look around. Runners, walkers, and other outdoor enthusiasts come in all shapes and sizes... and speeds. You can’t judge a person’s running ability by his or her body type.
   You’ll be faster than some and slower than others… but your speed doesn’t make you any more or less of a runner than anyone else that laces up their sneakers and pushes forward.   No matter if you are wearing a pair of old sweats or the latest high-tech, color-coordinated running gear… you are a runner. You can be a beanpole, muscular, or overweight, but if you are out there on the day of the Kaweah Country Run, then you are a runner.
   Here’s a saying that helps keep things in perspective: You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think about you if you realized how little they do.
   Remember, there is only one way to beat your time at next year’s Kaweah Country Run. Be out there doing your personal best at this year’s event!

Harvest Festival is a gift to the community

By Robin Castro

  In life, some of the best things are free: the breathtaking colors you see as you drive through Three Rivers, the friendships built as we raise our kids in a small town, the unconditional love of God and, as hundreds of locals will attest, the annual Harvest Festival held each fall at First Baptist Church.
   This past Saturday evening, a record number of fun-seeking folks attended what has become a tradition in Three Rivers. A couple of weeks after the school carnival and just after the time changes, the members of the church pool together their time, energy, ideas, and resources to put on an evening of entertainment for the community.
   There are activities for young and old alike. For example, one minute you’ll see a shrieking three-year-old flying down the zipline and then you see Christy Wood screaming overhead!
   In the Bingo Parlor, you’ve got Braize Bleile going head-to-head with his grandparents.   Moms and daughters, like Diane and Lizzie Garcia, are attempting to conquer the 16-foot climbing wall – with each other’s encouragement. There is no age limit to the fun to be had.
   The Harvest Festival has been held for close to 20 years. Originally the brainchild of Diana Jules, it started out taking place on Halloween night.
   Several years ago, the event was switched to a different night because of low attendance, and since then it has grown more and more popular each year.
Families are struggling in today’s economy, and they are grateful to have an event to take their kids to that is totally free.
   Guests can participate in every activity as many times as they want, eat all the homemade soup and hotdogs they can, and even win a prize just for showing up! There is also homemade caramel corn, hot drinks, and lots of candy.
   This year’s activities included paintball, the Lollipop Tree, the BakeWalk, Balloon Blow-out, Bingo, Craft Corner, Climbing Wall, Zipline, Fishing Booth, Face-Painting, Bouncehouse, Pick-a-Prize, RC Car Race, Boat Blast, and Basketball Toss.
   Before each game, the participant either reads, repeats, or recites the Bible verse that goes with that game. By the end of the night, many kids have memorized 10 or more verses.
Here’s what a couple of families have to say about the Harvest Festival:
  “We had a great time! Everything looked so festive and such a variety of activities. I really liked the use of scripture before each activity. They were well thought out and a great outreach. Ty discovered he likes paintball and loved the zipline the best! We look forward to  next year.” —Ray and Susan Beltran
  “I really appreciate that the folks at the Baptist church present an incredible Harvest Festival for our community. My daughter, Anna, has talked about and looked forward to riding the zipline since last year. Both of our children also had a great time this year with other Three Rivers kids in the Bouncehouse. It was great to talk with Pastor Alex, the many Baptist church members that invested an incredible amount of time and energy, and also to other parents in a safe community setting for our kids. The Festival also facilitates dialogue and thinking about God and religion, which is always a good thing.” —Dennis Villavicencio
   We quickly went through 200 hotdogs, 30 gallons of caramel corn, 2,000 rounds of paintball, dozens of cakes, 10 large bags of candy, and a half-dozen big pots of soup. We pretty much ran out of everything, which is a great problem to have.
   We anticipated a big crowd, but were overwhelmingly pleased with such a large turnout. We definitely have to work even harder next year, which is no problem for this church congregation.  
   Preparing for events like this is just as much fun as the event itself. Whether creating, building, baking, or setting up, this church family strengthens its friendships through spending time together, both during church and outside of church.
   Thank you to everyone who came, and if you missed it this year, plan to join us next fall.
First Baptist Church’s next event is this Sunday (November 20) following the service at 10:45 a.m. All in attendance are invited to stay for a full-course Thanksgiving feast.
   Robin Castro is an organizer of the annual Harvest Festival.

California ski resorts may now provide year-round recreation

  The ski slopes at Mammoth opened Thursday, Nov. 10. Closer to home, China Peak’s opening day will be Saturday, Nov. 19.
   China Peak’s opening will be limited to chairs 4 and 6, as well as access to the beginner hill. The Day Lodge will be open as well as the rental shop, Snowsports School, and the sports shop. To receive current updates and a snow report, go online to www.skichinapeak.com.
Statewide, California is expected to see a boost in its local mountain economies as a result of new legislation that now permits year-long recreation opportunities on U.S. Forest Service ski areas.
   The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011, which was signed by President Barack Obama on November 7, is estimated to create and annually sustain up to 600 extra jobs nationwide.
  “This is great news for promoting job growth and economic stimulus in California,” said Randy Moore of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Local restaurants, hotels, and shop owners are likely to see an increase in business as visitors flock to scenic Forest Service locations for year-round activities.”
   In California, there are 25 ski areas in 11 national forests. Mammoth is within the Inyo National Forest boundaries. China Peak is in the Sierra National Forest.
   The only ski resort in Sequoia National Forest is Alta Sierra, a small facility located in Kern County above Lake Isabella on Shirley Peak about an hour from Bakersfield. There are two two-person lifts and a beginners’ handle tow here.
   The new legislation amends the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986, which allowed only alpine and Nordic skiing. Under the new legislation, other snow sports may be permitted on the National Forest System lands, as well as year-round activities. Potential permitted activities include zip lines, mountain bike terrain parks and trails, Frisbee golf courses, and ropes courses.
   Nationwide, it is estimated that about 600,000 more summertime visits may create and sustain annually hundreds of full-time, part-time, and season jobs. This addition of summer recreation is expected to infuse almost $40 million of direct funding into mountain communities near ski areas (such as Shaver Lake near China Peak).
   Currently, the Forest Service averages 27 million visits annually to ski areas, which has in turn contributed $4 billion every year and 80,000 jobs in rural communities.
   Protecting natural resources at the Forest Service’s 122 ski areas will remain a priority, and year-round facilities will be subject to the same review and approval processes as those for ski facilities.
   Not just any recreational activity will be permitted. Those considered to be destructive to the natural environment will be excluded, including tennis courts, waterslides and water parks, swimming pools, golf courses, and amusement parks.
    Ski areas are also located in Angeles, Eldorado, Inyo, Lassen, Modoc, San Bernardino, Stanislaus, and Tahoe national forests in California.


Notice of Service

Laura Olson
1964 ~ 2011

   Laura Olson, a 14-year resident of Three Rivers, died Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. She was 47.
   A service will be held today (Friday, Nov. 18) at 1:30 p.m. at St. Anthony Retreat in Three Rivers. A reception will immediately follow (please bring finger foods to share).
Laura was a single mother of two children, Jordan, 20, in his third year at USC; and   McKenzie, 14, a freshman at Woodlake High School.
The family asks that remembrances be made to the Laura Olson Memorial Fund, which has been established to assist her children at the Bank of the Sierra in Three Rivers.
   A more complete obituary will be published in the November 25 issue.

Elsie Lindner
1916 ~ 2011

   Elsie Leora Lane Lindner, a resident of Lemon Cove for 93 years, died at her home Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, after a lengthy illness. She was 95.
   A service will be held today (Friday, Nov. 18), 1 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church in Lemon Cove. A reception will immediately follow. Burial will be at Woodlake Cemetery, and friends and family are invited to attend.
   Elsie was born February 5, 1916, in Halfway, Mo., to Elizabeth (Dinneen) and George Lane. When Elsie was a toddler, the family moved west and settled in Lemon Cove.
   Elsie was raised in Lemon Cove and graduated from Exeter High School in 1934. She was the postmaster of Lemon Cove Post Office from 1965 to 1979, following in her mother’s footsteps as Elizabeth was postmaster from 1946 to 1965.
   Elsie was a longtime member of the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church and the Lemon Cove Women’s Club. She was also the unofficial historian of Lemon Cove.
   Elise was preceded in death by her husband, Ed Lindner, in 1987; sister Dorothy Lane in 2007; and brothers Harley Lane (1977) and Howard Lane (1967).
   Elsie is survived by her youngest sister, Lorene Cassidy of Lemon Cove; two daughters,   Carolyn Hall of Walnut Creek and Jean Steuart and husband Bud of Silverton, Ore.; son Milton Lindner and wife Pat of Lemon Cove; 13 grown grandchildren and their spouses; and several great-grandchildren.
   Elsie and Ed also raised Gloria “Betty” Lamas from the age of four. Elsie considered Betty and her offspring all a part of her family.
   In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to First Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 44348, Lemon Cove, CA 93244.
   Online condolences may be sent to the family at: www.smithfamilychapel.com.

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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