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In the News - Friday, November 21, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Anthony Marcellini, artist and curator (right, with the first issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth, 1890), and Aurelien Fremont, photographer (left, with a recent issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth, 2008), were in Three Rivers on Monday, Nov. 17, to present artwork depicting Kaweah Colony history to The Kaweah Commonwealth. The wooden sculpture, “The Karl Marx Tree Marker,” was initially created for a San Francisco gallery exhibition entitled “How to Talk About Utopia Without Saying Utopia,” a collaborative project that Anthony completed with artist Matthew David Rana.
   The exhibition, held in April 2008, examined hope, failure, and creativity within the history of resistance, collectivity, and Utopian dreams. It focused specifically on three California “Social Utopian” communes from the 19th century: Alturia, Icaria-Speranza, and Kaweah.
   The wooden marker, weighing approximately 80 pounds, was modeled in the image of the present-day General Sherman Tree plaque installed by the National Park Service. Named the Karl Marx Tree by the colonists of the Kaweah Co-operative Commonwealth ca. 1888, the Karl Marx Tree marker was carved to contest the renaming of the largest tree in the world after General William Tecumseh Sherman.
   The giant sequoia was renamed the General Sherman Tree after the colony lands were expropriated and the section containing the largest tree in the world was included in Sequoia National Park as of September 1890.

  “We wanted to gift our plaque to the Commonwealth newspaper, which was named for the newspaper of Kaweah,” Anthony said. “It will be a great conversation piece and help to continue the dialogue on the history of Kaweah, resistance, collectivity, and Utopia.”


Fall victim rescued

near Oak Grove Bridge

  The terrain around the Oak Grove Bridge includes some of the steepest, most unforgiving sections of rocky cliffs to be found anywhere in the Kaweah canyon. The narrow canyon walls trap huge boulders that during high water seasons become lodged in the riverbed, which in some places is 100 feet below the Mineral King Road.
   Emergency rescue personnel responded to a frantic call for help from Oak Grove that came into dispatch on Wednesday, Nov. 19, at approximately 2:30 p.m. The first rescue unit on the scene, six miles up the Mineral King Road, was a Tulare County firefighter who was able to climb down and reach the victim.
   The victim, an unidentified male in his 40s, was lying semi-conscious in the rocks along the south shoreline of the East Fork more than 50 feet below the top of the steep canyon wall.
   After making contact, the rescuer administered first aid. A gathering team of rescuers composed of National Park Service personnel, Cal Fire, and Tulare County firefighters secured a rope line above and prepared a basket gurney to lower down the steep canyon wall to lift the victim from his precarious resting place.

  “Obviously, if you fall here you are going to hit some rocks hard on the way down,” said one rescuer at the scene. “This guy was extremely fortunate that he didn’t tumble into the water a few feet away because in his state he would have certainly died.”
   The incident occurred approximately 50 yards upriver from the bridge. Two companions who were with the man and had summoned help said that he fell while trying to find a trail down to the inviting pools below.
   The rescuers were able to lower the basket gurney down to the scene, and after some anxious moments, the victim was hoisted up where he was treated and then transported in the Exeter ambulance to the Three Rivers Golf Course. At 4:20 p.m. the victim was loaded into a waiting CHP helicopter and flown to Community Medical Center in Fresno.
   The victim was conscious in the ambulance but had major head and body trauma. The extent of his injuries was not immediately known.

  “The rescue was a total team effort as some highly-trained personnel went about their business for a couple of hours today doing what they routinely do,” said one rescuer.
   The Oak Grove area has been the site of tragedy numerous times in the past. In the spring of 2006, a 20-year-old Tulare woman lost her footing while wading upstream from the bridge and drowned after tumbling through the treacherous whitewater.
   In April 2007, a former resident of Three Rivers suffered major injuries after tumbling more than 50 feet into the rocky streambed while looking for fishing access.


Santa Ana winds wreak havoc… again

   It’s as though the land is saying don’t live here. But in densely-populated Southern California, no one seems to be listening.
As fire season ended in early November in Three Rivers, it was just shifting into second gear in the southern part of the state where Santa Ana winds acted like a giant bellows, whipping flames into a frenzy in three separate major fires last weekend.
   In Southern California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed that fire season is now year-round, more than 1,000 homes burned in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Orange counties where in dense neighborhoods, houses replace trees as the primary fuel. In other words, when the Santa Anas blow, Southern California burns.
   It’s a deadly cocktail of these dramatic winds, low humidity, and high temperatures that turn dry, resinous vegetation into fuel that fed the monster firestorms.
   Southern California epitomizes the trend of the West, including Three Rivers. People have moved into scenic yet fire-prone wildlands, accelerating the cost of firefighting to protect lives and property. As soon as the winds subsided, firefighters gained control of the blazes, but not before 65 square miles burned.

Smoke returns to Kaweah Country

   Just when it seemed “fire season” might be ending, National Park Service crews used the good air quality of the past week as a prescribed-fire opportunity to light one more burn. Fire crews began ignitions on the Davenport burn in the East Fork drainage on Tuesday, Nov. 18.
   The 858-acre burn unit is located in Sequoia National Park along the Mineral King Road between the former entrance station at Lookout Point and Atwell Mill. The burn project is reported to be another layer of protection in the event of a catastrophic wildfire for the communities of Silver City and Mineral King.
   Since these developments are located atop a steep canyon, the risk is considered extreme if an out-of-control fire raced up the canyon. A policy of fire exclusion over the last century has also contributed to the volatility and that factor alone causes fires to be more destructive.
   Severe lessons are being learned in watching Southern California burn annually. But there is one main difference: Kaweah Country doesn’t have the winds.
   A series of mechanical thinning projects near the cabin communities in combination with a decade of prescribed fire has helped to reduce the risk. Prescribed fire also helps to create a mosaic of diverse habitats for plants and animals, and according to fire ecologists, a healthier more sustainable forest.
   This weekend, the Mineral King Road will be subject to closure. The closures may be necessary until the burn is completed by Monday or Tuesday. Rainfall, and snow in the higher elevations, is expected Wednesday and should ensure that any embers still smoldering are extinguished.
   Residents in the Kaweah canyon should be advised that the smokiest episodes related to the burn will occur in the morning and at night. Wood smoke particulates are unhealthful for all but especially dangerous to children, the elderly, and those persons with heart and lung conditions.

Motorcyclist injured

in Sierra Drive accident

   It’s challenging enough to try to resist taking your eyes off the roadway to look at the mountain scenery in Three Rivers or to find a place to pull off the highway when negotiating Sierra Drive through Three Rivers. But it can be downright scary when you realize that you looked a little too long and then face the challenge of safely correcting even the slightest drifting from the roadway.
   Apparently, that’s what happened Friday, Nov. 14, to Donna Rice, 41, of Visalia. She told a CHP officer at the scene that she was riding her motorcycle eastbound with a friend on another motorcycle when she overcorrected to keep her motorcycle from crossing the centerline near the Village Market shopping center.
   The sudden steering maneuver caused her to lose control and that’s when she laid her 1997 Harley Sportster down on the pavement, skidding to a halt on Sierra Drive. The solo motorcycle mishap occurred shortly after 2 p.m. when busy traffic was trying to get in and out of the post office and market parking lots.
   Rice suffered a concussion and an injury to her left leg. She was airlifted via the CHP helicopter to the trauma unit at Community Medical Center in Fresno where she was treated for her injuries.

It’s BAZAAR season!

   It always starts with the Three Rivers Senior League’s Holiday Bazaar, which was last Saturday, then it escalates from there. And if a gift-giver can’t purchase all the presents they need right here in Kaweah Country, then it won’t ever happen.
   From now until mid-December, there will be ample opportunity to find gifts for everyone on the holiday list.
   This Saturday, Nov. 22, it’s Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs’s annual Holiday Sale (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), with deep discounts and original artwork, including Christmas cards, by Three Rivers artist Jana Botkin.
   Next Friday and Saturday, Nov. 28 and 29, it’s the highly anticipated “The Perfect Gift” show and sale (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), where 10 artists will be at one location (Three Rivers Arts Center), making shopping more convenient than ever.
   Next up is the annual Lemon Cove Holiday Bazaar at the Lemon Cove Memorial Building (north on Avenue 324 from Highway 198), which benefits Sequoia Union School (Friday, Dec. 5, 1 to 4 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 6, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). On display and available for purchase will be specialty jams and marmalades, English toffee, beaded ornaments, snowflakes, boutique Christmas trees, candles and other home décor, gift baskets, and other crafts. There will be a Kids’ Kraft Table where children will make ornaments or jewelry while parents shop and Starbucks coffee will be available.
   The Lemon Cove Woman’s Club will open the doors of their historic clubhouse (across from the Lemon Cove Post Office) to host their annual Holiday Bazaar, Luncheon, and Card Party (Saturday, Dec. 6, 11 a.m.). Gift items will be on sale that are handmade by club members. A chicken casserole lunch ($10, RSVP: 597-1416) with a lemon bisque dessert will be served at noon, followed by the bridge game.


   These stories and so much more in the weekly print edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth.


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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