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In the News - Friday, NOVEMBER 25, 2005


UNDER THE BIG TOP
Hazardous

‘Entrance Tree’

gets a trim

   Trimming a giant sequoia is no easy task. It becomes even more complicated when it comes to a very dangerous specimen that is one of Kings Canyon National Park’s most visible landmarks.
   On Tuesday and Wednesday, a team of tree experts hired a 200-foot crane from which to trim enough limb wood to greatly reduce the potential hazards of the ancient burnt monarch, known unofficially to generations of park visitors as the “Entrance Tree.”

  “That tree is one of the most photographed specimens in the parks,” said Dave Walton, the Grant Grove district ranger. “But we’re really in a difficult spot right here with the entrance station being located so close to a hazard tree.”
   The problem came to light in 2004, Walton said, when it was proposed to use fee demonstration money, approximately $400,000, to replace the old kiosk at the park entrance just below the The Wye on Highway 180. Walton said during winter months, the leaky building had employees coping with a foot of standing water. The station was removed earlier this month to make way for whatever comes next.

  “We started asking questions and taking a look at potential impacts and suddenly we came up with several concerns as to why or why not we should continue to use this site,” Walton said. “This straightaway in the highway is obviously the best line of sight for traffic but now we are at the part of the process where we are asking, is it worth the risk and what are the potential impacts?”
   The biggest risk is from one mature, burned out Big Tree that has watched over a plethora of historic activity that has taken place its gigantic shadow, mostly to capitalize on its strategic location at the gateway to both national forest and parklands. For many years there was a small resort with gas station, store, a few cabins, and even a fox farm located directly across the highway.
   By the 1950s, the parks had a small checking station there. It was leveled by a logging truck and rebuilt in 1957, where it has been operated beneath the Entrance Tree continuously ever since.
Tom Warner, a Three Rivers resident and Sequoia-Kings Canyon forester, said he first inspected the tree in 1986 and reported that it was potentially hazardous. He examined the tree earlier this year and noted that some of the limbs, which are very dense and proportionately heavier than the other parts of the tree, had grown more than 35 feet in 20 years.
   Warner said at the top diameter of the burned-out cavity, 105 feet from ground level, some parts of the tree, consisting of a scant six inches of material in thickness, are holding the base of where these heaviest limbs are protruding. Warner and some other experts made recommendations that those heavy limbs be trimmed as soon as possible.
   As a second opinion from outside the parks, Randall Frizzell, an independent arborist, was hired as one of the project’s team members. He was onsite this week and one of the first to go up in the crane’s basket with a chainsaw.

  “What’s really remarkable about this tree is its stubbornness to go on living even though such a large portion of its trunk has been burned away and dead for centuries,” said Frizzell. “This specimen has self-engineered these buttresses along two sides of the cavity with wood that is many more times dense than the normal annual growth.”
   Frizzell said the buttresses are now bearing much of the load of the limbs growing in the crown of the tree. The entire team agreed that it was important to preserve the tree especially in light of the fact that this specimen is the only giant sequoia remaining in the 637-acre Big Stump Grove within sight of the highway.
   In fact, there are very few mature trees left in the Big Stump Grove as most were victim to 19-century logging practices.

  “Obviously, the burned out specimen was of no value to the loggers and that’s why it’s still standing today,” Frizzell said.
   Tim Brown, another independent consultant who assessed the tree as wildlife habitat, also acted as safety officer for the fieldwork.

  “This tree has some very interesting history and we have an obligation to take care of all these giant sequoias,” Brown said. “The NPS should be commended for their efforts in this project.”
   Tom Warner, who spends the majority of his time dealing with hazard trees, said this project is especially fulfilling because it’s about preservation.

  “The pruning effort is designed to protect public safety and promote the longevity of the tree while preventing a catastrophic failure,” Warner said. “The bottom line of this tree is its proximity to the road and the fact that it is a historic landmark. It’s definitely worth the effort, especially if we can minimize the risk.”

Man tumbles to

his death in Sequoia
Three Rivers trio witnesses

Moro Rock tragedy

   With each detail that comes to light after Rev. Santos Teixeira of Lindsay fell or jumped from Moro Rock on Sunday, Nov. 20, the case becomes even more bizarre.
   For Gene Castro of Three Rivers and his 10-year-old daughter, Phoebe, both of whom were on the rock during the tragic incident, it was a Sequoia National Park outing they won’t soon forget.

  “We had taken the trail from the parking lot to a place below the Moro Rock stairway where we were practicing some rope climbing with Don Hargis,” Gene Castro said.
   Hargis is the newly-appointed interim pastor at the First Baptist Church in Three Rivers and also an experienced rock climber, Gene explained.
   Pastor Hargis, who lives in Clovis, is the California disaster relief director for the North American Mission Board and no stranger to tragedy or rescues. Like the Castros, he heard the screaming from the trail above and the distinctive thud of something falling down the sheer rock face.

  “When he [the fall victim] went by us, he was going so fast that it was just a blur,” Gene said. “At first, I thought it might be a log or something and really didn’t think that it was a person.”
   After the climbers returned to the parking lot, Sequoia rangers were already interviewing possible witnesses. Castro said he returned with the rangers to where they had been climbing in an effort to help pinpoint where the man may have landed.

  “As we were looking over the ledge it was getting dark and I couldn’t be certain if I could see the guy or not,” Castro said. “Pastor Hargis was already making his way down to the area where he thought the man might be.”
   Rangers searched the area and located the man’s body at about 9 p.m., some 400 feet below the stairway where the victim began his tumble down the eastern face of Moro Rock. The Park Service reported that a ranger spent the night at the scene to ensure that the area remained secure.
   Teixeira’s body was carried out by a ground crew on Monday morning. The FBI was called into the case, as is routine to investigate “uncertain” circumstances.
   There were unsubstantiated reports that the pastor gave his car keys to a bystander, saying that he wouldn’t be needing them anymore.
   Teixeira, 56, the pastor at the Iglesia Del Nazareno (Nazarene Church) in Porterville, has had a very troubled recent past. In April 2002, his van was reportedly stolen and burned. In August 2002, under suspicious circumstances, his home was burned to the ground by an arsonist who was never arrested. In 2003, he was assaulted at the church and found unconscious.
   On July 12, 2005, Teixeira was arrested and charged with several counts of rape and sexual assault after two sisters under the age of 18 notified police that he had sexual intercourse with them over a period of four years. According to court documents, the younger sister testified at the preliminary hearing in August that Teixeira told her he would kill himself if he was sent to jail.
   Teixeira was out on bail and scheduled to be tried in December. If convicted of the rape charges, he faced a maximum penalty of 45 years to life in prison.
It has been determined that the victim was with the brother of his accusers while at Moro Rock.
He is survived by his wife of 30 years and a son and daughter.

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Barton / Pierce House:

At the confluence of the Middle

and North forks, this home is

the oldest still standing in Three Rivers

(Only in the print edition: Photographs of the historic features of the home)

  This is the third installment in this recent chapter of local “Roadside Attractions.” The previous installments appeared in the October 7 and 14 issues.
   The Barton / Pierce home was built in 1880 and is the oldest house still standing in Three Rivers. In that time, the property has been owned by just two families — the Bartons, 1880 to 1911; and the Pierces, 1911 to present. In this final installment, Juanita Tolle describes the Pierce family of Three Rivers...

   My uncle, Bruce, and aunt Mary were born in Three Rivers, joining their two sisters, Frances and Elizabeth (my mother).
Grandmother Pierce was a teacher (graduate of Wilson College in Pennsylvania) and home-schooled her children during the early elementary grades. Then they all went to Sulfur Springs School (today, the private residence with a bell tower on the south end of Kaweah River Drive) and Woodlake High School. My mother attended UCLA for two years.
   I lived on the ranch from the age of three months to 12 years (1932 to 1945) with Mother and Grandmother Julia. Uncle Bruce was there until he left to attend Stanford University to obtain a degree in Mining Engineering and, later, he served in the U.S. Army in World War II.
   Aunt Mary was with us until she entered training at the Stanford School of Nursing and later served as an Army nurse in World War II.
   Frances had married in 1931 and was living in Washington state with her husband.
   My mother worked in Visalia and Grandmother Julia (“Nana”) was my primary caretaker. She was an intelligent, dignified, courageous lady with a wonderful sense of humor.
   Grandfather Pierce left the ranch in the late 1930s because severe allergies and asthma were severely affecting his health. He lived in Hermosa Beach and later in Banning, where he found the desert climate the most compatible for his health.
   In the late 1930s, the back porch was enlarged and screened in to accommodate a wringer washing machine and a flush toilet, and still serves these purposes today. At the time, this was a big step forward in family convenience.
   At age 60, Grandmother obtained her California teaching certificate and taught at the CCC camps in Three Rivers for several years. She found this role very rewarding as many of the young men could not read or write and were very grateful to her for teaching them these skills. Her last teaching assignment was in a two-room country school south of Tipton (Hanby School).
   Grandmother Julia was creative in arranging transportation for herself between her job assignments and the ranch as she never learned to drive a car. She continued to manage the ranch affairs with help from Bruce, my mother, and local handymen, living there until her death in May 1948.
   My mother remarried in December 1944 and we moved to Morro Bay in 1945. After Grandmother Julia died, mother looked for someone to rent the ranch house and oversee the property.
Dale and Virginia Williams rented the house for 18 years (Virginia was a former publisher of the Three Rivers Current newspaper in the 1950s). After they built their own home on Kaweah River Drive, Joe Doctor (the late Tulare County historian and author) and his family rented the house for several years.
   Eventually, Joe’s daughter, Julie Doctor, became the primary renter for several more years. When Julie built her own house just upriver and moved into it, she was successful in finding a willing caretakers to live in and care for the ranch house.
   Billy Hancock is the current caretaker and has proved to be a very satisfactory, caring occupant. Julie still oversees the property and pastures her horses there.
   After Grandmother’s death, the ranch was divided amongst the four children. Frances and Mary gave up their shares to Bruce’s wife, Helen, and her sister, Charlotte.
   Mother and I shared a quarter interest, even though Mother did the lion’s share of the business affairs. After Bruce’s death, Helen and Charlotte wanted to sell the ranch property, and all but 8.04 acres was sold in the early 1980s.
   Helen retained her share for her two children. I later bought out Charlotte, so the current ownership is Helen Pierce, 50 percent, and me, 50 percent.
   The property sale was a very painful process for me because I love this ranch very much. My fond memories are too numerous to include here.
   The river is still one of my favorite spots. Many summer hours were spent in the river, diving for rocks and enjoying the cool relief from the summer heat. Mother and I shared a bedroom and the sound of the river lulled us to sleep each night.
   Unfortunately, more recent floods have drastically changed the configuration of the “swimming pool” in front of the ranch house, and the main river has intruded into the North Fork.
   Juanita Kibbe Roy Tolle, granddaughter of James and Julia Pierce, currently resides in Pismo Beach.

WHS Football

Tigers eliminated by Wildcats

   For the first 21 minutes of last Friday’s opening round playoff game at Taft, Woodlake High’s Tigers played the role of spoilers. Their only problem — a regulation game consists of 48 minutes and the bigger, stronger Wildcats eventually dominated, 27-7.
   In the visitor’s locker room prior to the start of the game, Frank Ainley, Woodlake’s longtime athletic director and former coach, had some inspirational words for these current-day Tigers.

  “When you men step out on the field tonight you must expect to win because that’s how Woodlake football is played,” Ainley said. “There are no more ‘ifs’ out there on the field. Play your hearts out, men, and let the chips fall where they may. That’s all we can ask.”
   For the first quarter, both teams were tentative, stopping themselves with penalties and mental mistakes. Woodlake’s defense was the aggressor using key sacks to thwart Taft’s first two offensive drives.
   In the second quarter, Taft appeared to have the game’s first score within their grasp but missed on a 17-yard field goal attempt. Woodlake’s offense then took possession on its own 20 and went to work.
   During the next 10 minutes, momentum of a very tight game shifted clearly to a suddenly powerful Tiger ground attack. John Gomez-Carretero, sophomore QB, slashed for a key first down on a keeper, and Daniel Tiller, senior running back, who was playing his final game in a Woodlake jersey, was nearly unstoppable.
   Five first downs later, Tiller capped an 80-yard drive by powering over the goal line from two yards out. Senior kicker Souk Stephens added an extra point and the underdog Tigers led powerful Taft 7-0 at halftime.
   The third quarter opened with yet another opportunity for the Tigers. On the very first series, Aaron Payne, a senior linebacker, recovered a Taft fumble in enemy territory and Woodlake was back in business.
   At this point, the Wildcat defense stepped up and sent the visitors a message: “…not in our house you don’t.” With fourth down and a short one to go for a first down, the Taft defense stuffed Gomez-Carretero when he attempted a quarterback sneak and the ball went back over on downs to the home-standing Wildcats.
   On the ensuing series, the huge Wildcat offensive line began to finally make some holes for what all season had been a very potent running game. After a 16-yard run by the Valley’s rushing leader, Ben Estill, and an extra-point kick, the game was tied, 7-7.
   It was still anybody’s game but suddenly the Tigers saw their hopes for an upset vanish. Estill added two more touchdowns as Taft began to exploit gaping holes in the stubborn Tiger defense.
Estill’s final score on a 53-yard run with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter put this one out of reach, 27-7. After the game Coach Costa thanked his players for a very game effort and a satisfying season.

  “I think you guys know it wasn’t Taft that beat us and that we mostly beat ourselves,” Coach Brian Costa said. “I’m proud of you guys tonight for really taking it to a much bigger and stronger Taft team and for all the hard work that each one of you have done this season.”



 
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