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  In the News - Friday, NOVEMBER 26, 2004

Mineral King cabins

bill clears Congress

$388 billion appropriations bill

includes revision of 1978 law

By John Elliott

   On Sunday, Nov. 21, Congressman Devin Nunes (R-21st District) announced the passage of a bill that he authored to allow the owners of Mineral King cabins to continue to lease their holdings for an indefinite period time. The historic legislation was part of an omnibus appropriations bill that passed Congress on Saturday.
   To become law, the bill awaits President Bush’s signature and that formality is expected to happen before December 3.

  “I was extremely happy to get this done,” Rep. Nunes said upon his return from Washington, D.C. “It was obvious that it was the right thing to do.”
   Specifically, the Mineral King bill amends the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 to:

  —Eliminate the requirement that the rights of use and occupancy by the owner or owners of any property acquired by the Secretary of the Interior within the boundaries of Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park shall be for not more than 25 years or for a term ending on the death of the owner or his or her spouse, whichever is later (thus permitting the continued use and occupancy of certain privately-owned cabins in the valley); and

  —Grant renewals or extensions of leases or permits on federal land within Mineral King Valley to the heirs, successors, and assigns of those persons who were lessees or permittees of record on the enactment of such Act.
   In the 1960s, the Mineral King cabins were slated for removal as part of a proposal by the Disney Corporation to build a ski resort in the area. As a result, legislation was signed into law in 1978 that transferred Mineral King into Sequoia National Park.
In October 2003, the Mineral King area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  “Mineral King is a public/private partnership and these people should not be punished for their efforts in creating the Mineral King Historic District.”
   The appropriations bill was also a win for the National Park Service. That agency will receive $56 million more in operating funds than the Bush administration had requested.

  “This federal spending bill also includes funds to address critical needs in our local communities,” Rep. Nunes said. “In addition to expanded transportation and infrastructure spending, the omnibus bill fully complies with spending targets agreed to by Congress and the Administration.”
   Another immediate effect for Kaweah Country is $7.86 million earmarked for the management and operations at Lake Kaweah. A portion of that money will be used by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the dike by the Best Western Holiday Lodge in Three Rivers.
   The most immediate effect of the Mineral King legislation is the impact it will have on the parks’ new General Management Plan that is nearing completion.

  “What the legislation means is that the assumptions that we used in compiling the plan are no longer appropriate,” said Bill Tweed, Sequoia-Kings Canyon spokesperson. “In a way, it’s given us a very important ‘com-ment’ and we need to integrate this information into the GMP.”
   The omnibus bill sets funding for 13 government departments and dozens of agencies in 2005. The house passed the measure 344-51; the Senate approved it 65-30.
   The document is over 3,000 pages and weighs more than 14 pounds.
   Bill Maze, State Assembly member (R-34th District), was in Visalia for the holiday recess and said he was elated to hear about the Mineral King bill. Prior to his entering public service, Maze personally restored several of the cabins now included in the Mineral King Historic District.

  “I’m ecstatic over the decision to include Mineral King in the appropriations bill,” Maze said. “Congressman Nunes deserves our praise for his vision and ability to get things done.”

NPS backcountry ranger

has ‘Message’ to share

DVD reveals benefits of wilderness travel

By Sarah Elliott

  “One of the pleasures of my job is the people I get to meet along the trail,” says Bob Kenan in his just-released DVD filmed along the John Muir Trail in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. And he has met thousands during his career as a backcountry ranger for the National Park Service that has spanned 30 summers.
Bob began developing this project about seven years ago. And for the past four summers, he has carried a video camera in his backpack during his High Sierra rounds.
   The end product is a one-hour documentary entitled Message from the Mountains. The production includes interviews with nearly 50 backpackers from throughout the United States — California, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania — and around the world — Australia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Scotland, Switzerland.
   The backpackers, all of whom Bob met while they were navigating the portion of the John Muir Trail within Sequoia-Kings Canyon, shared their views of why wilderness travel is invigorating and rejuvenating. The vivid scenery in the video — lakes, peaks, meadows, waterfalls, forests, and magnificent alpenglows — corroborates their statements.

  "After my third season of filming, I had a lot of really good backpacker interviews to work with," said Bob. "During my off-season, I met a local Taos, N.M., video editor, Randolph Pierce, and we started to work together on the project. We prepared a script, and I went into the fourth season with a specific shot list, knowing what I needed to complete the project. I had a videographer come into the backcountry and hike around with me for a few days to get the necessary final footage."
   The “Message” becomes startlingly clear in the first few minutes of the show with clips of busy freeways and gridlocked traffic that raise stress levels merely by viewing them. Bob Kenan then appears, walking on a crowded city sidewalk, and he provides the setting for the film as well as an overview of the definition of a "Message from the Mountains," which is that a journey into the wilderness puts into perspective the challenges of everyday life.

  "Walking or hiking relieves stress," prescribes Bob during the film.
   Interviews include Bob's National Park Service colleagues, including Debbie Brenchley, supervisory ranger, and backcountry rangers Erika Jostad, Dave Gordon, Rick Sanger, and two others who, like Bob, have more than three decades of seasonal service each — George Durkee and Dario Malengo. Bob also shares conversations with DJ, an NPS packer, and Terry, a trail crew foreman.
   The narrative provides a brief biography on John Muir, the 19th-century conservationist who was instrumental in the creation of the National Park System. Muir is the namesake of the popular trail that begins in Yosemite National Park and travels mostly in conjunction with the Pacific Crest Trail for 212 miles southward through a land of 13,000 and 14,000-foot peaks and thousands of lakes to its terminus at the summit of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.
   The Native Americans' reverence to the high country is also depicted. There are wildlife shots, footage of the eclectic mix of present-day Sequoia-Kings Canyon backcountry ranger stations — all of which are located a day's walk or more away from the nearest trailhead — and a description of the backcountry ranger’s life and job, which basically includes preventing the destruction of natural resources based on the premise of "Leave No Trace" and assisting travelers, whether with route-finding, search-and-rescue, food supply, or medical treatment.
   No words are minced in describing the arduous effort of carrying a heavy pack over many miles day after day. All who take part in the film are in the midst of this gargantuan undertaking, however, they reassure viewers that the reward far outweighs the effort.
   The video concludes with backpackers sharing their personal messages they've retrieved from spending time in the mountains. In summary, this is a self-help video that promotes responsible wilderness travel as a prescription to heal the trauma inflicted by a fast-paced 21st-century life.

  “The open spaces of the wild can help backpackers clear their mind of the busy world they just left behind,” ensures Bob.
   The DVD, which includes an original score by singer/songwriter John Dillon, is currently available by emailing Bob at or by calling (888) 641-7933. Beginning Tuesday, Dec. 7, the production will be available for purchase online at:
   The cost of the DVD is $23, which includes shipping. A portion of the proceeds from each sale will be used to support the development of wind farms.

Feast for the children

Woodlake schools serve Thanksgiving dinner

By John Elliott

   On Tuesday, Nov. 23, Thanksgiving was celebrated a couple of days early in Woodlake at F.J. White Learning Center, Castle Rock Elementary, and several area preschools. That’s because the district’s food-service crew, managed by Laura Bullene Jacobo, served 1,200 school children a lunchtime feast of roast turkey and all the traditional trimmings.
   The Thanksgiving feast was the sixth year for the program that teaches Woodlake’s students the history behind the holiday, social graces of communal dining, and some of what goes into preparing and serving a nutritious meal. For many of the children, it’s the best meal they will eat this holiday season and the first time they’ve experienced turkey.

  “That’s the biggest chicken I’ve ever seen!” exclaimed one excited student.
   Jacobo said that she started the Tuesday-before-Thanksgiving feast tradition in 1999, shortly after she took the job as Director of Food and Nutrition for the Woodlake Union School District. 

  “We had a big load of turkeys so I thought about what I could do that would be really special,” said Jacobo. “It was my restaurant background that prompted me to start serving the portable feast in each classroom.”
   For the occasion, each of the classrooms complete projects that depict Thanksgiving history or make something used as decorations or in the serving of the meal. Some of the students made Pilgrim-style hats and placemats while others created Native American headbands and macaroni bracelets offered to the “Pilgrims” as tokens of friendship.
   To accommodate all the hungry kids, Jacobo and her crew began preparing the feast at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Sixty-two turkeys were roasted along with large vats of mashed potatoes and gravy, 150 pounds of green beans, and 130 pumpkin pies.
   Terrence Keller, principal at F.J. White Learning Center, said he couldn’t be more pleased with the program.

  “The feast is part of our school environment and is another example of something positive that can be done in a small district,” Keller said. “This [the feast] couldn’t happen without the dedication of our great food-service department.”
   The turkeys average about 15 pounds each and teachers carve and help serve the all-you-can eat feast.

  “Serving a delicious and nutritious meal to these children is very fulfilling,” Jacobo said. “All the work of cooking and serving is worth it when we see the faces of all those kids just light up.”

Prepare for emergencies

with CPR, first aid

3R Winter Club sponsors life-saving course

   Team up with what has been the most trusted name in health and safety training for more than a century. The American Red Cross’s first aid and CPR programs are designed to give participants the confidence to respond in an emergency situation with skills that can save a life.
   The Three Rivers Winter Club will be sponsoring a day-long preparedness program on Saturday, Dec. 4, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The course will be held in Room 11 at Three Rivers School.
   The course will teach participants to administer first aid to adults, children, and infants in shock, cardiac, and breathing emergencies and to those suffering from too much heat or cold, sudden illnesses, and poisonings. Participants will also learn first aid for everything from cuts and scrapes to muscle, bone, and joint injuries.
   CPR instruction will include learning how to respond to breathing and cardiac emergencies in victims, whether an adult, child, or infant.
   This course combines lectures, demonstrations, and videos with hands-on training and practice to teach skills that are beneficial for everyone to know, including those who work with children, professional rescuers, or for those who simply want to know how to help someone in an emergency.
   Participants who successfully complete the course will receive certification in Community First Aid, Adult CPR, and Infant and Child CPR.
   The cost is $50 per person. Advance registration is necessary; call 561-0608.

More events to ring in holidays

   In last week’s issue, six holiday events were highlighted; not bad for a small town. But there’s so much more…
   Living Christmas Tree— On Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5, at 7 p.m., singers and musicians at First Baptist Church will present their sixth annual musical in which singers perform from platforms in a giant manmade tree.
   High Sierra Jazz Band— It wouldn’t be Christmas in Three Rivers without the annual Sierra Traditional Jazz Club concert, which is Saturday, Dec. 11.
   Artists’ Studios— George Smith will be opening his Three Rivers studio on Mineral King Road during the weekend of December 4 and 5. Nadi Spencer will have her Sierra Drive studio open this Saturday, Nov. 27 (see the Classifieds page for details on these two events).
   In addition, the Three Rivers Woman’s Club, Three Rivers Senior League, and Presbyterian Women are all hosting their holiday get-togethers soon. See the Kaweah Kalendar on page 12 for details.


New era for boys’ basketball

By John Elliott

   On Saturday night (Nov. 27), when the Woodlake Tigers varsity boys’ basketball team takes the court versus a team of former players in the annual Alumni Game, the Ken Ruby era will officially begin. After 18 seasons under former coach Gary Hylton, the Woodlake Tigers also have new head coaches for the frosh and junior varsity boys’ teams with Ruby taking over the varsity squad.
   A former player and coach at Redwood High School in Visalia, Ruby comes to Woodlake after guiding the Exeter junior varsity team last season.

  “I’ve always wanted to run a basketball program and be head coach,” Ruby said. “The new Event Center and the opportunity to coach at a small school with less pressure is the right situation for me to develop as a head coach.”
   But when you call the Ruby household and ask for “Coach” it’s important to clarify which coach. That’s because Ken’s wife, Kristen, is a successful head coach in her own right, currently guiding another Tiger team: boys’ water polo at Lemoore High School.
   Both are credentialed teachers, she in history, he in physical education. In fact, that’s how the couple met while both were attending Chapman University working on teaching certificates.
   But it is Coach Ken Ruby, who also teaches P.E. for Visalia Unified, who will have the attention of local Tiger fans. The former point guard, who played at Redwood High School during the mid-1980s, said he is excited about inheriting a solid varsity team of 10 seniors and two juniors.

  “In the past, we [the Tigers] have always been known as a team that hustles but were sort of helter skelter on offense,” Ruby said. “My personality is to run a more organized offense that executes creating opportunities for shooters who can score.”
   Ruby’s playing style and coaching personality was molded mostly during his long association with Redwood’s Bob Vasilovich and also working under Jim Mitchell at Exeter.

  “I couldn’t have asked for better role models,” Ruby said.
   There is also a decidedly international flavor to the Woodlake staff. In 1997, after getting married, Ruby accompanied his wife and spent a year coaching basketball in New Zealand while she coached a club water polo team. They had a great time and learned volumes about international competition, he said.
   David Pasquini, a new social studies teacher at Woodlake Middle School, inherits the high school’s junior varsity team. Pasquini is a graduate of Santa Clara University where he received an undergraduate degree in History and his M.S. in interdisciplinary studies.
   The new JV coach also played at Redwood (1991-95) under both Ruby and his mentor, Coach Vasilovich. Like Ruby, Pasquini spent a year abroad, coaching and teaching in Madrid, Spain.

  “I got to see the world and do the three things I like to do most — teach, coach, and travel,” Pasquini said
   Raul Quintero, who was hired as the new Physical Education teacher and varsity baseball coach at WUHS, will coach the freshman boys in basketball. His assistant will be Calvin Whitney, who coached the frosh boys last season.
   Louie Lopez, who like Whitney is a former Tiger player and coach under Hylton, returns as a varsity assistant to Coach Ruby. Both Lopez and Whitney are expected to play in Saturday’s Alumni game.
   The men’s game begins at 8 p.m.; women take the courts at 6 p.m.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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