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In the News - Friday, NOVEMBER 30, 2007

Town Hall highlights

county issues, long-range planning

   After a one-month hiatus, Supervisor Allen Ishida returns to the Town Hall meeting on Monday evening to update Three Rivers on several topics including the latest round of talks in the effort to create a new county-wide ambulance agreement. The regular monthly meeting sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
   Earlier this week, Ishida reflected on the outstanding issues during his year as Chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. A year in which, Ishida said, was one in where there was a positive change in the direction of the Board.
   Ishida said there were also some breakdowns in the legislative process that are making it increasingly difficult to ensure the water supply for Tulare County farmers. Water, and its allocation to Tulare County farmers, is the Board’s greatest challenge.

  “The most important issue of 2007 was trying to protect the water we get from the San Joaquin River,” Ishida said. “The state legislature and the executive branch of the federal government do not have the control that we have been educated to believe they have when comes to allocating the water.”
   Ishida said that finding a legislative solution to the problem is made more difficult because of all the expensive court battles.

  “The balance of power has shifted and is now in the hands of the individual judges,” Ishida said. “If we don’t find a legislative solution these reductions in the Friant allocations could have a devastating effect especially on citrus growers.”
   The battle in the courts is being waged, Ishida said, by environmentalists who want to restore the salmon fishery to the San Joaquin River. The problem is that this special interest group does not understand the implications of restoring a fishery that is already gone.

  “The current legislature doesn’t have the ability to make changes to the laws,” Ishida said. “If the San Joaquin River settlement is enacted we could see our water allocation reduced by 15-18 percent by the year 2010. By 2025, at least one-half of the citrus industry would be gone.”
   That ironic scenario could lead to the next round of battles as huge tracts of land formerly farmed could become the target of land-hungry developers looking for the next best place to build subdivisions. But Ishida said that there is hope to finding a solution and controlling our own destiny in Tulare County if we develop storage facilities for both underground and surface water.
   On the positive side of the ledger, Ishida said that there has been a substantial increase in the quality of county services during the past year.

  “Staff has really helped businesses like Peninsula Packaging of Exeter to expand their local operations and that means jobs and more economic opportunity,” Ishida said. “We’ve put Tulare County on the map as a business-friendly place.”
   The key to the Peninsula success story, Ishida said, was the fact that we have the railroad facilities. These existing rail lines suddenly are in the forefront of making Tulare County a more desirable place to manufacture and ship goods.

  “I believe the railroads will make a comeback,” Ishida said. “We don’t have the wealth or the subsidies right now to operate a light rail system to move people but for attracting industry the rail connections are a key factor.”
   On this past Thursday, Ishida met with other members of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Tulare County and railroad officials in an attempt to persuade the company not to abandon a line that runs from Ducor to Woodlake.
   If railroad officials decide to proceed with the abandonment, that’s being driven by a lucrative salvage market, then Ishida said he wants the County to acquire the right-of-way.

  “Initially, we could develop a network of recreational trails and later create a way for moving people with a county-wide transit system,” Ishida said. “ The year 2007 has been an eventful one for the Board but the there is still a lot of work to be done.”
   In addition to Supervisor’s Ishida’s remarks, there will also be an update on the Scenic Highway’s corridor protection plan by Tom Sparks. The long-awaited plan will have guidelines and implications for future development in Three Rivers.

Lemon Cove Granite:
EIR comments due in December

   Even if you were unable to attend the Tulare County Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday, Nov. 28 on the expansion of Lemon Cove Granite’s surface mining operation there is still time to furnish input on a decision that is expected sometime in 2008. Ann Chapman, project planner for Tulare County, said that written comments and email relative to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be accepted until Dec.21.
   At Wednesday’s initial public hearing, arguments were presented both for and against the proposed expansion. The applicant and owner of the property, Tom Cairns, presented a brief history of the project.
   Cairns stated that he first started to dig at the site in 1982 in attempt to make the orchard property easier to farm. He said what they found at the site, located at the south end of Ave. 328, was quality hard rock granite that is in demand for local building projects.
   In 2002, the granite extraction company began crushing the rock and increasing production. Cairns applied for and received a temporary permit to operate while an EIR was in progress. Now, four years later, a two volume Draft EIR is being circulated.
   George Clausen, a longtime farmer, former COS Ag teacher, and a vocal opponent in the past of sand and gravel extraction in alluvial material in the Kaweah River drainage, spoke in support of the project. He stated that this hard rock mining has no impact on prime farmland.
   Several opponents to the project cited noise, traffic, water, and air quality concerns. There is also a potential impact to the Pogue Hotel (currently used as the headquarters of the Lemon Cove Woman’s Club). The landmark two-story building at the junction of Avenue 328 and SR 198 was built in 1879 by a local pioneer and is listed the National Register of Historic Places.
   The hotel, built by J.W.C. Pogue was formerly part of the town center of a thriving community with a population of 500 during its heyday in the twentieth century. A corner portion of the Pogue Hotel parking area would have to be surrendered to accommodate road realignment if the expansion is approved.
   Copies of the EIR may be obtained through the Tulare County Management Agency or reviewed at the Three Rivers, Exeter or Visalia public libraries. The next Tulare County Planning Commission public hearing, where interested parties may furnish additional testimony relative to the project, is scheduled for Jan. 16.
   For more information about the project, please contact Ann Chapman, 733-6291.

Recovery effort

   Tulare County firefighters were dispatched to the upper Kaweah River Drive area on Thanksgiving morning due to an injured deer in the river. Instead of a rescue effort, it became a recovery mission as a state Department of Fish and Game warden declared the deer too injured to save and ordered it to be put down.
   According to Tyler Fraser, who lives nearby, firefighters deduced that, because of a missing angler, the deer may have been hit be a car, then possibly chased and/or attacked by loose dogs or coyotes.

Thanksgiving in the park

   On Thanksgiving Day 2007, just like so many, the Persall family of Woodlake was busy in their kitchen preparing a traditional holiday meal. But their efforts weren’t for themselves, but instead, with help from family and friends, they took it to the city park and served it for free to those who may not otherwise have had access to turkey and all the trimmings on that day.
   This is the third year that Jack and Brenda Persall have prepared and served a holiday dinner in the Miller-Brown Park. They took over the duties from Joe and Charlotte Perez, who began the tradition and continued it for many years.
   In 2005, the Persalls purchased most of the food and supplies on their own. In 2006, the meal was postponed until Christmas because Jack was recovering from back surgery.
   This year, the Kiwanis of Woodlake donated several turkeys and some additional fixings. In fact, about half of the expenses were covered by donations, so the tradition is getting bigger and better.
   About 85 people took advantage of the offer of a free meal. They received containers full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie, as well as a beverage.
   Assisting Jack and Brenda was their grown daughter, Lacy; Brenda’s sister and brother-in-law, Karen and David Lagow; and Elaine, a volunteer from Christians in Action.
   Following the meal in the park, the Persalls started anew, preparing the entire meal again, this time for their own family.

Some “dry” fuel’s been

added to the Baldy Fire

   After some high-country precipitation during the week before Thanksgiving, the Baldy Ridge Fires seemed like it had been snuffed for the season. But the fire, which was ignited by lightning during the intense storm of Monday, Oct. 29, has shown new life as the vegetation — mostly Jeffrey pines and manzanita — has dried.
   The fire is about 12 acres in size at the 6,900-foot elevation level and is located about a half-mile southwest of Big Baldy in Kings Canyon National Park. Due to the cooler, shorter days — and no Santa Ana winds! — the fire isn’t expected to grow much beyond its current size.
   Those interested may observe the fire online via a webcam mounted on the Park Ridge Fire Lookout above the Grant Grove area. Log onto www.buckrock.-org/webcams.html and click on the “Park Ridge looking SE towards Mt. Baldy” link. The fire would be at the far right on the image.


Russel Weckert
1920 ~ 2007

   Russel Edwin Weckert died Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007, in Visalia. The former longtime resident of Three Rivers was 87.
   A memorial gathering will be held Friday, Dec. 14, at 2 p.m., at the River View Restaurant in Three Rivers. Anyone who would like to share a story or other remembrance during the informal service should call Janet Bailey, 561-4342, to make arrangements.
   Russ was born in Three Rivers on May 3, 1920, to Bessie (Fry MacKinnon) and Kenneth Weckert. He attended elementary school in Three Rivers and graduated from Woodlake High School in 1938.
   After high school, Russ enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Upon completion of his military service, he attended school in San Francisco to become a mortician.
   Russ worked as a funeral director in Tulare for several years, but longed to return to his roots in Three Rivers. Once back in Three Rivers, he worked for Dick Lang Construction for many years.
   Russ was known affectionately as the “mayor of Three Rivers.” When he traveled, he would give out hand-painted, gold keys to Three Rivers, inviting people to visit Three Rivers and even offered them his riverside backyard for camping.
   Macular degeneration robbed Russ of his eyesight in the late 1990s. He moved to the Walnut Park Retirement Home in Visalia to be nearer to family, doctors, and public transportation.
   In 2003, after receiving guide-dog training from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, Russ acquired Giovanni, his beloved guide dog who became his constant companion.
   Russ was preceded in death by his sisters, Edith Perry and Thelma Manning.
   In addition to Giovanni, Russ is survived by his sister, Jessie Bequette, a former longtime resident of Three Rivers who, at the age of 101, also currently resides in Visalia; his niece, Rachel Caggiano of Visalia; his niece and nephew Joan and Paul Thomsen of Castro Valley; his great-nieces and nephews, Carla Caggiano, Gino Caggiano, Perri Martin, Stacey Murphy, Neil Thomsen, Pam Thompson, and Richard Webb; his cherished cats, Thomas and Black Bart; and the many friends who were so much a part of his life.
   In lieu of flowers, donations in Russ’s name may be made to Guide Dogs for the Blind (P.O. Box 3950, San Rafael, CA 94912) or the Three Rivers Historical Society (P.O. Box 162, Three Rivers, CA 93271).

Dee Crothers
1942 ~ 2007

   Dee Crothers, a former resident of Three Rivers for 18 years, died Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, due to severe Alzheimer’s disease that accelerated the aging of her internal organs as it robbed her mind.
   Dee was born in 1942 and began her life in Las Vegas with her adoptive parents, Lionel and Teddy Grindell. Dee and her daddy, a mining geologist, were very close.
   Lionel Grindell — finding joy in his daughter’s interested, bright, and absorbing mind — took her with him for work and pleasure trips, exploring the geology that was his life’s work. Throughout her life, Dee loved the science of her dad, returning from walks with pebbles in pockets, cheeks pink and eyes bright with the gathering, perhaps reliving precious moments of past years.
   Friends of Dee’s earlier years will remember a bright, professional woman who was the director of programs at St. Anthony Retreat, as well as other positions in Three Rivers.

  “In later years, as her illness set in, we knew a lovely slip of a woman, shy, but oh so loving,” recalled her friend, Jane Dagerman of Three Rivers. “At local gatherings, you may have recognized Dee and her husband, Jeff, as the couple who always held hands, even after a marriage of almost two decades.”
   Dee is survived by her husband of 21 years, Jeff Crothers; two sons, Lance and James, both of Los Angeles; and four grandchildren.
   As per Dee’s wishes, she has been laid to rest beside her father in Altadena.

Dale Wolfley
1934 ~ 2007

   Dale Robert Wolfley, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Monday, Oct. 8, 2007, at his Visalia home. He was 72.
   A celebration of Dale’s life will be held in Three Rivers on Sunday, Dec. 9. To attend, call his son, Brent, at 799-9736 for details.
   Dale was born Oct. 10, 1934, in Maywood, Calif., to George and Pearl Wolfley. He was raised in Norwalk.
   Dale served in the U.S. Army and was a Korean War veteran. For 16 years, he was a truck driver for the Los Angeles Times.
Dale lived in Three Rivers for 10 years, moving his family here in 1979. He worked for the Sequoia Sentinel as advertising sales manager.
   He also loved to tend bar at the Indian pizza parlor in Three Rivers. Dale was happiest when surrounded by family and friends and found good in every person, recalled his son, Dane.
   Dale was preceded in death by his wife, Birgitta (Chavez) Wolfley; his parents, George and Pearl Wolfley; and his brother, Donald Wolfley.
   Dale is survived by his sons, Brent and wife Traci of Visalia, Dane of Visalia, and Paul of Castro Valley; his stepchildren, Bonnie Farkas and husband Jim of Three Rivers, and Brenda Corral of Visalia; sister Darlene Rodgers and husband Orval of Las Vegas; and seven grandchildren, including Olivia and Joseph of Visalia.

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