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In the News - Friday, FEBRUARY 11, 2005

Naturedome calls it quits

   After a final weekend sale that ended last Sunday evening, John Bryant closed the doors of his Naturedome gift shop one last time. There remains a whole ‘Dome full of memories for the 52-year-old business owner who has operated continuously in Three Rivers since October 1991.
   The property is owned by H.J. Brown and includes a special-use permit.
   Bryant said he had some very good years in the early 1990s. His sales, he said, peaked in 1995 and have tailed off gradually since.
“I have really enjoyed serving the community of Three Rivers but at my age I need to have a retirement plan,” Bryant said. “I’m looking forward, for the first time in quite a while, to having a regular paycheck.”
   Bryant said he plans to continue living in Three Rivers. His new employment includes as much work as he could ever want or need working for a Home Depot contractor on remodeling jobs in a territory from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
   Bob Carreras, the husband of Judy Carreras, who with their daughter operates Heart’s Desire, said the family couldn’t be more thrilled with taking over the Naturedome property.

  “We’ll have the space we need to really expand our business,” Carreras said, “and we’re hoping to be all moved in by early March.”
   Heart’s Desire currently features novel gift items like handblocked tablecloths; Burt’s Bees body products; The Thymes, another line of lotions and sprays; and shawls made from 100-percent Nepalese pashmina wool.

Sequoia concessioner names

new general manager

   On Tuesday, Feb. 8, Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts announced that Jamie Hodgson has been named the general manager for Wuksachi Village and the other visitor services in Sequoia National Park. Hodgson, who joined Delaware North in 2000, comes to the Three Rivers-based operation from Grand Canyon National Park.
   At Grand Canyon, Hodgson also served as the concession company’s general manager where among his responsibilities was overseeing the 121-room Grand Hotel and a staff of 150. Prior to Grand Canyon, he also worked at Yosemite Lodge and in Glacier National Park in Montana.
   Hodgson replaces Tom McFadden who, during his six-year tenure as general manager, was responsible for opening Wuksachi Village in 1999. McFadden recently relocated to Yellowstone National Park where the company is bidding a new contract for Old Faithful Inn.

  “I loved working at Sequoia and we plan to keep our house in Three Rivers,” said McFadden. “It was time for a new challenge.”

  “The new general manager has already been here inspecting the operations,” said Andy Grinsfelder of Three Rivers, a Wuksachi manager. “This week, he’s back home in Arizona but should be here in Three Rivers on Monday [Feb. 14].”
   One of the highlights while McFadden was GM was a presidential visit by George W. Bush in June 2000. Bush requested that his room have a treadmill and a TV. After his visit, televisions were made available to all 102 guest rooms.



From Indian villages to

recreation destination

   ONCE UPON A TIME, there was no Lake Kaweah. But, interestingly, prior to the 19th century this lower river canyon was more populated than it is today.
   Between what today is the easternmost end of Lake Kaweah and Terminus Dam to the west, there were at least 15 Native American villages and several seasonal camps. Archaeological evidence, which includes hundreds of bedrock mortars and areas of pictographs, suggests that the occupation represents thousands of years.


   In the early 19th century, Spanish explorers discovered the area. Although they visited only briefly and did not settle in the region, they raided some villages and began the spread of disease to the native peoples.
   In 1856, the first white settler arrived, a 27-year-old cattleman named Hale Dixon Tharp. He settled on Horse Creek near its confluence with the Kaweah River, where he lived until his death in 1912. His homestead site is now within the pool elevation of Lake Kaweah.
   During the 1860s, other stockmen and ranchers began to settle on the various forks of the Kaweah River. Settlement in the Three Rivers area grew slowly but steadily until, in 1872, Harry “Parole” O’Farrell discovered Mineral King. A silver rush ensued and, in 1879, the Mineral King Road was completed, providing access from the San Joaquin Valley through Three Rivers to the high-country mining camp.
   In 1890, the creation of Sequoia National Park also contributed to the growth of Three Rivers. Camps, cabins, and summer resorts were constructed and more ranches were established.

   On Dec. 23, 1955, a 100-year flood on the Kaweah River washed away homes and bridges and marooned many sections of Three Rivers. Downtown Visalia and hundreds of acres of agricultural land downstream also flooded.
   It was this event that initiated plans to dam the Kaweah River. As a result, in 1962, Terminus Dam was completed, taking its name — “Terminus” — from the Visalia Electric Railroad branch line that ended there.
   The reservoir, named Lake Kaweah and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, originally had a capacity of 146,000 acre-feet and was created primarily to provide downstream flood control and storage for irrigation-water storage. For the past four decades, the lake has also supplied recreation opportunities and, since 1990, hydropower production.
   The state highway, which originally paralleled the Kaweah River all the way to Lemon Cove, now had to be rebuilt above the elevation of the new lake. This added additional mileage onto the trip from the Valley to Three Rivers as the highway was built into the contours of the hills on the south side of the reservoir.
   When the lake level is low, remnants of the original highway can still be seen.

   In 2003, the Lake Kaweah Enlargement Project commenced. The project included raising the spillway of Terminus Dam 21 feet to provide an additional 42,600 acre-feet of flood control and irrigation-water supply storage at Lake Kaweah.
   Dedicated in June 2004, the $58 million project included 30-percent more storage capacity and six fuse-gates that are among the largest in the world and designed to withstand “an epic flood event.”
   But enough of all this engineering dialogue. Let’s talk fun and recreation, which, at Lake Kaweah, is just about to get better.
The first place to stop when visiting Lake Kaweah is the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center, which opened in July 2003. The visitor center overlooks Lake Kaweah from its perch on the upper parking lot of the Lemon Hill Recreation Area at the west end of the lake and is open daily.
   This is also the locale of a boat-launching ramp and the Kaweah Marina, a privately-owned concession that rents houseboats, fishing boats, and personal watercraft. The marina also has gas for boaters, fishing supplies, snacks, and slip rentals.
   Traveling east on Highway 198, about two miles beyond the Lemon Hill area, a view of Alta Peak, Moro Rock, and the Great Western Divide comes into focus. There is a turnout on the north side of the highway from where to enjoy this picturesque scene, which is most magnificent in the spring when the lake is brimming, wildflowers are carpeting the verdant hillsides, and the mountains are snowcapped.
   Just beyond this scenic overlook is the Horse Creek Campground. The 80-site facility has flush toilets and showers. Ranger-led campfire programs are offered each Saturday night from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
   Within a couple more miles is the Slick Rock Recreation Area, which is at the easternmost end of Lake Kaweah and is the unofficial entrance to the community of Three Rivers. Currently, the Slick Rock area offers free access to the lake and river, but that is about to change.
   Due to the increased storage capacity of the reservoir, the eastern shore of the lake will now be another half-mile upstream. A dike is currently under construction to protect the Best Western Holiday Lodge, since it is located below the 715-foot elevation level of the lake.
   Concurrent with this project, a new “recreation area” just east of the Slick Rock area is being developed, which will provide lake and river access, a boat ramp, picnic area, restrooms, and more. This area will be managed by Army Corps rangers, and upgrades and maintenance will be funded through a state grant and user fees that will be collected at an entrance station.

School bus seatbelt law ahead

   A new state law is requiring that all new school buses bought after July 1, 2005, have seatbelts. State legislators first passed the law in 1999, but the start date was put off for several years to allow school bus manufacturers to add lap and shoulder belts to their vehicles.
   The new law puts another financial burden on school districts the next time they purchase a bus, school officials say. Not only do the buses cost more, they hold fewer students, so schools may have to buy more buses to haul the same number of children.
   The lap/shoulder belts required by the law add $40 to $50 per rider to the cost of a bus, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study done in 2002.
   Adding two seatbelts to each seat in a bus with 28 padded benches costs at least $2,240. That is on top of the roughly $110,000 buses already cost.
   That’s not all. Buses with 28 benches can hold up to 84 riders when three students sit on each seat. But when seatbelts are added, that cuts seating down to two per bench.
   A bus route that once brought 84 students to school would only be able to transport 56 on a new bus.
   School districts buy one or two buses every few years as other buses in their fleet get old and costly to fix. And money certainly should not be an issue when it comes to children’s safety, but school buses are already proven to be the safest way to travel, even without seatbelts.
   The 2002 Transportation Department study also found that students are almost eight times safer riding in a school bus without a seatbelt than they are with their own parents in cars.
   That is because of the “compartmentalization” of school bus seats — providing padded, high-rise backs to cushion riders during a collision.

  “But anytime you buckle somebody down, it’s going to provide extra protection,” said a California Highway Patrol spokesman.

EBC continues

service award tradition

   It’s a Three Rivers ritual that began over a half-century ago with the recently-disbanded Three Rivers PTA. Each February since 1951, in conjunction with the anniversary of the founding of the National PTA, at least one Three Rivers resident has been present with an “Honorary Service Award” for their selfless support of and dedication to the community’s children.
   Selected usually at the discretion of the current year’s PTA (now “Eagle Booster Club”) board of directors, on this esteemed list are more than five dozen individuals from all walks of life — teachers, school administrators and staff, local law-enforcement, clergy, librarians, and school and community volunteers. And, more than three decades ago, the entire Three Rivers Lions Club was recognized for its ongoing contributions to Three Rivers youth via scholarships, other monetary assistance, and various programs and sponsorships.
   In this, the inaugural year of the new Eagle Booster Club — which replaces the Three Rivers PTA as the school’s support group — the annual award ceremony continues under a new name: Volunteer Recognition Night.
   AND THE VOLUNTEER IS... This year’s Volunteer of the Year award will be presented to Jami Beck of Three Rivers. The award will be presented by the EBC board of directors — Dyann Graber, president; Wendy Woods, vice president; Heidi Crouch, treasurer; and Lora Gomes, secretary — at a public ceremony next Tuesday, Feb. 15, beginning at 7 p.m.
   Jami and her husband, Jeff, moved to Three Rivers in 1994 from Southern California. They have four children ranging in age from 16 to 10.
   Jami has always been involved in her children’s activities, but has also assisted other local children as a longtime Girl Scout leader and as a coach for TRUS Recreation Committee youth and at Three Rivers School, where she prepares middle-school students for play in the competitive Whitney League.
   Jami’s dedication to children is being taken one step further as she currently is in the last semester of her student-teaching phase toward earning her teaching credential. She also has previously has held two long-term substitute-teaching positions at Three Rivers School.
   DINNER AND A SHOW— As in years past, the evening will commence with a dinner that is open to the public. Beginning at 5 p.m., the Three Rivers School seventh-grade students and parents will serve spaghetti and all the fixings; all proceeds assist the class in earning their way to San Francisco in May of their eighth-grade year and offsets some graduation expenses.
   On display throughout the event will be student-produced projects including the seventh and eighth-graders’ Science Fair exhibits, the fourth-graders’ California mission models, and works of art created by first through third-graders.
   In addition, this year’s Poetry and Prose competitors will recite their selections.

Tony Silva
1964 ~ 2005

   Tony Silva, a former resident of Woodlake, died Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005, in Sacramento. He was 40.
   Tony was raised and educated in Woodlake. He currently resided in Sacramento and worked as a handyman.
   Tony is survived by his daughter, Shannon Silva of Fresno; his mother, Herlinda Silva, of Sacramento; one sister, six brothers; and several nieces and nephews.
   Services were held Thursday, Feb. 10, in Sacramento.

Barbara Herman
1930 ~ 2005

   Barbara Jean Herman of Three Rivers died Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005, in Visalia. She was 74.
   Barbara was born April 15, 1930, in Inglewood to Ruth and Archie O’Ryan, where she was raised and educated.
   Barbara and her husband, William E. Herman, have resided in Three Rivers for 20 years.
   In addition to her husband of nearly 57 years, Bill, Barbara is survived by three daughters, Connie Miller, Donna Shea, and Karen Fall; two grandsons, Brian and Kevin Shea; and two sisters, Patricia Richardson and Sherry Tolman.
   A service was held Tuesday, Feb. 8, at St. Clair’s Catholic Mission in Three Rivers.

Woodlake honors its finest:

Citizens, youth, business

   On Saturday, Jan. 29, the Woodlake Kiwanis and Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce presented their annual community-service awards at a banquet held at the Woodlake Memorial Building.
   Each year since 1961, Woodlake civic leaders have recognized their outstanding citizens. More recently, the youth of the community (sporadically since 1971) and businesses (since 1999) have also received commendation.
   The Business of the Year award for 2004 was presented to Ed Micham, Jeff Holmes, and Jerry Kramlick, representing High Sierra Lumber. The firm made a bold investment in Woodlake’s economy after Keith Brown Lumber (formerly Copeland Lumber) consolidated its holdings and closed the local lumberyard in 2001.

  “The loss of jobs and revenue in Woodlake when its only lumberyard closed had a big impact in our community,” Toni Lenz, the presenter, told the gathering. “We commend the vision of these gentlemen who had saw a need to invest in that business and have made the new lumberyard an outstanding success.”
   Lenz said that the annual sales at the local lumberyard have surpassed $6 million, which means much needed tax dollars for the City of Woodlake and some good-paying jobs. Micham and his managers, Jeff and Jerry, have also been staunch supporters of every worthwhile cause that comes along, she said
   Also that evening Bob Hengst and Frances Mann were recognized as Man and Woman of the Year for their longtime service to the community.
   Frances was raised in Woodlake and graduated from Woodlake High School. Today, she is a member of the office staff that keeps Woodlake High School running smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
   Bob is just continuing a family tradition of community service to the Woodlake/Elderwood area. His wife, Linda, was recognized as Woman of the Year in 2000. His mother, Wilma Hengst (1912-2001), received the first-ever Woman of the Year award presented at a ceremony in 1961.
   Two Woodlake High seniors, Jaimie Gonzalez and Fernando Garcia, were recognized for their dedication to making a difference in their school and community.
   The Spirit of Woodlake award was presented to Gerald and Donna Whittaker, who founded the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center in Woodlake in 2003.

Woodlake soccer teams

have playoff goals

   Woodlake, a perennial power in soccer, seems poised for another run at a Valley championship in soccer. Three years ago, it was the varsity girls; the last two years, it was the boys claiming consecutive Division IV titles.
   Although this season, with one game remaining yesterday (Feb. 10) vs. Orosi, the boys will qualify for a playoff spot, it has been the girls, under the tutelage of first-year coach Sal Guerra, who have had the more dominating team. On Tuesday, a week after clinching another East Sequoia League title, Woodlake’s varsity girls whitewashed Lindsay, 4-0.
   With the win, the Lady Tigers raised their record to 13-0 in league play and 17-2 overall.
   Senior goalie Janelle Bivens said it’s been pretty lonely from her position because most of the season the majority of the action has been at the opponent’s end of the field. In most games, she said, she touches the ball maybe three or four times.
   In Tuesday’s win, Woodlake got a goal and an assist from Natalie Flores and Yelitza Pena.

  “We’ve pretty much showed our league that we can dominate the action,” Pena said. “We’re hearing that eventually we’re going to have to beat Washington Union if we expect to win Valley. Right now, we’re just taking each opponent one game at a time.”
   On Tuesday, Washington Union’s Lady Panthers beat Kingsburg, 8-0. They are 12-1 in North Sequoia League play and 18-5 overall and should be a good match for the powerful Tigers.
   Woodlake’s varsity boys have been battling adversity all season. They’ve lost some close matches in overtime but Roy Guerra, a former Fresno Bee Coach of the Year, said don’t count the Woodlake boys out just yet.

  “I’m not one to argue a call by an official but we’ve had some things happen this season that were unbelievable,” Coach Guerra said. “We’re the defending section champs and everybody wants to beat us. Come playoff time, we’ll be ready to make a run for another championship.”

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