1995 ~ March 2005
the past decade,
been telling readers
they won't read, hear,
see anywhere else!
In the News -
Friday, MARCH 18, 2005
While Kaweah Country continues to enjoy a more normal winter
season, mountain snowpacks are at or near record low levels in portions
of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and northwest Wyoming.
Insect damage and tree mortality combined with long-term
drought in those areas are creating the potential for a very volatile
fire season in the intermountain west.
Locally, unsettled weather is in the weekend forecast for
the Central California region with rain showers, heavy at times, possible
beginning Saturday and continuing through Wednesday.
On Saturday, as cooler air aloft enters the region, snow
levels could drop below 5,000 feet in the local mountains.
By Monday, forecasters are calling for more than an inch
of rainfall in the Three Rivers environs and a foot of new snow at 7,000
As of Thursday, March 17, the storage in a steadily-rising
Lake Kaweah is 35,476 acre-feet or 20 percent of the newly enlarged capacity.
Rainfall to date this season at Terminus Dam is 12.95 inches.
The Three Rivers Fire Station has recorded a season total of 15.58 inches;
Ash Mountain checks in with 23.08 inches of rainfall.
On Friday, March 4, two Hanford youths were caught spray-painting
a newly constructed retaining wall on the Generals Highway in Sequoia
National Park. The youths, suspected gang members, were with a group of
nine others ranging in age from 14 to 22 years old.
A park ranger witnessed the vandalism and asked the youths
to stop. At that point, several of the suspects attempted to flee the
scene but were detained by the ranger until backup officers arrived.
In recent years, several citations have been issued for this
type of vandalism that includes a mandatory appearance before a federal
magistrate. The youths could be sentenced to six months in jail and/or
a $5,000 fine, plus restitution costs for the cleanup.
In the past, Sequoia Park maintenance crews have had to use
a sandblaster at several locales along the Kaweah River to remove graffiti
from boulders and facilities. South Fork Campground was temporarily closed
in January while parks personnel made repairs to pit toilets and a bridge
damaged by vandals.
“Gang tagging has
been increasing over the last 15 years,” said Russ Wilson, deputy
superintendent. “It costs the National Park Service millions of
dollars nationwide, and these parks [Sequoia-Kings Canyon], specifically,
spend thousands of dollars annually to repair, replace, refurbish, and
protect areas that have been vandalized.”
Anyone with information about unlawful activity in the national
parks may call the NPS hotline at 1-888-NPS-CRIME.
Road work looms
As early as next week, Kaweah Country commuters may encounter
some delays as roadwork begins on a five-mile segment of Highway 198 west
of Lemon Cove. Some of the culvert work started this past week as the
contractor, Lee’s Paving of Goshen, agreed to get a head start on
the portion where irrigation water must be diverted.
“The project won’t
officially start for a couple of weeks,” said Raul Lopez, Caltrans
project engineer. “But several workers are already on the job doing
some of the preliminary work.”
The boundaries of the project are the Lemon Cove Fire Station
on the east (near Ave. 324) and the vicinity of the old Yokohl Valley
Market on the west (near Road 220) in Mehrten Valley. The scope of work,
Lopez said, is some repair and widening of the shoulders to a standard
When complete, the entire stretch will have a new rubberized
“The two-foot width
of the current shoulder doesn’t leave much room for error,”
Lopez said. “The roadway will be much safer with the wider shoulders
and new pavement.”
The wider shoulders could conceivably accommodate bike lanes, which are
in future plans to connect Visalia with Sequoia National Park.
Lopez said that one-lane closures would be in effect for
much of the project. The delays, he said, should be minimal, but commuters
on a schedule should allow extra time.
In a few areas where blasting is necessary, both lanes might
be closed indefinitely. The contractor for the traffic control is Force
Traffic Control, Inc., of Exeter. The $3 million project is expected to
be completed by October.
Highway 216 roadwork: Minimal delays will
continue for the immediate future near the intersection of the Woodlake
road (Highway 216) and the Dry Creek turnoff. The roadway is being widened
in that area to accommodate trucks entering the highway from the adjacent
sand-and-gravel quarry. Road improvements in the area are a condition
of approval for area quarries to service more vehicles.
TIME WILL TELL
10 years ago this month
Now that The Kaweah Commonwealth has a decade under its belt,
it is time to begin a new feature: TIME WILL TELL.
Week to week, this feature will remind readers what was happening
in Three Rivers a decade ago while comparing the stories with life today.
March 1, 1995— First of all, the newspaper
was published on Wednesday. The publishers soon changed this publication
day to Friday to better correspond their schedules with those of their
THIS FIRST issue of the new Commonwealth included an introduction
by Kaweah Colony historian Jay O’Connell, who recounted the history
of the original Commonwealth.
IT WAS reported that Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
had a new superintendent, Mike Tollefson. (He has since moved on, holding
the top spots at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and, currently, Yosemite.)
THE HUSBAND-and-wife publishing team wrote separate columns
to introduce themselves. John Elliott wrote: “Because the newspaper
informs without respect to race, money, or status, it is what some have
called a ‘tributary of universal suffrage.’ That simply means
that it belongs to all of us; we often refer to the local paper as ‘our’
newspaper.” Sarah Barton Elliott said: “John and I have a
deep-rooted sense of purpose and commitment to Three Rivers, Sequoia National
Park, Woodlake, and all of Kaweah Country. We strive for a standard of
excellence that will provide accurate information in an entertaining format.”
RAY MURRY was named Man of the Year during the annual Founder’s
Day ceremony hosted by the Three Rivers PTA.
A 14-YEAR-old cross-country skier, on a field trip from Santa
Monica, died when she fell 2,000 feet from Big Baldy Ridge in Kings Canyon
A PHOTO showed first and second-graders planting a magnolia
tree from Mt. Vernon on Washington’s birthday at Three Rivers School.
SOME ADVERTISERS who are worthy of remembering include: Angelina’s
Family Dining, Mountain Arts, Heart’s Delight Home-Bake Pizza, Foothill
Fruit Company, Wyrick’s All Value Office Products, Casey’s
Auto Parts, Epicenter Market, The Phoenix Salon, Sequoia Real Estate,
Loose Change Arcade, and Sequoia Guest Services, Inc.
March 8, 1995— The shock and awe of
that first issue was still settling in with the publishers. John wrote:
“Whew! What a week.” Sarah wrote: “Last week was unbelievable…
I lost track of what day it was, mealtime was a thing of the past, and
I barely noticed the passing of day or night.”
March 15, 1995— A late-season storm brought
“torrential downpours, hail, high winds, rockslides, downed trees
and powerlines, and caused a rapid rise in the Kaweah River.” About
four inches of rain was received in Kaweah Country over a 24-hour period
and the South Fork of the Kaweah River flooded over the Conley Creek Bridge,
leaving residents stranded.
THE “COLONY Corner,” by Jay O’Connell,
debuted. The regular installments told the fascinating history of the
Kaweah Colony, a 19th-century North Fork settlement with high aspirations.
Jay’s research that was shared in this feature became, in 1999,
a book, Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony.
SOME ADVERTISERS worthy of mention because they are still
advertisers are: Bank of the Sierra, Silver City Resort, Monarch Ford,
Cider Mill Restaurant. Cutting Room, Sierra Garden Center, Sierra High
Chiropractic, Century 21 Three Rivers, Three Rivers Realty, Country Properties,
Realty World-Avant (now Avant Real Estate Center), Cal Western Realty,
Affairs Real Estate.
The body of a male solo climber on Mount Whitney in Sequoia
National Park was recovered along with some mountaineering equipment and
personal items on Wednesday, March 16. The climber apparently fell to
his death on Sunday, March 13, reported Alexandra Picavet, Sequoia-Kings
Canyon public information officer.
It has been determined that the climber, whose name has not
been released pending the notification of family members, fell about 1,000
feet while on the west side of Mount Whitney -- at 14,495 feet, the highest
mountain in the contiguous U.S. -- after climbing the northeast face via
the Mountaineer’s Route.
The National Park Service was contacted by the Inyo County
Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday, March 15, upon the report of an
overdue 37-year-old solo climber from Los Angeles. An Inyo County Sheriff’s
officer was flown to the locale later that day by a CHP helicopter and,
although was able to confirm the fatality, was unable to recover the body.
A technical team of Sequoia and Kings Canyon rangers were
flown to the site on Wednesday, March 16, at about 9 a.m., and were able
to complete the recovery effort.
The Mountaineer’s Route is rated a Class 3 (on a climbers’
rating scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the most difficult), meaning actual
handholds and footholds must be found, tested, and used. The first ascent
of this steep face is credited to John Muir on Oct. 21, 1873.
The most challenging aspect of this climb is a large snowy
couloir (an open, steep gully) located between the north arête (a
sharp ridge of rock, snow, and/or ice) and the Great Buttress.
Currently, Mount Whitney is mostly snow-covered and still
experiencing winter conditions, which makes the ascent of the mountain
even more difficult and risky. The cause of the fall is under investigation
and a positive identification of the climber is underway by the Tulare
County Sheriff’s Office coroner.
On Tuesday, March 1, William Santiago, 32, was arrested on
a warrant in connection with the string of break-ins that occurred in
Three Rivers on Feb. 18 and 19. Santiago, whose last known address was
in San Leandro, was charged with petty theft and residential burglary.
Santiago remains in the Tulare County Jail and is being held
on $10,000 bail. The suspect was taken into custody the same day that
narcotics officers in Poplar recovered some of the stolen property, which
originally totaled $15,000 or more in items ranging from electronics to
According to a witness in the case, Santiago first became
acquainted with Three Rivers in December 2004 when he worked here as a
computer consultant. Santiago delivered some business cards for the Three
Rivers client but failed to complete the website-design work that he was
originally contracted to do.
A Sheriff’s Department deputy said that Santiago had
no prior Tulare County arrest record. Santiago’s next court appearance
is scheduled for Monday, March 21.
“In cases like
this, the defendant has the option of pleading guilty to a specific charge
to avoid a trial,” the deputy said. “Whether that happens
or not depends on how much evidence is presented in the case.”
Rev. Warren Mark Campbell, of the Church at Kaweah on North
Fork Drive reported that this week someone broke into a church building
and stole a new DVD/VCR player that was still in its box. An investigation
in that case is ongoing.
Each year, Three Rivers School seventh and eighth-graders
are required to prepare a science project, which includes selecting a
subject, creating a hypothesis, performing an experiment, documenting
the findings, writing a report, and compiling the work into a graphically-pleasing
display. This is then turned in to the school and showcased for judging.
Last month, the judges, who are bona fide scientists from
Sequoia National Park and the local U.S. Geological Survey and have understandably
high standards, perused the projects, provided each student with a judging
sheet and some constructive comments, and selected eight winners. Those
top projects then competed at the county level.
This year’s TRUS winners are:
Ben Pfenninger (top scorer) attacked with “Grass Wars.”
Jordan Vieira, Hillary Crouch, and Tor Skeen soaked up knowledge
with “How Clean is Your Water?”
Stephany Lineback took the plunge with “Dri-Water.”
Jacob Parker, Dylan Bird-Gilmour, and Carl Schwarz performed
swimmingly with “Tank and Fish Growth.”
Casey LeFave got her daily dose of fiber with “Buttercrunch
Billy Osborn and Brendon Morgan flooded the competition with
Madison Beck and Kaylin Reeves received flying colors for
And, last, but not least, Andrew Leyva realized the sweet
smell of success with “Fertilizer.”
The Tulare County Science and Engineering Fair was held at
the Sequoia Mall from Feb. 28 to March 6 and included 241 projects from
25 Tulare County schools. On Thursday, March 3, an awards ceremony was
held in the center court of the mall.
The top projects were recognized during the evening presentation,
including two from Three Rivers School. Winning first place in the Zoology
category were seventh-graders Jacob Parker, Dylan Bird-Gilmour, and Carl
The boys’ project compared the growth of fish with
the size of the fish tank. This effort garnered them a $100 cash prize.
And the winners are…
After participating in an oral interview with the county
Science Fair judges, Jordan Vieira, Hillary Crouch, and Tor Skeen’s
project was selected as one of the top 10 overall in the county, which
qualifies them to advance to the California State Science Fair.
This 54th annual competition, which will be held Monday and
Tuesday, May 23 and 24, in Los Angeles, will host more than 1,000 participants
from more than 350 schools throughout California. At least $50,000 will
be awarded to the top projects.
For the past five out of six years, a Three Rivers student
has advanced to the State level of competition.