News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

  Celebrating 10 years:

March 1995 ~ March 2005

For the past decade,

The Kaweah Commonwealth

has been telling readers

things they won't read, hear,

or see anywhere else!



In the News - Friday, MARCH 25, 2005

Hey! Who forgot to

tell Mother Nature

that it’s spring?

Mudslide cleared

from Generals Highway

Warmer weather

on the horizon

  Last Sunday, in the aftermath of the first of a series of swift-moving cold storms, the official start of spring (March 20) looked more like the lion in winter. That’s because much of the low pressure that has been directing its wrath toward the Southland thus far in the rainy season, according to some forecasters, is shifting to the central region. That slight shift in the storm track means more storminess for Central California including high winds, lightning and thunder, cloudbursts, some impressive snowfall in the higher elevations, and daily challenges for National Park Service maintenance crews trying to keep the Generals Highway open and safe for Spring Break tourists. “We [NPS] were already gearing up for our spring routine once we had that warm weather last week,” said Kirk Stiltz, supervisor of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks road crew. “Then, over this past weekend, we were back on the plows. On Tuesday, we had some more slides to deal with in addition to all the new snow up on top.”

   Stiltz said one slide on Tuesday afternoon, March 22, caused a large amount of material to come down on the roadway just below Amphitheater Point. While an operator was dealing with that mess, another bigger slide occurred about 5:30 p.m. right above the parking areas at the popular scenic lookout, which is located 11 miles from the Sequoia Park entrance station at 4,400 feet elevation.

  “There were several of us on the way down the Generals before the rangers were even aware of the larger slide,” said Ron Borum, the local UPS driver who navigates the Generals Highway daily. “We were able to clear just enough of the debris so a couple of vehicles could squeeze by.”
   Shortly after an NPS ranger was able to assess the situation, the operator working below Amphitheater Point came up and began clearing the new slide. Once the last of the waiting traffic was able to get by, the park operator was released from the incident.

  “Sometime during the night more material came down, including at least two large trees that again closed the road,” Stiltz said.
   Park crews worked throughout most of Wednesday to reopen the Generals Highway at Amphitheater Point and then spent the rest of the day clearing boulders and debris from numerous locations between Ash Mountain and Giant Forest.
   The heavy downpours of the recent storms have loosened material along the steepest portions of the parks’ roads and more slides are a possibility.

   In Three Rivers, the recent storms brought high winds and some of the heaviest downpours of the current season. Local rain gauges recorded 1.20 inches in the 24 hours ending Sunday, March 20; another .20 on Monday; and 1.40 inches more was measured after Tuesday’s deluge that was accompanied by lightning and wind.
   No major damage was reported in Three Rivers but lots of tree branches were down and there was a brief power outage Tuesday night that was followed by a predictable surge when the power was restored. The average year-to-date totals in the Three Rivers environs has now eclipsed 20 inches of rainfall with more on the way as soon as Monday.
   There are several indicators that the current season is shaping up as an even greater El Nino than was originally predicted. The .84 inches of rainfall that was recorded in Fresno on Tuesday set an all-time record for that date.
   On Wednesday, the current season total in Los Angeles surpassed 34.84 inches of rainfall, making it officially the second wettest in recorded history. Another three inches or so of rain before June 30 and L.A. will mark its wettest season ever, drowning out a record that has stood since 38.18 inches was recorded in 1883-84.
   Charter fishermen out of San Diego reported this week more record catches of 200-pound yellowfin tuna in waters off Baja, Mexico. Earlier this month, an unprecedented kill of giant squid washed ashore on Orange County beaches that along with the record hauls of the charter boats are sure signs that warmer Pacific currents are making their way to more northern latitudes.
   What does it all mean for Kaweah Country and its weather? The only thing that’s a reasonable certainty is that the huge snowpack in the higher elevations is liable to hang around awhile. When it does come tumbling down-canyon, the runoff will scour local river channels, create some thunderous whitewater, and fill the newly enlarged Lake Kaweah basin to the brim.

Easter Sunrise Service

celebrates the

beauty of the day

   This Sunday, March 27, beginning at 6:30 a.m., the St. Anthony Retreat will in Three Rivers will host the annual community Easter Sunrise Service. The sun is scheduled to rise at 6:24 a.m., so those in attendance at the vigil will experience the first rays that emerge over the eastern hills.
   Everyone is welcome to share in this inspiring event that commemorates, according to Christian belief, the “Risen Christ.” Those of other faiths will take pleasure in the glory of the dawning day while experiencing the awakening of the landscape from its winter dormancy to spring rebirth.
   Father John Griesbach, director of the Retreat, will provide this year’s message entitled “Looking Into The Empty Tomb.” Music will be provided by the Community Presbyterian Church choir with prayers, intercession, and scripture readings by members of St. Clair’s Catholic Church, First Baptist Church, and the Presbyterian Church.
   A special offering will be collected during the service, which will benefit the Three Rivers Community Food Pantry. Canned and non-perishable food will also be accepted on Easter morning, which will be delivered to the Food Pantry.
   After the service, a pancake breakfast will be served in the Retreat’s fellowship hall. The cost for the breakfast is $6 for adults and $3 for children under six years of age. The proceeds of the breakfast will be used to defray the expenses of the annual community Vacation Bible School that is held each summer at no cost to the students.

  “This Easter, bring the family, your canned goods, have breakfast, and enjoy the fellowship as we celebrate the resurrection of our living Savior Jesus Christ our Lord,” said John Dixon, youth pastor at the First Baptist Church.

Most local schools

improve on state test

   In Tulare County, the state’s goal of scoring 800 on the California Academic Performance Index tends to be an elusive number for most schools. According to results released on Tuesday, March 15, only two schools in the county — Columbine Elementary (Delano) and Royal Oaks Elementary (Visalia) — scored above the 800 mark.
   Only three schools in the county scored above 750, two elementary schools in Tulare and Three Rivers Union School.
API scores range from 200 to 1,000, with 800 being the state’s goal for all schools to meet. The scores are based on results from a series of standardized tests and, for high schools, the California High School Exit Exam.
   Each year, schools are required to show a five percent increase in the difference between their last score and the 800-point goal.
For example, Three Rivers School, which scored a 796, must score a 797 or higher next year to show adequate growth toward the goal. In the past few years, TRUS has consistently received an API score in the 790s, within mere points of the 800 goal.
   Low-performing schools that don’t improve API scores for two consecutive years can be taken over by the state, made into charter schools, or shut down. No Kaweah Country schools are in danger of being penalized.
   School officials use the scores to find strengths and weaknesses in their curriculum. With more detailed breakdowns of the scores — by demographics or subject matter — a school can see where it needs to improve or which students need additional help.
   Woodlake High School has taken a proactive approach in dealing with the scores and the school’s efforts to consistently improve them. To its credit, the school has raised its score more than 100 points over the past six years.
   Statewide, high schools consistently receive lower scores than elementary schools and have a harder time achieving the 800 goal.
The API results also allow schools to compare themselves with a statewide ranking system. The schools are ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
   The state recommends that the API scores never be the only measurement school officials look at when judging their progress. Schools need to see if the scores are consistent with other measures they use to assess how students, teachers, and programs are doing.
   (See graph in the print edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth for API scores.)




Life stories set in stone

   A lesson in Three Rivers history is as near as the local cemetery. In telling children and grandchildren the story of those who have come before them, a stop at the Three Rivers Cemetery is an important chapter.
   A visit to a cemetery, any cemetery, especially one in which family members are interred, can inspire strong emotions: awe at the perseverance of those who lived in a different era, a sense of connection with this past, sadness for the loss of life, a newfound awareness of one’s own mortality, and a commitment and sense of purpose to preserve the memories of family members.
   In March 1909, Charles Bahwell sold an acre of land for $10 to the newly-organized Three Rivers Cemetery Association. Subsequent donations and purchases of land came from Noel and Nellie Britten and Byron Allen.
   Jason Barton and Ira Blossom donated land for the road into the property. All received a cemetery plot in recognition of their donation.
   In September 1910, Milton Montgomery “Mont” Barton was the first resident of Three Rivers to be buried in the new cemetery upon his accidental death. Several others who had died previously and been buried elsewhere were exhumed and re-interred in the Three Rivers Cemetery.
   Prior to the organization of a community cemetery, Three Rivers residents who passed on were most likely to be buried on their own land in a family cemetery. One local burial site that preceded the Three Rivers Cemetery was the Kaweah Colony cemetery, which was located near Redstone Park on the east side of the North Fork of the Kaweah River, currently on a part of the Chilcott ranch on present-day North Kaweah River Drive.
   The handwritten bylaws of the new cemetery were signed March 12, 1909, by George Welch, Henry Alles, and J.W. Griffes. The original journal is on file in the cemetery district office (currently, in The Kaweah Commonwealth newspaper office where the space is donated to the cemetery district) also includes collections and disbursements from 1909, which documents the purchase of the first burial sites by J.O. Carter, John Alles, James Barton, George Cahoon, Marion Griffes, Isham “Doc” Mullenix, George Welch, Judd Blick, and J.W. Griffes.
   For the first few decades, Three Rivers Cemetery Association officers were elected annually for one, two, and thee-year terms. The first officers were J.W. Griffes, president and trustee; C.W. Blossom, secretary; George Welch, treasurer; and trustees Frank Finch, and Joe Carter.
   The cemetery sexton has always been a local resident. In the early years, most of the labor was donated by the cemetery trustees.
   The journal records show that in 1940, Philip Alles, who lived nearby, was receiving an annual salary of about $500 for his work as cemetery foreman. He continued in this capacity until his death in 1953.
   Other caretakers include Edwin Kath, Arthur Moss, and Lee Burton. In 1958, Grady Nunnelee, who still resides in Three Rivers, took over as part-time caretaker and performed duties at the cemetery for more than a decade.
   In 1940, the cemetery became a special district under the direction of the County of Tulare. The newly-created Three Rivers Public Cemetery District maintained its elected governing board, but began receiving property-tax income to continue its essential public service.
   By 1949, the annual elections of five trustees were replaced by the appointment of three directors — a chairman, vice chairman, and secretary — by the county Board of Supervisors.
The first gravesites sold for $5. By the 1940s, the cost of a plot was $20. In the 1960s, they were going for $40 each. Today, the cost is $400 for Three Rivers residents and $800 for non-residents.
   This month, the Three Rivers Cemetery has been in operation for 96 years. There are presently about 600 interments.
   The cemetery manager, Pat Sermuksnis, takes care of the paperwork and general business of the office as well as the caretaking duties. The board of directors are Jim Barton, Bill Tidwell, and Gail Bennett.

10 years ago this month

  WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22, 1995— A request for a zoning change was filed with the Tulare County Planning Commission for a “spa-resort” to be developed on a 172.39-acre portion of the Thorn Ranch by new buyers.
   After nearly two years without a pastor, Rev. Keith Edwards arrived in Three Rivers to lead the Community Presbyterian Church.
   Rainfall as of March 20 was 21.17 inches. As of March 20, 1994, it was 11.38 inches.


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