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, APRIL 1, 2005

Lions to pay

tribute to firefighter

   For a decade, the Three Rivers Lions Club has held an annual Recognition Night on the night before Jazzaffair weekend to honor a local community member.
   This year’s honoree, John Hanggi, is a native son of Three Rivers. The Lions Club is recognizing Hanggi because for 18 years he has been a responder to hundreds of local emergencies — fires, traffic accidents, or medical incidents.
   John explained that growing up here and attending Three Rivers School helped him become aware of what it means to have community spirit. After graduation from Woodlake High School in 1986, it seemed the right thing to do to give back to the community, so he became a volunteer firefighter.
   As a boy, Hanggi said, he can vividly recall seeing air tankers flying in to make their drops on one foothills fire or another.

  “Although I’ve been through a lot of training, I never really thought of a career as a firefighter,” John said. “I guess you could say I got involved because I’ve always had the urge to help people when they needed a hand.”
   John has deep family roots that go back to the 1860s when his ancestors, the Blossom and Clough families, settled along the South Fork. In 1993, he married his wife, Kris, who is currently the cafeteria manager at Three Rivers School.
   The Hanggis’ daughter, Courtney, a TRUS third-grader, is the seventh generation of John’s family to live in Three Rivers. She is the only known seventh-generation descendent of a Three Rivers family who resides here.
   Along with his older siblings — sister Nicky and brother Jody — John is a partner in JNJ Farms in Lindsay. His grandparents, the late John Wollenman and wife Bernie (of Three Rivers), relocated to that area 50 years ago from Orange County and the family has been citrus/olive growers in that part of Tulare County ever since.

  “Because I work in the family business, I can normally break away at a moment’s notice,” John said. “From work, I can be back here in 35 or 40 minutes.”
   The rest of his time at home, he said, he’s “available” and on call. One time, John was playing in the local men’s softball league and got an emergency call while in the batter’s box.
   Not only has he served as a volunteer firefighter, but he has also been part of the Three Rivers Volunteer Ambulance team for 15 years. John is licensed to drive both the Three Rivers fire engine and ambulance, the only local volunteer licensed to drive both emergency vehicles.
   Come fire, traffic accident, or high water, odds are John Hanggi will respond to the emergency. Two years ago, he completed the training as an Emergency Medical Technician II and now he can also provide advanced life support services.

  “What’s really changed since I first became involved is the training,” John says. “More and more hours are required each year to be trained or recertified in one life-saving emergency or another.”
   For 15 years, John has served as chief of the local volunteer firefighters. Untold hours are consumed these days by also being on the ambulance board of directors.

  “I guess I first became involved for the adrenaline rush of responding to an emergency,” recalled John. “After all these years and hundreds of calls, I volunteer for the satisfaction of knowing I saved a life or was able to help somebody in need.”

Sequoia Park reveals

pot-cleanup efforts

Event hosts

media, politicians

   On Wednesday, television crews, newspaper reporters, government officials, and environmental advocates were part of a Sequoia Park tour to inspect restoration efforts in a former marijuana garden located along Trauger’s Creek below the Mineral King Road. At a briefing staged at the Hammond Fire Station, park officials explained that the current restoration work is part of a complex of gardens that was discovered and eradicated in 2002 and is just the beginning of restoration of environmental damage done by local pot growers.

  “You’ve heard all about the raids and the thousands of plants that were discovered growing in the parks in the past couple of years,” said Alexandra Picavet, the parks’ public information officer. “Restoration is the rest of the story.”
   In February, parks personnel, with the assistance of a California Conservation Corps crew, began a pilot program to restore the impacts of marijuana gardens that have been identified as part of the Trauger’s complex. Cleanup crews, led by Richard Thiel and Bob Meadows, NPS biological technicians, removed 5,515 pounds of garbage and eight miles of black irrigation tubing from one of the smaller garden areas.
   Athena Demetry, NPS ecologist, estimated that literally tons of fertilizers, pesticides, and poisons have been used in the pot-growing operation.

  “These kinds of materials cause tremendous impact to the environment and may eventually find their way into the East Fork of the Kaweah River and drinking water of Three Rivers,” Demetry said.
   Demetry also demonstrated how the terraces are being leveled with hand tools and how the restoration efforts are aimed at preventing further erosion in the former growing areas.

  “The growers cut out the understory but try to leave most of the canopy to prevent being seen from the air,” Meadows explained. “The piles of cut vegetation and some of the tent camps in this area must have been visible from certain places along the Mineral King Road.”
   An armed law-enforcement ranger, who accompanied the group for security, said that this camp was most recently being used as a trailhead to supply more isolated gardens down the mountain and on the other side of the Kaweah River.

  “We’re putting pressure on these growers and they’re moving to other parts of the parks and to adjacent public lands just outside the national park boundaries,” the anonymous ranger said.
   Part of the purpose of the pilot program is to find out just how much money is needed to restore these former gardens. More than $78,000 was used to treat just several acres of what Meadows has estimated to be a 180-acre complex in these two adjacent East Fork drainages.
   In 2004 alone, NPS rangers eradicated more than 44,000 plants within park boundaries, their biggest annual haul to date. They suspect that growers are already in the area scouting locales to use for this season.

  “We’re glad that you are all here today to help spread the word,” Picavet said. “The law-enforcement activities and the restoration of these public lands will be ongoing and it’s going to take a lot more funding to do the job.”

Local accidents

leave one injured

   In the last two weeks, two separate accidents involving three vehicles reminded Kaweah Country motorists of two locales where accidents happen frequently. The more serious accident occurred on Wednesday, March 23, at 5:50 p.m. about 200 feet west of the entrance to Boat Ramp No. 2 at Lake Kaweah.
   A 50-year-old Tulare man was driving a 2005 Chevy truck eastbound on Highway 198. Witnesses told a CHP investigator at the scene that just before leaving the roadway the driver of the pickup began to weave erratically and then crashed into rocks on the south side of the shoulder.
   The accident was caused by hypoglycemia, a complication of diabetes, which made the driver lose consciousness. In the crash, the victim suffered facial lacerations and at least one fracture.
   Paramedics at the scene reported that the driver’s blood sugar was 33 (85 to 110 is the normal range). He was transported in the Exeter Ambulance to Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia for further treatment.
   The other mishap occurred on March 18 when two Three Rivers motorists were pulling onto Sierra Drive from the Village Market parking lot. One motorist was headed east and didn’t see the other driver who was headed west. No injuries were reported and the vehicles sustained only minor damage.
   April 1 marks the start of the busy visitor season. That means the chance of encountering drivers who are unfamiliar with Three Rivers and Kaweah country roads is greatly increased.

  “It is imperative that motorists drive defensively and use extra caution, especially with all the extra tourists and Lake Kaweah boating traffic,” said Officer Travis, CHP spokesperson.

County hosts

General Plan workshop

   Last week, county Long-Range Planning staff announced that they are presenting a public workshop in Three Rivers on Wednesday, April 13, at 6:30 p.m. The purpose of meeting in McDowall Auditorium at Three Rivers School is to furnish an update on the status of a Three Rivers element being integrated into the county’s new General Plan.
   After several years of research, surveys, and a series of local public forums, county staff has added the essentials of the updated Three Rivers Community Plan into what they have entitled: Section 9 – Foothill Growth Management Plan (FGMP). The FGMP provides a comprehensive statement of the development policies and standards that set forth land use and circulation patterns for the foothills region of Tulare County.
   The FGMP was prepared to specifically meet the Board of Supervisors’ objectives of rationally directing growth in the foothills of Tulare County, maintaining the viability of foothills agriculture, and reducing county expenditures through a more efficient delivery of services.
   At last month’s Three Rivers Town Meeting, Supervisor Allen Ishida said that staff may be at a standstill on the General Plan and it is very important that there be local input.

  “It is very important that the Three Rivers community come to a consensus on what growth would be appropriate in thearea,” Ishida said.
   The goal outlined in this section of the existing plan, adopted in 1980, is to retain and strengthen community identity for Three Rivers, Lemon Cove, and Springville. This objective will be retained in the new plan as well as encouraging foothills communities like Three Rivers to develop a commercial core.
   The project manager for the county’s community planning project is Theresa Szymanis. For more information, call her at 733-6291.

Supervisor Ishida at CSD
On Wednesday, April 6, at 7 p.m., Supervisor Allen Ishida will attend the monthly meeting of the Three Rivers Community Services District. He will be suggesting that the CSD become a lead agency and assume responsibility for the Three Rivers element of the county’s General Plan. The public is invited to attend. Information: 561-3480.


Wild cucumbers work their
tendrils into spring landscape

   It’s one of the spring’s most prolific wildflowers in the foothills, but rarely gets the accolades its more colorful and less aggressive counterparts receive. And it’s a vegetable, no, a fruit. But, no matter, it is doubtful that it appears regularly on local dinner plates or in lunchboxes.
   More commonly considered a weed, the wild cucumber is one of the strangest plants in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Currently in its growing stage, the wild cucumber is a perennial vine that can be seen climbing as high as 15 to 20 feet, entangling itself among the oaks, manzanitas, and other plants, and attaching itself to fences and trailing over boulders.
   According to the late Samuel J. Pusateri, a Three Rivers resident and biologist who specialized in the plants of the Kaweah canyon and the Sierra, some other names for the wild cucumber (Echinocystis macrocarpa) are big root, man root, old-man-in-the-ground (based on its root, which can weigh 40 to 60 pounds), Marah, squirting cucumber, and the Spanish name chilicote.
   The wild cucumber is a green vine the emerges each spring from a massive taproot. The grape-like stem is long and think with secondary, long, viny branches growing from the main stem. The leaves are stalked and maple-shaped; the flowers are cream-colored and star-shaped.
   The plant produces large, prickly, gourd-like fruits that dangle from the stems like holiday ornaments.
   When they are young, the spiny fruit can be squeezed with a bare hand. But later in the season, the spines stiffen, become sharp, and may be painful to those who have a run-in with them.
This protective covering discourages foraging animals so the seeds from the drying wild cucumber can disperse and propagate. The seeds fit snugly into four tubular compartments and are coated with a lubricant that permits them to slip easily.

  "This strange procedure is fascinating to observe,” wrote Sam Pusateri in a July 1960 article. “Once the fruit matures, it begins to split at the lower end and thus exposes the elongated, bean-shaped, olive-colored seeds.

  “During the heat of the day, gases contained in the compartments expand. As the pressure mounts, the seeds shoot out with great force.

  “This process is like a cork-stoppered bottle filled with air. A change in the pressure will cause the cork to eject with a bang.

  “A few seeds will remain in the capsule. These escape only after the fruit has been reduced to a net-like bladder.”
   The Native Americans of the foothills region used the wild cucumber in many ways. The bitter root, which even wildlife considers non-edible, was used to stimulate ailing appetites.
   The oil from the seeds were used as an emollient. The juice squeezed from the fruit is said to have been effective against ringworm, scalp infections, and even to remove bloodstains from buckskin clothing after hunting or battles. The seeds were strung as beads and used by Indian and Spanish children in games. The inside seed casing was used as a loofah-like scrubbing aid.

10 years ago this month

  WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29, 1995— A proposed zoning change of approximately 172 acres of the Thorn ranch on North Fork Drive to “commercial/recreational” was considered by the County of Tulare Planning Department. The zoning change was requested by prospective buyers Helena Kallianotes and Marino Restrefo to construct a 24,000-square-foot lodge with restaurants, 30 guest rooms, stables, tennis courts, swimming pools, and as many as 90 guest cabins. The meeting was continued to April 26.

  Greg and Randy Dixon of Three Rivers worked their way through a 32-car field to win the Street Machine One class championship during the 36th annual March Meet at the Bakersfield Raceway.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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