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 15, 2005

County planners

meet with Three Rivers

It’s back to the drawing board on local Community Plan; General Plan is several years from completion

   On Wednesday, April 13, Tulare County planners were in Three Rivers to host a workshop to gather input for its new General Plan. The latest planning effort, when completed in three to five years, county planners say, will produce a consolidated document containing the framework for the inclusion of the Three Rivers Community Plan.
   But it was frustrating to some of the 60 locals who attended the event held in McDowall Auditorium at Three Rivers School that much of the planning effort so far that has focused on Three Rivers may have gone for naught.

  “The Three Rivers Community Plan has been effectively torpedoed,” said one former committee member.
   In comments made earlier this week to the county Board of Supervisors at their regular meeting, Theresa Szymanis, project manager for the county, reviewed the seven mandatory elements of the General Plan: land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, and safety. She also explained that area plans and community plans, like the one for Three Rivers, may contain more detail but must be consistent with the mandatory elements.
   However, Szymanis said, the community plans, of which there are 11 including the one for Three Rivers, are not under review at this time. The next priority among the community plans, she said, is Goshen. That area, located near Highway 99, is important as a plan model because of its potential for industrial growth.
   The consensus of planning workshops like the one in Three Rivers is sending a message to planners that small communities need to create some kind of “rural renaissance.” That’s the only way unincorporated communities will be able to pay for needed infrastructure and balance the creation of jobs with housing.
   Szymanis also said that besides Goshen, community plans for Three Rivers and Tipton are farther along than the other eight. After Goshen, Three Rivers is next in terms of county staff time. But it will take more financial resources, an estimated $100,000, and consultants to complete an Environmental Impact Report for the Three Rivers plan while the county proceeds with its General Plan.
   At Wednesday’s workshop, participants were divided into eight groups and asked to list priorities relative to topics like growth patterns, air quality, water supply, education and training, economic diversity, tourism, housing, and agriculture. Bruce Race, the Berkeley consultant who was one of the workshop’s facilitators, asked the group to think about alternative futures for the county and not to focus on issues specific to Three Rivers.
   One group said that the addition of a four-year university in Tulare County was critical to retrain those who are losing jobs in agriculture and as an economic stimulus. Another suggestion was to provide incentives to attract community-friendly businesses.

  “The input we gather tonight we will forward to the Board of Supervisors and eventually incorporate into the final planning document,” Szymanis said.
   For more information about General Plan 2025 and how Three Rivers fits in with the county’s plans, call Szymanis at 733-6291.

Parks chief

announces retirement

Martin’s second tour of duty in Sequoia-Kings Canyon will end in June 2005

   This week, following 43 years as an employee of the National Park Service and extended stays in nine different national parks, Richard A. “Dick” Martin, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, announced his retirement. Martin, who came to Ash Mountain in March 2001, will be ending a distinguished career in government work effective June 3.
   His first love throughout his more than four decades of public service was protecting wilderness values and each park’s natural resources. Aside from a few years helping develop the Rangers Careers program, Martin has enjoyed patrolling and managing some of the most spectacular parks in the system. Among the places he has worked are Olympic National Park (Wash.), Yosemite National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (Alaska), Death Valley National Park, and two separate assignments at Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks.
   During the first one from 1975 to 1977, Martin lived in Bishop while spending his summers in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon backcountry. In the winter, he pursued one of his passions — cross-country skiing. He hopes to have more time for skiing and hiking after his retirement.
   Martin said that after that duty as a backcountry ranger, he always longed to return to Sequoia-Kings Canyon. When he finally did in 2001, he claimed the top position.
   Prior to coming back to work at Ash Mountain, he served as superintendent at Death Valley. He once said that there he gained valuable insight working with a park partner on the General Management Plan.
   While at Sequoia-Kings Canyon that partnership experience proved very helpful in dealing with the Mineral King District Association. Members of the Mineral King community said at a recent gathering that Martin was very helpful and encouraged their preservation efforts.
   During Martin’s tenure, he hosted President George W. Bush and Interior Secretary Gale Norton. That occasion marked the first time a sitting president had visited the local parks.
   Martin was also instrumental in the parks’ update of an inventory of its historical resources and presided over both the opening of the Giant Forest Museum and the commemorating ceremony when a giant sequoia was dedicated in honor of Colonel Charles Young, Sequoia’s first and only black superintendent.

Whitney’s ‘Notch’

claims another climber

   For the second time in as many months, a climber has died while on an expedition to Mount Whitney.
   On Sunday, April 10, Patrick Wang, 27, of Hillsboro, Ore., fell to his death while he and his climbing partner were descending the mountain after reaching the 14,495-foot summit. Patrick’s partner and lifelong friend, along with two climbers from another party, witnessed the fall.
   Wang was on the Mountaineer’s Route — a Class 3 cross-country route — near “the Notch” (see diagram right). The victim, an experienced mountaineer, reportedly lost his footing while still on the west side of the mountain, just before returning to the Notch.
   He plunged about 1,000 feet to his death.
   The National Park Service received the report of the accident after 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. A technical search-and-rescue team was dispatched by helicopter about 9 a.m. on Monday, April 11, and the body was recovered.
   On Sunday, March 13, Richard Ferrari, 37, of Los Angeles, fell to his death in the same location while solo climbing via the Mountaineer’s Route. His body was discovered on the west side of the mountain during a search by helicopter after he was reported overdue by his wife.
   Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S., is currently mostly snow-covered and will probably remain so for the majority of the summer. climbers can still expect to encounter winter-like conditions.
   The first ascent of the Mountaineer’s Route is credited to John Muir on Oct. 21, 1873.

Local thespians

on Valley stages

   Directed by Eileen Farrell of Three Rivers, the spring production of Exeter Union High School will be Stage Door, based on the 1937 Academy Award-winning film that starred Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003), Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, and Ann Miller.
   The play will be performed Thursday through Saturday, April 21 to 23, at 7:30 each night, in the EUHS Auditorium on Highway 65 (Kaweah Avenue) in Exeter.
   Stage Door follows the dreams, ambitions, and disappointments of a group of young women who have come to New York to pursue acting careers. They all reside in a boardinghouse called “The Footlights Club,” which is managed by Mrs. Orcutt, played by Julie Cunningham, a junior from Three Rivers.
   Admission is $6 per person. Tickets are available at the door.
   For more information, call Eileen Farrell, 561-0361.

   Next month, 75 students from throughout Tulare County — from first grade through high school — will combine efforts to present Seussical the Musical and bring the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss to local audiences. The collaboration is just one of many creative opportunities offered year-round to local school-aged children by the Tulare County Office of Education’s Theatre Company.
   Seussical the Musical stars Kaitlin Loeb of Three Rivers and Teddy Oldenbourg of Lemon Cove. They are no strangers to the stage and both have performed in previous Theatre Company productions.
   Performances will be held Friday, May 6, 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 7, 1 and 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 8, 1 p.m., at the El Diamante High School theatre in Visalia. Admission is $5.
   The Theatre Company offers a wide variety of workshops throughout the year, which are open to all Tulare County students. Most of the workshops are free with a refundable deposit.
   Various workshops focus on acting, musical theater, dance, audition techniques, and technical theater. The Theatre Company director is Brian Roberts, who holds a master’s degree in theatre and has taught theatre to all grade levels from elementary school through college.
   For more information about The Theatre Company and its workshops, call 651-1482.

Vesta Tucker
1916 ~ 2005

   Vesta L. Tucker, a lifelong resident of Three Rivers, died Sunday, April 10, 2005, in Visalia. She was 88.
   Vesta was born in Woodlake on July 4, 1916, to Robert and Oma Marx. She was preceded in death be her parents and her husband, Ellison Tucker.
   Vesta is survived by her son, Robert Tucker; daughter Patricia Tweed of Madera; one grandson, John Tucker of Fresno; and sister Elsie Bridges of Bakersfield.
   Services were held Thursday, April 14, with interment at the Three Rivers Cemetery.

Sierra license

plate proposed

   Vehicle owners throughout the Sierra Nevada region are one step closer to having their own special license plate. The state Assembly Transportation Committee has approved Assemblyman Tim Leslie’s (R-Tahoe City) AB 84, which would authorize the specialized plates.
   The next hurdle is the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, where the matter will be heard on Monday, April 25.
   In 1993, Leslie authored the bill that created the special Lake Tahoe license plate. Sales of the plate have generated $6 million for Tahoe-related projects in the past decade.
   If the plates receive full approval, California drivers will be able to acquire them for an additional $50 initially, and then $40 per year for renewal. Funds generated by the plates will go to Sierra projects via the newly-created Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
   If the Sierra Nevada license plate is approved, the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing them only after 7,500 are reserved. Sierra-lovers who desire to pre-register for the plate may do so at:

Spreading the word on invasive plant species

By Melanie Baer-Keeley

   Three Rivers is engaged in a silent struggle, its own subtle revolution. Not a typical confrontation — political or religious, conservative versus liberal — it is instead an enduring ecological battle.
   This is an epic environmental clash that may ultimately upend the stability and balance of the natural environment. The aggressors and, unfortunately, too commonly the winners in this skirmish are invasive non-native plants, also known by that dreaded four-letter word: WEED.
   While many non-native species are certainly of great benefit to humanity and pose little threat to our natural ecosystems, when introducing a new plant, what should be considered is how it responds to its new environment. If it shows aggressive, rampant characteristics, it could be considered “invasive.”
   Recognizing these tendencies when initially planted and populations are still small is a critical step toward curbing potentially disastrous non-native plant invasions.

   The seeds of invasive plants craftily transfer themselves from one location to another. They stow away in the fur or feed of animals (e.g. Cheatgrass), get stuck in car tires (Puncture Vine), or float with the wind, casting seed for great distances (Italian Thistle).
   They can be tempting to eat (Himalayan Blackberry or Fig) and even to plant (Spanish Broom or Periwinkle). Often piercing and poking, stabbing and jabbing, they are spreading to every corner of Three Rivers, the state, nation, and world.
   Not only do the mechanics of seed dispersal enable weedy plants to be incredibly successful, but they often have other adaptive features that, in combination, render them unbeatable by the competition. For example, many weeds can propagate in multiple ways, readily growing new plants from remnant plant parts such as stems, rhizomes, or root fragments.
   The quantity of seed produced is astonishing; one Yellow Starthistle plant can generate over 100,000 seeds annually. Rapid rates of germination and growth of seedlings far surpasses that of other plants, ensuring access to moisture and nutrients.
   Most weeds are considered pioneering species, meaning that there are no special soil conditions or organisms required for their survival, unlike some native plants, which often rely upon a succession of species to set the stage in which they can flourish.
   In addition, some weeds such as iceplant can poison the soil with salts accumulated in their leaves and roots, effectively eliminating any competition.

   If allowed to expand in range and population, the consequences of unchecked weedy growth can be irrevocable. Once invasive plants overtake a site, they can radically change land that is healthy and diverse into a barren single-species wasteland unable to support other forms of life.
   Not only will there be a tragic loss of desirable plants and habitat, but there can be an accompanying loss of plant-dependent animal life as well.
   The cycle of environmental degradation continues as rambunctious invasives deplete the ground of water. Weeds use more moisture faster and lose it to the atmosphere.
   As they dry, some weeds such as Cheatgrass increase the frequency of fire, drastically altering a normal fire return interval from once every 60 to 100 years to once every three to five years. Eventually the natural landscape converts away from the native vegetation, clearing the way for more weedy invasions to occur.
   Incidents of erosion and slope slippage increase due to a lack of the deep, stabilizing roots that native grasses and shrubs usually provide. Natural watershed functioning can become impaired.
   Depleted of plant nutrients and beneficial microorganisms, the soil loses its health and productivity, which ultimately leads to the devaluation of the land.
   This commentary may sound alarmist or exaggerated, but this is a bona fide biological emergency. Take, for example, the Yellow Starthistle, probably Three Rivers’s greatest non-native threat.
   This highly aggressive weed has already infested a staggering 15 to 20 million acres in California. Rangeland overrun by Yellow Starthistle becomes unusable for grazing livestock, wildlife forage or recreation.
   If ingested by horses, it can cause a lethal neurological disorder in the brain called “chewing disease” due to the symptoms it generates in the horse. This insidious invasive now occurs in nearby Woodlake and Lemon Cove. Recently, a small population was discovered within Three Rivers.
   A field overtaken by this noxious spiny, weed is one that all life forms will make every effort to avoid. If it takes hold here, it would alter the appearance and quality of life in Three Rivers as it has throughout much of the state.
   With projected weed eradication and crop-loss costs caused by invasive non-native plants across the nation in excess of $100 billion each year, we need to heed advice offered by Jerry Asher, national weed specialist for the Bureau of Land Management:

  “We must keep relatively uninfested land from becoming seriously infested. Future generations of Americans deserve to inherit healthy productive wildlands, not vast landscapes infested with spiny, poisonous weeds that are unfit for people or wildlife.

  “We must be wise enough and committed enough right now to increase our cooperative weed efforts at all organizational levels…so that the history of weed spread does not repeat itself over and over again across…lands we value so highly.”
   While the problem of invasive plants is difficult to resolve, it is not insurmountable. It is possible to control and contain the most aggressive weeds and that’s an important goal for which to strive.
   With early detection, prevention, and collaboration, many invasive plants can be eradicated. Keeping Three Rivers and its surroundings as unspoiled and beautiful as they are today is clearly a worthy effort.
   In the next issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth, look for practical solutions to aid in the war of the weeds.
   Melanie Baer-Keeley is a restoration horticulturist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This article is made possible by a sponsorship provided by Diana Glass of Century 21 Three Rivers.

Property inspections

to begin

   Although at times it seems as if winter is not planning to retreat this year, never fear, hot weather will appear. And with that comes the rapid drying of all that vegetation that has been taking advantage of the abundant precipitation.
   But Three Rivers is a lot like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz; afraid of fire. And because of this, it is time for all property owners to begin clearing the weeds, grasses, and other vegetation growing on their land.
   During this month and next, the Tulare County Fire Department will be performing inspections to ensure that hazard abatement is performed. The penalty for not clearing property in the foothills and mountain regions could be a fine of up to $500 and/or the county clearing the property at the owner’s expense.
   It’s also important to remember to use caution when operating equipment in dry grass. Always have the proper tools nearby (i.e., a shovel, etc.) and make sure all internal-combustion engines are equipped with a working spark arrester.
   BURN PERMITS EXTENDED— Burn permits are still valid. Burning will continue to be allowed beyond the April 1, 2005, expiration date until the declaration of the local fire season.
   For more information about hazard abatement, contact the Three Rivers Fire Station, 561-4362, or the county Fire Prevention Bureau, 732-5954.


What lies beneath:
Kaweah Colony

archaeological dig

by Stacy Kozakavich

   This year, I spent Spring Break digging in the mud with six other women. No, we weren't making a strange new reality TV show; we were doing archaeological fieldwork for my dissertation research about the Kaweah Colony.
   I'm a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley and a historical archaeologist. I combine historic documents — like old newspapers, letters, photographs, and maps — with archaeological artifacts, features, and landscapes to learn and write about the past.
   You may not think that a handful of rusty nails is that interesting, but the right kind of nail can say when a site was most likely occupied. And broken bottle glass and tin-can pieces don't look very nice on display, but small fragments can speak volumes about what people were eating and drinking and where they were shopping.
   So, in the third week of March, armed with shovels, screens, and a scientific instrument called a "cesium gradiometer," we braved rain and poison oak to learn more about the Kaweah Colony’s history.
   Most residents of Three Rivers and Kaweah have heard of the Kaweah Colony, the socialist utopian settlers who settled in the area between 1886 and 1892 and built along what is now North Fork Drive. Many also know the part of the story where Colony trustees were arrested for illegal timber cutting on government land after Sequoia National Park was established. And Three Rivers history wouldn't be the same without the families who stayed after the Colony's dissolution — with familiar names like Redstone, Purdy, Hopping, and Hengst.
   These well-known parts of the story were only the start of what got me interested in studying the Kaweah Colony. At first, I wanted to know how a handful of San Francisco labor leaders ended up living with such a diverse group of people in the Sierra foothills.
   Starting in late 2002, I spent many hours in the reading room at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, poring over old Colony documents in their archival collections. As I worked, fascinating little details became apparent.
   I saw pictures of women wearing skirts and corsets at the camp, even though they lived in tents and lacked many of the comforts of their city homes. I read about the colonists' weekly organized entertainments, which included plays, piano recitals, and vocal soloists.
   The more I read, the more I wanted to see the picture behind the “big names,” to find out what day-to-day life was like for the men and women of the Colony.
   This is what brought me to Three Rivers. I made my first trip to Tulare County in April 2003, searching for the site of Advance — the tent camp where many colony members lived between 1887 and 1891.
   After another visit and further archival research, historian Jay O'Connell and I realized that the “Advance” site most local people know about — marked by a Bureau of Land Management sign in a recreation area parking lot — isn't very accurate. The structural ruins in this area — two stone chimneys, a stone retaining wall, a few concrete foundation slabs, and a scattering of tin-cans from food and motor oil — aren't from the period of the Kaweah Colony. They're most likely the remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp called Schreiber's Flats, which was built on the site in the mid-1930s.
   Further, the historic photos and written descriptions of Advance didn't match the site’s geography. A short walk down the road, O'Connell and I located the “real” site of Advance.
   The BLM sign isn't exactly wrong — the location of the current recreation area was actually a “suburb” of Advance called Glen Park, where less than a dozen tents were set up among the trees and hills. But most of the colonists who called Advance home pitched their tents on a broad slope downstream, now private land.
   With the gracious permission of the landowners, we began the archaeological study of Advance in March 2005. We dug 29 evenly-spaced shovel-tests — square holes about 12 to 14 inches across and 16 inches deep. We also conducted a gradiometer survey, which detects magnetic differences in the soil that may indicate old structures, fire pits, and metal and ceramic objects.
   Fellow archaeologists Cheryl Smith, Kim Christensen, Stacey Camp, Joanne Sidlovsky, and Tara Evans, along with the assistant curator of the Tulare County Museum in Visalia, Amanda Hallstrom, all donated their time to participate in the dig.
   The few fragments of artifacts we found — a handful of nails, fragments of glass, and one of porcelain — combined with the rich historical data are enough to keep me coming back. I'm planning a second field trip for late June or early July of this summer.
   If you have any Kaweah Colony facts or stories that you'd like to share, I would love to hear them! Please contact The Kaweah Commonwealth editor for details on how to contribute to this exciting project.

10 years ago this month

  FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 1995— From Jazzaffair to Roping, in our first six weeks of publishing, we hit the ground running and there was no time to stop and catch our breath.
   BLAKE AND JANET Hughes of Three Rivers donated their extensive collection of pre-Columbian Inca art to the Fresno Art Museum.
   JIM WELLS OF Three Rivers guided a tour of the Wells Ranch and Garry Kenwood led a tour of his Cahoon Meadows Ranch, both on South Fork Drive, sponsored by the Kaweah Land Trust.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
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