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

  In the News - Friday, JULY 16, 2004


Park managers hit the road

in series of public meetings


Three Rivers is first stop

on workshop circuit




  On Wednesday in Three Rivers, National Park Service officials kicked off a whirlwind nine-day tour of public meetings to seek input on the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks draft General Management Plan (GMP). The 600-plus-page document, when approved, is expected to guide the parks’ management decisions until at least 2030.
   Three Rivers was the first of 10 public meetings that will include stops in Visalia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Clovis, Sacramento, Bishop, and at three sites within park boundaries. The Three Rivers meeting began with remarks by Dick Martin, Sequoia-Kings Canyon superintendent.

  “We’re not pretending that this [the draft] is a perfect document,” Martin said. “We will change the plan when we get comments that are lucid and within the NPS mission.”
   Martin cited several instances in how the process worked in Death Valley National Park, where he was superintendent before coming to Sequoia four years ago. These meetings, he said, are about hearing from the public and seeking input on whatever issue or concern that might be of interest.

  “When you told us that more time was needed to respond to the GMP, we were happy to extend the deadline for receiving comments from August 5 to October 6,” said Susan Spain, a planning specialist from the NPS regional office in Denver.
   Spain admitted that it was a quite a challenge to come up with a plan that will guide these parks when the area’s population is expected to experience dramatic growth and changing user groups. The area’s population is expected to be largely Hispanic, Spain said, and many of these people will visit the national parks.
Spain and David Graber, Sequoia Park’s chief scientist, are serving as principals on the GMP, and each gave portions of a brief overview as to what has happened since the work on the plan began in 1997.

  “The process started by building a scoping document,” Graber said. “This is the first management plan to be constructed for Sequoia-Kings Canyon under the environmental review process as required by law.”
   As a result of the scoping efforts, Graber said, in 2001, NPS planners were able to develop some “fairly formalized alternatives.”

  “We compared several hundred elements and selected alternatives that we felt had the greatest benefits,” Graber said.
   Spain also pointed out that the planning process had prompted several areas of “civic engagement,” including a memorandum of understanding relating to the Mineral King cabins and the determination that the Mineral King district was eligible to be listed in The National Register of Historic Places.
   After a PowerPoint presentation featuring quotes from George Bush’s May 2001 visit — “Our duty is to use the land well or sometimes not to use it at all” — the audience was encouraged to adjourn to several stations to examine alternatives and prescriptions in one or more of several of the GMP’s areas of public interest.
Of the approximately 50 non-park employees who attended the Three Rivers meeting, the majority were interested in how the plan might affect the special-use-permit cabins in Mineral King, the most controversial and challenging issue contained within the draft GMP. When asked why the local parks had for so long ignored the preservation of historical resources like the rustic Mineral King cabin community, Spain said it was because historic preservation was not previously in the management vision.
   But Spain also said a new GMP could change that situation and that the preservation of Mineral King presents the first tangible opportunity. The ultimate challenge, she explained, is how best to do that.

  “What we really want to see is a creative, generous approach to preserving Mineral King,” Spain said. “We’re seeking a partnership that can meet the preservation criteria we have outlined in the plan.’’


Friday, July 16, 6-8 pm
Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St.

Los Angeles

Monday, July 19
10 am-noon: Lodgepole
6-9 pm: College of the Sequoias

Tuesday, July 20
10 am-noon: Grant Grove
3-5 pm: Cedar Grove

Wednesday, July 21, 7-9 pm

BLM Field Office, 351 Pacu Ln., #100


Thursday, July 22, 6-8 pm
Rex Phebus Memorial Building
453 Hughes Ave., Clovis


Pot farm eradicated

on Mineral King Road

  In the midst of the busy summer tourist season, Sequoia National Park rangers, on Wednesday, July 7, raided a marijuana farm off Mineral King Road that contained nearly 4,000 young plants, 200 pounds of fertilizer, and hundreds of yards of irrigation tubing that was used to siphon water from a nearby creek.
   The next morning (Thursday, July 8), a supply and personnel drop to the locale was intercepted and a firearm confiscated.
   Assisting in this ongoing “Operation No Grow” effort were officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Tulare County Sheriff’s Office.
In the past decade, marijuana cultivation in Sequoia has increased steadily and nearly 10 times more pot plants were seized last year than just three years ago. The multimillion-dollar marijuana plantations are tended by armed growers who are a threat to both park visitors and natural resources, as they have killed wildlife, diverted and polluted waterways, and alter the landscape.
   Officials report that these growing operations are managed by Mexican cartels that have been linked to Mideast terrorists.
   To report suspected marijuana-growing activities on park lands, call the crime hotline: 1-888-NPS-CRIME.


Park hires chief ranger


  Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks has been without a chief ranger since November 2002, when Debbie Bird flew north to become superintendent of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in Washington.
   That high-ranking position has now been filled with the selection of James D. (JD) Swed, who is currently the chief ranger at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
   Swed has formerly been a law-enforcement ranger at several parks including Grand Canyon and Yosemite. He will be relocating his family to the area, planning to arrive at his new post in October.


Visalia man injured

in single-car accident


  On Tuesday, July 13, at 3:15 p.m., John Winchester, 38, of Visalia was injured when his 1995 Ford Escort suddenly left the roadway, struck an embankment, and rolled over. Winchester was driving westbound on Sierra Drive just east of Slick Rock Recreation Area when the accident occurred.
   According to Officer Travis with the CHP in Visalia, the cause of the accident was not immediately determined and remains under investigation. The extent of the victim’s injuries was not given in the initial accident report.



Miss Tulare County competes

for Miss California
Janessa Wells of Three Rivers, the reigning Miss Tulare County, was selected as one of the 10 semifinalists at the Miss California Pageant at an evening ceremony held Saturday, July 10, in Fresno. Janessa, 20, who is the first Three Rivers resident to be crowned Miss Tulare County, competed against 51 other contestants.
She is also the first Miss Tulare County in more than a decade to be ranked in the top 10 of Miss California contestants.
Janessa, who attends the College of San Mateo, received a $1,500 scholarship for her efforts. As a semifinalist, she participated in talent, swimsuit, casual wear, and evening wear competitions, as well as an onstage interview.
The new Miss California is Veena Goel, 22, of Los Angeles.

Young equestrian has world standing
Kacie Fleeman of Three Rivers represented California at the American Paint Horse Association World Show, held in Fort Worth, Texas, from June 20 to July 3.
Kacie, a fifth-grader at Three Rivers School, placed fourth overall and highest in the state in the youth team competition of the Walk-Trot Pleasure category.
Also, competing against teams from Germany, Australia, Canada, and throughout the U.S., Kacie participated in four classes of the American Junior Paint Horse Association World Show, placing in the top 10 in all — Western Horsemanship (sixth place); English Equitation (seventh place); Trail (10th); and Showmanship (10th).
As a result, Kacie has been ranked by the American Junior Paint Horse Association as seventh overall in the world. Kacie is the daughter of Darrell and Jayme Fleeman of Three Rivers.

Familiar voice sounds

off at national horse show
In another breed of horse show, Steve Wood of Three Rivers, who operates Wood ‘N’ Horse Training Stables with his wife, Christy, was selected to announce the 57th National Appaloosa Show and World Championship Appaloosa Youth Show.
The event was held June 28 to July 10 in Oklahoma City, Okla., where more than 1,300 of the top Appaloosa horses from around the nation competed for national and world titles.
Because of this prestigious selection, the Wood ‘N’ Horse Show Team declined to compete at the show. Had the team opted to participate, Steve would have had to withdraw from the announcer’s position due to conflict-of-interest rules.
The Wood ‘N’ Horse team, which is continuing to compete at the state level, will make a comeback at next year’s national show.
“I took up announcing horse shows to travel more with Christy,” explained Steve.
Christy judges shows for various breed associations throughout the U.S. and abroad.
“But so many times we are at the Fresno airport together, then board separate planes,” he said. “However, we’ve traveled to some great destinations together for the purpose of judging and announcing horse shows.”
The couple has made four working trips each to Australia and New Zealand. They will team up again in Fort Worth, Texas, for the 2004 American Miniature Horse Association World Championships.
As a National Show official, Steve is featured in the Appaloosa Journal’s July issue. On the cover of the May issue of Appaloosa Journal, Christy is pictured in a horse-drawn cart, a lead-in to a story about pleasure driving.


Park fires in simmer mode


  The Tharps Prescribed Fire in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park behaved like a model prescription fire, with the smoke being barely noticed by Three Rivers residents. This fire, and the Buena Vista Prescribed Fire in Kings Canyon National Park continue to burn within the designated boundaries.
   On Sunday, July 4, Ash Mountain fire personnel and the California Department of Forestry responded to a fire of unknown origin 5.5 miles up the Mineral King Road. This fire was immediately suppressed.
   In addition, two lightning-caused fires in Sequoia — near Mehrten Meadow and Panther Peak — have been suppressed. Two lightning-caused fires in Kings Canyon will be allowed to burn naturally.

Pizza Factory softball team

wins season's first half


Take me out to the ballgame...
   On Thursday, July 8, Pizza Factory defeated Chumps and won the first half of the Three Rivers men’s Poison Oak League softball title. The win guarantees the victorious team a berth in the league championship game scheduled for Thursday, August 12.
   If Pizza Factory, managed by Edmund Pena, can win the second half of the season’s eight-game schedule, they will win the league trophy outright. At least seven of the team’s current roster are related (Pena, Garza, Groeber) and consist of three father-son duos, so playing for Pizza Factory is really a family affair.

  “I was concerned at the beginning of the season because so many former players were unable to return,” Pena said. “But the guys we do have are really hitting the ball and that’s why we are winning.”

Root, root, root
for the home team...

   The league has undergone some changes this season and one team — Village Market — has had difficulty getting at least eight players (the minimum needed to play an official game) to show up on a consistent basis.
   According to Three Rivers Recreation Committee representatives, at a pre-season meeting there was a suggestion to consolidate the fifth team into the remaining four. It was determined by team managers to continue the five-team format at least throughout the 2004 season.
   The games are played at Three Rivers School on Tuesday and Thursday nights and every third Sunday. This season, the league is expected to conclude with a traditional post-season double-elimination tournament from Aug.19 through 22.

Buy me some peanuts
and Cracker Jacks...

   Since the 1970s, the Poison Oak men’s summer softball league has been a way for fans and local families to socialize.
   Among the highlights of the 2004 season is a refreshment stand managed by some enterprising Three Rivers kids. Reminiscent of an old-fashioned lemonade stand, this snack cart’s inventory is headlined by piping-hot popcorn served with a side of caramel.

It’s one, two,
three strikes you’re out...

   Second-half signups are currently available with a pro-rated fee. Interested players must have completed the eighth grade.


The historic... the odd...

the eye-catching...

the unbelievable



The legend of the liar




LEMON COVE— At the Lemon Cove Fire Station, mounted on granite, is a plaque that pays tribute to a man who most people would not want to sit next to, but is immortalized in mountain lore.
   Depending on the season, Ben Harris (March 4, 1850~June 22, 1934) was a resident of Farmersville, Lemon Cove, Three Rivers, and Mineral King. He spent his entire adult life as a mountain man and guide who regaled, or perhaps just plain scared, tenderfeet with his accounts, true and otherwise, of his high-country exploits.
   Ben arrived in Tulare County from Texas while in his 20s. He was a hunter who was hired during the Mineral King mining boom (1870s) to supply meat for the camps while he, too, dabbled in the prospecting and mining of the region.
   His hygiene was as well known as his tall tales and it is said that people didn’t camp with Ben, they camped upwind of Ben. Because he never bathed and rarely changed clothes, even relatives reputedly would not let him inside their homes.
   Grace Alles would feed Ben at her Atwell Mill cabin along the Mineral King Road as he passed by, but would make sure he was seated between her husband and brother-in-law. She was afraid if he sat by any of the hired millhands, they would walk off the job immediately.
   Ben traveled with his horses — Rosie and Rodeo — and his dog, Jimmy Britt, and, later, Bigger, so named because he was bigger than Jimmy Britt.
   I was raised with Ben Harris tall tales as told by my grandfather, Bob Barton. A favorite is the “echo canyon”...
   When camping with others in a certain Sierra locale, Ben would yell “Time to get up!” as he was turning in for the night. The wake-up call would return to camp at the proper time in the morning, rousting the men from their bedrolls.
   Then there’s the one about Ben’s redwood pencil. It came about when a giant sequoia was struck by lightning, causing it to fall from atop a mountain.
   It rolled down and down and down. By the time it reached Ben, it had worn down to a mere twig, and Ben reached over, picked it up, and claimed this “redwood pencil” as his own.
   Are these stories true? Well, let’s ask Ben.
   As he was sitting in a Visalia saloon one day, entertaining the patrons with tales of how many deer he shot, a man nearby flashed his badge and said he was a game warden.
   Ben quickly explained, “Well, to make a long story short, I’m the biggest liar in Tulare County.”
   In addition to the plaque at the Lemon Cove Fire Station, Ben Harris’s Winchester rifle is on display at the Tulare County Historical Museum at Mooney Grove in Visalia.

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