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Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
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Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

  In the News - Friday, AUGUST 13, 2004

The Best of Kaweah Country

2004 readers' poll results --


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Only in the August 13, 2004,

print edition of

The Kaweah Commonwealth--




Kaweah Country trailer travelers



Pot gardens flourish

in Kaweah Country

‘Operation No Grow’ eradicates

more than 13,000 plants

in latest park raid


   Tulare County’s marijuana farming is big business, creating bigger crop yields in recent years than oranges. The scorched, dry hillsides surrounding Three Rivers have become a Mecca for marijuana cultivation, providing seclusion, year-round water sources, natural coverage, and plenty of warm sunshine.
   Huge marijuana plots are being planted on public and private lands. Huge marijuana plots are being tended by armed guards. And huge marijuana plots are being ripped out by local, state, and federal agencies.
   These illicit operations — managed by Mexican cartels who have discovered it is more profitable to grow the pot here rather than smuggle it across the border — have created a growing danger to hikers, anglers, and hunters who could inadvertently stumble into marijuana garden and find themselves at gunpoint. In addition, the National Park Service is seriously distressed about the damage to the natural resources as growers wantonly destroy native vegetation, create terraces and depressions to accommodate the plants, divert waterways utilizing extensive irrigation equipment, kill wildlife, dig trash pits and subsequently fill them with refuse, and use massive amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, and other poisons.
   On Monday, Aug. 2, National Park Service rangers — with assistance from the Department of Justice’s California Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), the California National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-Riverside unit, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office — destroyed a fledgling pot plantation near the Mineral King Road in Sequoia National Park that consisted of 13,452 plants with an estimated street value of nearly $54 million upon maturity. This is the largest marijuana eradication so far this season.
   In addition to the marijuana plants, rangers and officers seized a loaded semi-automatic shotgun, a .177-caliber pellet rifle and, providing an indication that other weapons were also on site, 30-30 rifle rounds, .45 pistol rounds, and .44 magnum rounds. It is estimated that the pot farm has been under cultivation for at least two years.
   A camera crew from Univision, a Spanish-language television network, filmed the operation from aboard the CAMP helicopter and it was broadcast that evening.
Other local raids within the past month include:
   July 13— In the East Fork canyon of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park, 3,800 plants from five separate gardens were eradicated by park rangers and ICE.
   July 20— Tulare County sheriff’s deputies eradicated 7,699 plants from a garden near Highway 245, four miles below Badger.
   July 29— Over 500 plants were seized during the raid of a plot in the North Fork drainage of the Kaweah River. Sequoia Park rangers were assisted by ICE, CAMP, and DEA agents.
   August 3— Eight garden plots spread out over a two-mile area were destroyed by sheriff’s deputies and CAMP personnel in the remote Devils Canyon area on upper South Fork Drive, just outside the boundary of Sequoia National Park. The raid netted 4,539 plants that would have had an estimated street value of $18 million.
   Alexandra Picavet, Sequoia-Kings Canyon public information officer, attributes the increase in seizures this early in the season to an earlier start in surveillance and better intelligence. The marijuana-growing season starts in mid-April with harvest ending prior to the first frost.
   Statewide, more than 70,000 plants, worth an estimated $264 million, have been seized, along with more than 30 weapons. Arrests, however, are few as the garden guards cut their losses and scatter into the forest with just the guns on their back at the first sign of law enforcement.
   Anyone with information about any marijuana-growing operation should call 1-888-NPS-CRIME (on national parks land) or 730-2951 (Tulare County Sheriff’s Department).

Tourism in

Three Rivers is sizzling


   During the first two weeks of August that streak of triple-digit temperatures in Three Rivers was very hot. It was even in the 80s in the Giant Forest, at 6,500 feet in elevation. But all that warm weather hasn’t put a damper on local visitors to a tourist town that is suddenly sizzling.
   In fact, according to several operators, Three Rivers tourism is on fire. That’s welcome news to merchants and just about everyone connected with a local economy dependent on tourism.
   The bottom line that is translating to some big time black ink is the steady stream of tourists who are coming to visit the local national parks.
   Barbara Turley, who was sweltering this week at her post in the Ash Mountain entrance station at Sequoia National Park, said she has noticed a recent surge in visitors.

  “It seems like we’re seeing a lot more families and large groups coming to the parks in recent weeks,” Turley said. “What’s different this year is that they are buying more Golden Eagle passes and that means they will be visiting other parks, too.”
   Turley, avisitor use assistant, said she has never before this season seen so many Asian-American visitors who now are realizing that Sequoia does not attract the crowds like nearby Yosemite.

  “We’re also selling more Sequoia-Kings Canyon passes than ever before to folks who are discovering that this park is right in their own backyard,” Turley said. “We hear from many of these folks that Sequoia is the most beautiful park of them all.”
   More visitors are also making their way to the Mineral King area in Sequoia and don’t seem to be deterred by the hundreds of curves and narrow roadway.

  “This is our busiest season in the nearly two decades that I’ve been operating the Silver City Resort,” said Connie Pillsbury, owner. “I think that we are just part of a larger trend that’s occurring in all the parks.”
   Pillsbury admitted she’s never seen so many who are coming just to hike in Mineral King.

  “[The surge in visitation] started about mid-July and is not showing signs of letting up,” Pillsbury said. “We’re feeling a little overwhelmed right now and are looking for more help.”
   At Wuksachi Village, where Delaware North Parks Services operate the only accommodations inside Sequoia Park boundaries, nightly sellouts are common. That means more visitors are returning to Three Rivers after spending the day sightseeing in the nearby parks.
   At Holiday Inn Express, the largest lodging property in Three Rivers, August traditionally is the busiest month of the year. The average year-round occupancy is 55 percent. In August, that figure jumps to 95 percent.

  “When we were doing our budget projections in June we didn’t know what to expect,” said Wayne Lance, general manager. “Last year, we had 11 August nights that were sold out and it looks like this year we’re going to do even better.”
   Lance said the 2003 numbers were boosted by several weeks that the hotel was being used by firefighters, who booked blocks of rooms for weeks at a time.

  “Now those fire fighters have been supplanted by actual tourists,” Lance said.
   Europeans, who traditionally receive more paid vacations than their American counterparts, are here in great numbers. They don’t seem to mind the heat as long as they can sip espresso some place where it is cool. On a recent afternoon, a large group from Spain was eating at Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant, an Italian couple was checking into the Gateway Lodge, a French foursome was ordering drinks at the River View, while a German party was ordering at The Cabin.

  “In the past our numbers start to tail off in September when the kids go back to school,” Lance said. “So right now, for those us who do business in Three Rivers, its time to earn those tourist dollars that will carry us through the rest of the year.”


‘Culture’ must be

preserved in Mineral King



   For more than 25 years, cabin owners in the mountain community of Mineral King, located in the southernmost section of Sequoia Park, have anxiously awaited a decision from the U.S. Department of the Interior that would seal the fate of this timeless community. This important decision is forthcoming in the guise of the National Park Service General Management Plan (GMP) for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, an unwieldy document setting forth the action plan that will determine the future of this area for, in words taken from the document, “the next 15-20 years.”
   The purpose of this letter is to respond to that portion of the Draft Proposal of the General Management Plan for the Sequoia-Kings National Parks area affecting the private ownership of cabins on public lands in the Mineral King area. In this discussion, I will attempt to clarify a couple of key terms, offer an opinion based on my 50 years of experience in the area as to the impact any decision will likely have on this historic community, and propose an alternative to the action plans contained in the Draft Proposal of the General Management Plan.
Mineral King, a spectacular glaciated valley gracing the western slope of the Great Western Divide, is the site of a long and varied cultural history, most notably dating back to the 1860s when the valley was first visited by a colorful character named Harry Parole. Parole’s discovery would eventually lead to a flourishing mining community in the 1870s, which is well-documented in Dr. S. Thomas Porter’s master’s thesis, The Silver Rush at Mineral King, California 1873-1882. In fact, Dr. Porter acknowledges an impressive list of San Joaquin Valley surnames as contributors to his thesis, many of whom are still represented in the Mineral King community.
   Dr. Porter’s thesis was penned nearly 45 years ago. Since Dr. Porter’s work, several excellent publications describing the historical development of Mineral King have emerged, including: Mineral King Country – Visalia to Mt. Whitney, by Henry Brown; Mineral King Historic District – Contextual History and Description, by John Elliott; and the highly-acclaimed book written by Crowley descendant Louise Jackson, Beulah – A Biography of the Mineral King Valley.
   Crucial to the development of the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District is the notorious road leading from Three Rivers to the valley, which is carved into steep canyon walls for a distance of about 25 miles. Initially a private toll road intended to provide access for mining operations, this remarkable engineering achievement generally follows the course of the East Fork of the Kaweah River from State Highway 198 upward nearly 7,000 feet in elevation to just past the Crowley cabin, a summer residence for descendants of two men responsible for constructing the road, John, and his son, Arthur Crowley.
   This amazing road, little improved during the past 100+ years, is the ground over which many people have pursued economic dreams, inner peace, and forged lifelong relationships with families making Mineral King their summer residence. To the present day, there are few cabins, if any, owned by families whose ancestry cannot be traced to the original cabin owner. This cultural tradition involves several generations from community families imparting a lifestyle from one generation to the next wherein relatively little has changed over the past 80 to 100 years.
   There are few places remaining in our nation where culture is as timeless, well-preserved, and sustainable than in Mineral King, California.
   On Friday, October 24, 2003, the “Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District” was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Before proceeding, I believe it is necessary to establish my interpretation of what the designation “Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District” means. My interpretation of this important designation begins with the following statement from the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places website:

  “The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.”
   Further resolution of my interpretation of what this historical designation means was found by examining the concept of culture:

  “The way of life of a group of people, consisting of learned patterns of behavior and thought passed on from one generation to the next. The notion includes the group’s beliefs, values, language, political organization, and economic activity, as well as its equipment, techniques, and art forms…”
   Consequently, I am of the opinion that the definitions provided by the National Park Service describing what is to be preserved as a result of the National Preservation Act of 1966 includes “culture,” and that the concept of culture, in this context, would certainly include the living community that is inextricably tied to the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District by virtue of having been the caretakers/preservationists of this community for a period of time that easily exceeds the criteria required by the National Preservation Act of 1966.
   It must be understood that if not for generations of cabin owners and caretakers, it is highly unlikely that any structure in the district would be intact for preservation. Moreover, significant and important historical and cultural literature now available to the general public describing the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District has, in fact, been compiled and published by the community of cabin owners and caretakers.
   The current generation of cabin owners and caretakers are no less significant in the context of preserving and sustaining the preservation of the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District than the road, cabins, mining sites and artifacts, and other tangible evidence of this historic area.
   What has been negligently overlooked by the authors of the draft GMP proposal is the concept of culture. This is likely an honest oversight, inasmuch as the authors do not appear to be knowledgeable in the area of culture, as the concept of culture is seldom addressed in the document; particularly when it is the culture that continues to emanate from such a lengthy and diverse history that makes Mineral King very unique.
   Few are the sites listed on the National Register of Historical Places where contemporary residential heritage can be traced to the origin of the existing structures protected by in the National Preservation Act of 1966. In this regard, Mineral King is very rare, indeed.
   To consider the “sites, buildings, structures, and objects…” in the absence of culture is a serious dereliction of duty by the government, particularly when the culture is still intact, thriving, and sustainable. Moreover, the National Park Service can not offer any substitute for the heritage, information, preservation, and manpower that the community of cabin owners and caretakers contribute to the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District.
   To remove the cabin owners and caretakers from the context of what the National Preservation Act of 1966 intends to preserve is analogous to removing a sustainable Native American tribe from their community or relocating Amish residents from their settlement for the purpose of preserving only the “sites, buildings, structures, and objects…”, i.e., the physical artifacts, as representing what is most real and valuable in their culture. It should be obvious that such artifacts are merely manifestations of the people that create and sustain them through time, as is the case in Mineral King.
   I strongly urge the National Park Service to exercise patience for the purpose of developing a more forward-thinking perspective regarding the situation in Mineral King. If this requires more time, take more time.
Once the decision to destroy a culture is made and implemented, the consequences are irreversible. To be coninued…
   Donn Bree, Ph.D., resides in Santa Ysabel. This is part one of two of a document that was also sent to Sequoia-Kings Canyon planners as a response to the draft GMP.


Homebirth requires

Three Rivers teamwork


   Thursday, July 29, 2004. A day to remember.
   This was the day our unique community took charge when the original homebirthing plans of Justin and Eme Price went awry.
   It all began at 6:30 a.m. Em was up packing food and presents to take to Clovis Lakes for daughter Jade’s birthday. Suddenly, she felt the unmistakable feeling of contractions beginning.
   Eme immediately knew that their birthday celebration would have to be rescheduled.
   Justin tried to contact the couple who had the water tub. They live in Dinuba, an hour away.
   They could not be reached by phone. Justin spent the next two hours trying to locate the address of the family.
   As soon as he had an address, he left to get the birthing tub; a two-and-a-half-hour roundtrip.
   Eme called the midwife, who was two hours away. This birth appeared that it was going to be much different than her other two — the contractions were much more intense and progressing very quickly.
   Dean Kesselring stopped by to visit and was told of the situation. He immediately went to the First Baptist Church and told Cindy Howell the news.
   Cindy called the prayer chain to pray. She called Diana Haley, who came and took Jade and Jordan out to pizza for Jade’s birthday, where she received a rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the staff and was provided with ice cream for her spur-of-the-moment party.
   Cindy called Opal and Euel Canafax to pray and help as needed. Then Cindy asked the Lord what to do next.
   The answer was to call Jennifer Boley, who was at work at the Lone Oak Veterinary Clinic. She was alone in the office since the doctor’s flight from Denver was delayed due to bad weather.
   Jennifer said she would come help Eme. She packed the sterile spay tools, locked the office, and was at Eme’s house in five minutes.
   Jennifer arrived just in time to help Eme deliver a 9½-pound baby girl in the Jacuzzi bathtub. Jennifer performed all the necessary medical procedures with a little help from Grandpa Donnie Stivers.
   Jennifer commented that the birth was like delivering a big puppy. She offered to clip the dew claws and dock the tail free of charge.
   Jennifer had new mom Eme howling with laughter within five minutes of the delivery. Dad Justin and siblings Jade and Jordan helped the newborn get dressed and swaddled in her receiving blanket.
   Word traveled quickly through town of the birth that was reminiscent of the pioneer women who first settled in Three Rivers. Many came to see little Sydney Annabelle Price and her proud family.
   Esther Zurcher brought healthy, wonderful food that night, followed by Danette Gentry, Jana Botkin, Sylvia Diaz, and Norma Nevarez.
   Jennifer has been asked to be Sydney’s godmother. She replied that she would be the “dog-mother.”
   So the Tuesday after Sydney was born, we dutifully took her to the vet’s office, where she was weighed on the puppy scales. Mathew Humason, D.V.M., checked her heart and said there was no heart murmur.
   We are so grateful for all the people the Lord Jesus provided when the situation seemed so out of control. What a wild ride it has been and Sydney’s only two weeks old!
   Trish Stivers of Three Rivers is Baby Sydney’s (and Jade and Jordan’s) grandmother and Eme Price’s mother.

Fires not allowed

on local public lands

Due to extreme fire danger, restrictions have increased in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, at Bureau of Land Management recreation areas on North Fork Drive, and in Giant Sequoia National Monument. Currently, no campfires, barbecues, or cooking stoves, are permitted below 6,000 feet elevation except in designated campgrounds.
Smoking below 6,000 feet is only allowed in an enclosed vehicle, developed area, or designated campground. Never throw a lit cigarette out of a car window.


Frank van Gilluwe,

25-year resident

of Three Rivers
1915 ~ 2004

   Frank van Gilluwe, Jr., of Visalia and former resident of Three Rivers, died Sunday, Aug. 1, 2004, at Kaweah Delta District Hospital. He was 89.
   A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 14) at 4 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, located at 215 N. Locust in Visalia.
   Frank was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1915 and was raised in Pasadena, Calif.
   For 36 years, he worked in various management positions with United Airlines in Fresno, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia. He retired from the position of Food Services Manager at San Francisco Airport.
   Frank married his wife, Ruth, in 1939. The couple lived in Three Rivers for 25 years, relocating a few years ago to Visalia.
   In addition to his wife of 65 years, Ruth, Frank is survived by his daughter, Sara Willard; sons Pete of Three Rivers, George, and Frank III; his sister, Winifred Barber; and four grandchildren.

Bud Sweeney,

Park Service packer,

lifetime Woodlake resident
1927 ~ 2004

   Albert “Bud” Sweeney of Woodlake died Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004. He was 76.
   Bud was the youngest son of Patrick and Viola Sweeney, born Nov. 4, 1927, at the Exeter hospital. He lived his entire life on the family ranch south of Woodlake.
   Bud’s ranch is located on a portion of the land originally settled by his grandmother, Nancy Jane Sweeney, more than a century ago.
   Bud was a veteran of World War II. For 30 years, he worked for the National Park Service as a mule packer in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park.
   Bud is survived by his three sons, Michael and wife Vikki; Steven and wife Yvonne; and Darryl Sweeney, all of Woodlake; two daughters, Debra Fonseca of Woodlake and Sherry Jump and husband Jim of Santa Maria; their mother and stepmother, Barbara Sweeney of Woodlake; two sisters, Edith Romey and Rose Wynne of Visalia; 12 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

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