No Grow’ eradicates
than 13,000 plants
latest park raid
BY SARAH ELLIOTT
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
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).
Rivers is sizzling
BY JOHN ELLIOTT
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
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
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.
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.”
in Mineral King
GUEST EDITORIAL BY DONN BREE, PH.D.
PART ONE (OF TWO)
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
There are few places remaining in our nation where culture
is as timeless, well-preserved, and sustainable than in Mineral King,
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
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
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
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
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.
BY TRISH STIVERS
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
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
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
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
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
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
Frank van Gilluwe,
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
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
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.
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
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.