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In the News - Friday, SEPTEMBER 2, 2005

 

Sequoia’s chief ranger

to assist in New Orleans

   The first of what may be several deployments of local federal workers began Thursday, Sept. 1, when Sequoia National Park’s chief ranger James “JD” Swed was ordered to report to New Orleans to assist the staff of Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve in recovery efforts following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The urban national park is one of two properties within the city of New Orleans managed by the National Park Service.
   JD, a member of the national Incident Management Team, will serve as an incident commander for recovery efforts at Jean Lafitte and the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. The parks’ visitor center is on Decatur Street in the historic French Quarter and interprets the history of New Orleans and the multiculturalism of this Mississippi Delta region.
   The park, whose headquarters are also in New Orleans, consists of six separate sites and includes historic 19th-century brick buildings; valuable archival and artifact collections; and the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery.
   The extent of damage is still not known but most all Park Service employees at the two parks have been accounted for since the deadly hurricane struck the area on Monday, Aug. 29. A team of eight curators from various other parks will also be traveling to New Orleans to provide assistance.
   Other National Park Service units affected by Hurricane Katrina are Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks in Florida and the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Natchez National Historic Park, and Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.


Gas hits three-dollar

mark in 3R

   Gas prices in Three Rivers soared over $3 per gallon for the first time ever on Wednesday, Aug. 31, and they may never again drop below their current levels. Some Energy Department officials were predicting the traditional Labor Day weekend hikes even before Hurricane Katrina crippled nearly 15 percent of the domestic oil-refining capacity.

  “I’m telling everyone to fill up right away,” said Sookie Yim, who, with her husband, Sam, operates the Shell pumps at Three Rivers Market. “Our distributor is telling us that in the next few days the price of a gallon will rise even more.”
   How high will the price of a gallon of gas go? Even with a decline in demand after the Labor Day weekend, the gallon price at California pumps is expected to average $3.50 within a few weeks.
   Could the $4 gallon be far off? Industry analysts, even before they can assess the full impact of Hurricane Katrina, are saying that not only is four dollars a gallon a possibility, it will be reality by year’s end.
   In Hawaii, where prices in the past have failed to decrease along with the rest of the nation, consumers have banded together to legislate caps on pricing.
   California consumer groups are looking to their Hawaiian neighbors to see if similar caps would work in California.

Mineral King district

gets historic plaques

   Acting park superintendent Russ Wilson was in Mineral King last Thursday, Aug. 25, to preside over the unveiling of two plaques that were added at opposite ends of the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District. A brief ceremony was held at the Mineral King Ranger Station where most visitors will view the bronze tablet installed on a large granite boulder.
   The plaques commemorate several decades of preservation research and planning for a cultural landscape that includes significant cabins, artifacts, and remnants of historic sites, some of which predate the founding of Sequoia National Park in 1890. The unifying feature of the extensive landscape, stretching nearly 14 miles from the park entrance at Lookout Point to the Mineral King Valley, is the Mineral King Road.
   The road itself elicits the gamut of emotions as it twists and turns, trying the patience of motorists, especially those who happen to meet another vehicle at one of its narrowest one-lane sections. A large portion of the unpaved sections is currently undergoing reconstruction.
   Clearly, it is the road itself, first improved from an ancient trail in 1879, that has dictated the historical development of the area. The historic landscape in the Mineral King portion of Sequoia National Park was officially listed in The National Register of Historic Places in October 2003.

  “It has been a challenge to preserve these resources and an honor to cooperate with the Mineral King community in maintaining the district,” said Wilson. “This unique high-country landscape honors the people and places of Tulare County and California.”
   Louise Jackson, who is a descendant of the Crowley family, who pioneered the road and for many years operated the resort and store in east Mineral King, spoke as a historian of the Mineral King cabin community. She said the preservation process was an arduous one and was started more than two decades ago under the auspices of the Mineral King Preservation Society.
   Several folks who attended the ceremony and reception said that the atmosphere of cooperation with the NPS has improved this season. More community members than ever before are working as volunteers to assist the Park Service with visitor services like staffing the ranger station and furnishing interpretive programs to help visitors experience the history of the newly-created historic district.

Namesake balloon taken

from Orange Tree restaurant

   Someone is responsible for cutting the line attached to the massive orange helium-filled balloon flying above the Orange Tree restaurant and produce market in Lemon Cove, and owner Bob McKellar is asking for the public’s help in finding out whodunit.
   Prior to its disappearance last Sunday night (Aug. 28), the orange balloon, which is 12 feet in diameter, had been flying to celebrate the grand opening of the new restaurant and farm store. It was vandalized sometime between 8 p.m. and midnight, according to an employee who drove by the property two different times.
   The balloon was custom-made to resemble an orange with a green leaf on its top. The name, “Orange Tree,” is painted on its side.
   The person or persons who took the balloon, or simply cut it loose, had to climb onto the roof to reach the tether. It would have taken two people to hold onto the balloon without being lifted airborne, so it is likely it was just released into the air.
   According to an employee of the Orange Tree, there have been other incidents of vandalism in the area. Several weeks ago, someone tripped all the breakers at the Orange Tree and cut the electricity to the walk-in coolers.
   The Texaco mini-mart, located across Highway 198, has also been broken into recently. The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating at least two separate incidents.
   A reward of $100 is being offered for the recovery of the balloon or the arrest of whoever is responsible. Tipsters with information about the balloon caper may call Bob McKellar, day or night, at 740-8444.

Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs:

Shop, buy, ship in

one attractive location

   There were some anxious moments trying to just get going this summer, but since a successful opening one month ago, Scott Mullikin’s new gift shop and shipping center is off to an impressive start. In what’s been a record-setting month for local tourist-oriented businesses, Scott said he was most surprised by the outpouring of local support.

  “My first month has been very good and the Three Rivers community has supported me very well,” Scott said. “To me, that’s even more important than the tourist dollars.”
   Important, Scott says, because he plans to be so much more than a souvenir store. Less than two years ago, the Orange County transplant decided to shift career gears and escape the urban scene for a more sedate Kaweah Country lifestyle, and he is now living his dream.

  “Some would call my coming to Three Rivers coincidence, but I call it divine intervention,” Scott said.
   To hear Scott tell his story, he could have landed almost anywhere, but just happened upon the unique natural beauty of this area one particular weekend.

  “I had plans to visit some friends in Santa Maria and when I arrived it was obvious they weren’t ready for me,” Scott recalled. “So another friend and I decided to visit Three Rivers and go on up to the park and stay at Wuksachi.”
   That initial visit made an indelible impression on Scott. In fact so much so that his shop’s décor and inventory will remind shoppers of Wuksachi as the ambience and color scheme is very much influenced by the park and the nearby mountains.

  “I just fell in love with the natural setting here, the exposed granite, and the views right into the Great Western Divide,” Scott said. “I made up my mind right then and there it was time to get out of Orange County.”
   After several more sojourns to Three Rivers, Scott found the right house and the ideal commercial property in an older building that was being refurbished by Derek Philp, the owner of Chump’s, Three Rivers’s only DVD and video store.
   Another part of the story is the fact that Scott had worked for FedEx for 22 years.

   “Like so many corporations, working for a big company really changed throughout my time there, especially in the last five years,” Scott said. “I could see that Three Rivers really needed shipping and office services, so I am able to put all that career experience to work right here.”
   So not only does Scott have some unique gift items and things for the home that reflect his love affair with Kaweah Country, he can provide valuable services for other folks just like himself who manage challenging small businesses of their own.
   Being a sharp entrepreneur, Scott says his business won’t be static but rather he plans some dynamic seasonal twists, like great items for holiday gift-giving and some very unique Christmas decorations.

  “I’ll be open till 9 p.m. on certain nights so that folks who work in Visalia can do some or all of their holiday shopping and shipping right here,” Scott said.
   Like Scott is so proud of saying, shopping locally can be your one-stop solution. At Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs, it really is possible to shop it, buy it, and ship it.

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