of Kaweah Country
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The Best of Kaweah Country
the News - Friday, SEPTEMBER 10, 2004
of business news:
Every season, businesses come
and go in Three Rivers. The Sequoia Grill opened briefly on August 27,
but quickly proved too overwhelming a proposition. This time the reason
for closing was too much business; sometimes it may not be enough. Recently,
there has been a flurry of remodeling of existing buildings in an effort
to provide lodging for visitors. The trickle-down effect of less facilities
in Sequoia National Park is prompting more small-business owners to improve
their Three Rivers properties...
ONLY IN THE
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plans major expansion
In 2002, when the Franciscans announced they would vacate
the St. Anthony Retreat, the future of the property was clouded by uncertainty.
Would another spiritual group operate the aging facility or would the
valuable 50-acre hilltop property be sold to developers?
Within a few months after the Franciscan monks of Santa Barbara
announced their intention to leave, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno
entered into negotiations to acquire and operate the property. The changeover
of the St Anthony Retreat from the “Frannies,” as they are
affectionately called by other Catholic clergy, to the Fresno diocese
officially began Oct. 1, 2003.
Bishop John T. Steinbock, who is head of the Fresno diocese
comprised of 600,000 Catholics who live in eight Central California counties,
agreed to lease the Three Rivers property after receiving enthusiastic
support from his 86 parishes.
The current lease calls for the Diocese of Fresno to pay the Franciscans
$20,000 annually for five years. At the end of the five-year lease, the
$100,000 will be applied to the property's $2.5 million purchase price.
The bishop appointed the Father John Griesbach, a diocese
priest and native of Tulare, as the new group's first retreat director
at St. Anthony.
“In all my years
of coming to Three Rivers as a boy and then after my ordination as a priest
in 1976, I just never thought I would end up here at St. Anthony's,”
said Fr. Griesbach. “It’s so beautiful here. I just couldn’t
imagine the Frannies ever wanting to leave Three Rivers."
But the renowned Franciscans, who two centuries ago founded
the California missions, cited dwindling numbers within their ranks as
the biggest reason why it was time to leave Three Rivers. For the Fresno
Catholics, it was an ideal opportunity to acquire a property that could
help strengthen the spiritual life of the entire community.
To further that goal, Bishop Steinbock approved an ambitious
five-year plan to raise $7 million to purchase the retreat center, renovate
existing buildings, and to build a youth camp and conference center.
The fundraising campaign, “Our Faith, Our Family, Our
Future,” is set to begin in 2005 and has already received a $1 million
pledge. The $100,000 to lease the Three Rivers property has also been
The youth facility will be built on 17 adjacent acres donated
by Mrs. Ollie Craig from her Salt Creek ranch, which is adjacent to the
retreat property. The new construction will include a lodge, four 40-bunk
dorms, riding stables, a swimming pool and, if funds become available,
The current facilities more lend themselves to adult accommodations,
Griesbach said, while the new dorms could house up to 120 youths and their
the feasibility of acquiring more land from the Craig Ranch that would
contain the amphitheater,” Griesbach said. “We would be open
to other community uses for the facilities, especially the amphitheater.”
Today, the St. Anthony mission remains the same as it was
during the 40-year tenure of the Franciscans: to offer a peaceful, comfortable
setting for individuals or groups seeking a contemplative environment
for meetings or for personal prayer and reflection.
Griesbach said the retreat center is hosting Sunday’s
open house to explain its future plans but, more importantly, to become
better acquainted with St. Anthony’s old friends as well as make
some new ones.
will continue to maintain strong connections with a wide variety of Christian
and other religious groups, educational institutions, service organizations,
and the Three Rivers community,” Griesbach said. "As a diocesan
retreat center, it also becomes an extension of every Catholic church
throughout the Central Valley."
Hot Pot Spot:
Latest garden is largest yet
If it’s September, it must be harvest time. And it’s
not corn or cotton, but in Tulare County, if marijuana was a legal crop,
it would be a top-producing commodity.
On Thursday, Sept. 2, National Park Service rangers and cooperating
law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Justice’s
CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting), eradicated another 18,926
marijuana plants that were being illegally cultivated in the vicinity
of the Mineral King Road in Sequoia National Park. The pre-Labor Day raid
marked the largest haul to date within the boundaries of Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks.
A Blackhawk helicopter with a crew from Immigration and Customs
Enforcements (ICE) conducted a predawn reconnaissance of the area using
Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR). The use of infrared helps officers determine
if the gardens are occupied by using heat-seeking technology.
“The infrared was
used successfully last year in similar operations,” said Alexandra
Picavet, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks information officer. “The
crew can determine locations of individuals from their body heat, campfires,
and other signs that growers might be present in the gardens.”
Picavet said that it is critical when officers enter the gardens that
the growers or their armed guards do not surprise them. One Dinely Drive
resident said when she heard the noise of the pre-dawn raid she knew somebody
or someplace was under attack.
The marijuana farming operation was well-financed as evidenced
by the numerous encampments. Several acres of underbrush had been removed
to provide cover for the pot plants.
Firearms and other weapons were seized along with evidence
that hundreds of pounds of fertilizers and pesticides had been used. Information
gathered during the arrest of four Mexican nationals during a raid in
August helped officers make this bust.
Several individuals are now under investigation for conspiracy
to grow marijuana on public lands. The plants removed in the September
2 operation were near maturity with an estimated street value in excess
of $75 million.
Other eradications in the East Fork drainage of Sequoia National
Park were continuing through Wednesday, Sept. 8. In addition to the season-long
destruction to, and damage of, natural resources, the illicit pot-farming
operations have created a growing danger to people who could inadvertently
walk into the vicinity of a guarded garden.
It is speculated that those who tend the gardens become quite
territorial this time of year because their “paychecks” or
“end-of-season bonuses” largely depend on the successful removal
and subsequent delivery of the illegal harvest.
The pot plantations have mostly been found between 2,500
and 6,000 feet elevation in the vicinity of various year-round water sources.
Harvesting must be completed before the nighttime temperatures dip to
the near-freezing level.
Anyone with information about suspicious activity in Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks is asked to call the anonymous toll-free
hotline at 1-888-NPS-CRIME (1-888-677-2746). If activity is suspected
in areas outside the parks boundaries, call the Tulare County Sheriff’s
Are you ready for some football?
Robinson Field to be dedicated
Friday’s home game
The start of the local football season is tonight (Friday,
Sept. 10), and hopes are high for a successful run for the Woodlake Tigers.
No matter what the outcome this season for Coach Brian Costa’s varsity
squad, it will be difficult to match the pomp and circumstance that’s
building around tonight’s program, the first of a 10-game regular
According to Frank Ainley, Tiger Athletic director, there’s
a lot more interest than usual in Woodlake’s home opener. The attention
of high school football fans all over the Valley will be riveted to the
ceremony dedicating Leo Robinson Field that will take place between the
junior varsity and varsity games.
Leo Robinson, who passed away in 2002, won more games than
any other Valley high school football coach. He served as Woodlake’s
head coach for 40 seasons on the field that, on this special evening,
will be named in his honor.
For the affair, several hundred of Robinson’s former
players will return to their alma mater in tribute to their former coach.
Robinson also coached baseball and was a longtime teacher at Woodlake
Ainley said Coach Robinson was a winner both on the field
and off and he deserves to have the football field named in his honor.
School officials are expecting a standing-room-only crowd of more than
4,000 for the ceremony and the two football games.
Coach Costa, who began his Woodlake career as Robinson’s defensive
coordinator and is in his second year as his successor, knows only too
well the significance of this historic opener.
“Friday night is
going to be a very big event for Woodlake football,” Costa said.
But Costa’s biggest challenge will be trying to have
his Tigers ready to play a powerful Tranquillity team.
“A couple of years
ago, playing Tranquillity was considered an easy win,” Costa said.
“But a new coach and a group of experienced players have really
turned that program around.”
The turnaround is due in part to Coach Willie Adney, who
like his Tiger counterpart, is also in his second season with his Tranquillity
Tigers. Last year, Woodlake sputtered at Tranquillity and were stunned
by the season-opening loss.
In 2003, Tranquillity went on to win a co-league championship
shared with Caruthers and Templeton. Woodlake advanced to the second round
of the Sequoia division’s small-school playoffs, losing in the second
round at San Joaquin Memorial, while Tranquillity lost in the opening
round of the Sierra division match-ups.
This season, Tranquillity is expected to win the newly organized
Northwest Sierra League and be much improved. Last week, they trounced
Strathmore, a Sierra division opponent.
[Tranquillity] is extremely quick and really likes to apply pressure,”
said Costa. “We’re going to have to do a better job getting
off the ball on offense.”
Much of the hopes of the Tigers’ retooled offense are
riding on the broad shoulders of Ryan Baker, sophomore quarterback.
“Baker has looked
pretty good at quarterback and also at free safety on defense,”
Costa said. “Souk Stephens and Aaron Payne have also been standouts
in the preseason.”
Soukarana Stephens of Three Rivers is a speedy junior who
brings a breakaway dimension to the offensive backfield. Payne, who is
also a junior from Three Rivers, has taken over at one of the inside linebacker
“We look a lot
better at this point than we did a year ago,” Costa said. “Once
we get a game under our belts, we’ll be able to see what this team
really looks like.”
Under new Central Section rules, any team that says “yes”
may participate in the playoffs. While Woodlake, with a current enrollment
of 737, will stay in Division IV for the post-season, East Sequoia League
foes Coalinga, Dinuba, and Exeter all must compete in Division III with
schools that typically have 1,000-plus enrollment.
The kickoff for Friday’s junior varsity game vs. Tranquillity
is 5:30 p.m. For more information or ticket prices, 564-3307.
of the Sierra grant
Sierra Business Conference
address local issues
Over the summer, Bank of the Sierra reviewed 38 Sierra Grant
applications and awarded more than a dozen community-service organizations
with thousands of dollars. Among these, Sequoia Natural History Association
was awarded $1,000 to further its goals of providing educational programs
and materials to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Other grant recipients are:
American Lung Association-Air Quality Index: $2,500.
Big Brothers Big Sisters: $2,500.
Boy Scouts of America-Sequoia Council: $1,000.
Buck Rock Foundation: $1,000.
Central California Family Crisis Center: $2,500.
Children’s Hospital Central California: $2,500.
Exeter High School-Renaissance Committee: $1,000.
Families in Transition: $2,000.
Fresno Metropolitan Museum: $2,500.
Habitat for Humanity-Crossroads Project: $2,500.
Happy Trails Riding Academy: $2,000.
Lindsay Community Theatre: $8,250.
Special Olympics: $2,500
Yellow Ribbon Youth Suicide Prevention Project: $2,000.
Recognizing the unique aspects and challenges of doing business
in the Tulare County valley and foothills, the Bank of the Sierra has
organized the Sierra Business Conference. This is the first time the event
has been held, but the bank plans to make it an annual event.
The Sierra Business Conference is scheduled for Friday, Sept.
24, from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at Porterville’s Veterans Memorial
Building, 1900 W. Olive Ave. Specifically geared to businesses in southeastern
Tulare County, the conference’s agenda will include speakers who
will address local, regional, and national economics, California politics,
business management, and legislative issues.
For more information, call Hope Attenhofer, Bank of the Sierra
director of marketing, 782-4900.
Public Lands Day is
Traditionally celebrated to honor the founding of the National
Park Service in August, the annual Fee Free Day will be observed this
year on Saturday, Sept. 18. This coincides with National Public Lands
On this day, all units of the National Park System —
including Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks — that normally
charge an entrance fee will instead offer free admission.
Sequoia National Forest, which administers a joint-fee collection
program at the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park will also
observe the daylong fee exemption.
The waiver of fees is only for admission to the parks. Recreation-use
fees, such as camping, Crystal Cave tours, or backcountry permits, still
Always free are the ranger programs that educate and entertain
park visitors. Although most areas of the parks don’t offer programs
after Labor Day or cut back to just weekends, in the Giant Forest and
Lodgepole areas, programs are offered daily through September.
For those visitors who would still like to contribute to
the parks on the fee-free day, volunteers from the Sequoia Fund, a nonprofit
parks partner, will be distributing donation envelopes at both entrance
stations and at visitor centers. These donations will be used to support
ongoing Sequoia Fund projects.