In the News -
Friday, SEPTEMBER 23, 2005
THE SECRET GARDENS
South Fork gone to pot;
Sequoia National Park and Three Rivers have received plenty
of attention this summer for lightning strikes, recreation, and air quality,
but on Tuesday, Sept. 20, the area became a media hub for an attraction
that is gaining national notoriety. What correspondents from ABC News,
Newsweek, National Geographic, and even The Guardian of London were here
to do was observe park rangers and a local task force of law-enforcement
officers conducting the first raids of the season on pot gardens located
in and just outside Sequoia Park’s South Fork boundary.
The day began with a briefing for media in the parking lot
at Village Market, where Laura Whiteside, a spokesperson for the National
Parks Conservation Association, said that her organization is currently
asking Congress for $1.6 million that would go directly to Sequoia National
Park to help escalate the war against growers who do untold millions of
dollars in damage to park resources and are a threat to visitors during
each growing season.
In addition to the media, Whiteside also invited Darren Rose,
the district director for Congressman George Radanovich (R-19th District),
who came to Three Rivers to update the Congressman on the urgency of the
marijuana situation. Radanovich currently is a member of the influential
Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands, so his support
is critical, Whiteside said.
The contingent traveled via motorcade up South Fork Drive
seven miles to a staging area where law officers had a roadblock to secure
the area while dozens of operatives conducted the raids.
areas that we will be working today include some rugged terrain in the
Bennett Creek and Burnt Camp Creek drainages,” said one member of
the strike team, who preferred not to be identified. “We’ll
be dropping park rangers near one of the garden complexes inside park
boundaries. Once the team is on the ground, they will be hiking in steep
terrain for more than an hour to reach the location where they will eradicate
To help the rangers reach their remote objective, the team
was short-hauled, two at a time, suspended in a sling beneath a speedy
Bell helicopter, furnished by CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting).
After the rangers were deployed, other strike team members, including
Tulare County’s eight-man SWAT team and a host of CAMP officers,
were flown across the South Fork canyon to rugged terrain above 5,000
feet in Devils Canyon, south of South Fork Drive and just west of Sequoia
National Park’s boundary.
In between these runs, members of the media were flown into
Devils Canyon to observe gardens from the air and visit the location of
former gardens to inspect natural-resource impacts and also get a picture
of the magnitude of the ongoing criminal activity. In the air, Lieutenant
Marsh Carter, who is the commander of the Tulare County SWAT team, pointed
out several garden locations that were unknown to officers before the
the distinctive green of the new plants among all these various shades
of greenery in the canopy that we are looking to spot,” said Lt.
Carter. “My first garden bust was right here in Devils Canyon in
1990. In those days, we didn’t have helicopters and we were just
a handful of deputies hiking these rugged canyons stumbling here and there
on some of the bigger operations.”
Carter said that in 1999 the number of gardens and scope
of the operations in Tulare County just “exploded.” After
9/11 in 2001, Mexican drug-trafficking organizations, using methamphetamine
profits, consolidated their operations and became firmly entrenched in
In 2005, marijuana growing has become even more sophisticated
and it is very seldom that any growers are arrested. One female was arrested
this past weekend suspected of making a food drop to South Fork growers,
Lt. Carter said.
CAMP receives state and federal funding and is made up of
reserve police officers and personnel from the California Department of
Justice. Their sole purpose is to assist various jurisdictions with manpower,
helicopters, and equipment where the gardens are being grown, supplementing
the limited budgets of law-enforcement agencies.
seizure today means that we [CAMP] have now passed the one million mark
in plants eradicated this season from gardens in California,” said
Neil Cuthbert, CAMP commander. “We still have several weeks to go
in the harvest season so we expect those numbers to increase. The statewide
eradications that we are doing represent what our intelligence says is
about one-half of what’s out there.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 21, park officials announced that rangers
had removed 1,351 marijuana plants from gardens located inside park boundaries.
At a street value of $4,000 per plant, pot valued at an estimated $4 billion
has already been removed from California gardens during the current season.
In Tulare County alone, on lands outside of national park
boundaries, more than 148,000 plants have been eradicated in the current
season. Nobody seems to have a handle on the scope of the criminal activity
or what it will require to mitigate the damage to public lands.
What is certain is that Sequoia National Park needs more
funding now, as do the other Tulare County law-enforcement agencies that
are waging a war with growers, which, under the current circumstances,
they cannot possibly win.
Missing man’s cause
Phillip Arens, 42, whose body was found Sept. 10 near Crescent
Meadow in Sequoia National Park after a three-day search, died from exposure,
the Tulare County Coroner has determined. Arens, of Auburn, was last seen
waiting in the Crescent Meadow parking lot while his brother hitched a
ride to retrieve his car in Mineral King following a backpacking trip.
It is unknown exactly how Arens arrived at the bottom of
the steep embankment where his body was located, but nighttime temperatures
during the period were near freezing.
Arens is the 11th weather-related fatality in Sequoia and
Kings Canyon National Parks this year.
Fire station re-use
District One Supervisor Allen Ishida has several hot issues
right now, but none are more important to a handful of Three Rivers community
groups than what to do with the former Fire Station 14 on South Fork Drive.
The fire station has remained vacant since crews moved into the new fire
station on Sierra Drive earlier this year.
On Wednesday, Ishida announced that the re-use of the fire
station would be on the Board of Supervisors agenda for their regular
meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
I can count on the support of my colleagues on the Board, it looks like
the project will be approved in concept on that day,” Ishida said.
“I expect that full approval would come in the next week or so with
the move-in after November 1.”
Under the terms of the agreement with the groups who want
to use the facility — Three Rivers Cemetery District, Volunteers
In Patrol, and Community Food Pantry — the lead tenant would be
the Three Rivers Community Services District (CSD). A condition of the
deal is that the county would recoup rental income equivalent to taxable
income if the building was to be sold.
Ishida also said that the CSD has agreed in theory to manage
a small toddler park next to the Three Rivers Library. It’s not
yet known when the approximately $50,000 would be made available for the
50 YEARS AGO
’55 flood memories sought
How can one possibly put the 1955 Three Rivers flood into
perspective? Ironically, as of Aug. 29, 2005, there is a way to describe
what occurred here two days before Christmas.
On a larger scale, Hurricane Katrina’s impact on New
Orleans is hauntingly similar to the Three Rivers incident. Consider this
comment in the Jan. 4, 1956, issue of the Visalia Times-Delta:
waters have wiped out Three Rivers as it was previously known and the
town is now a completely different place.”
In December 2005, The Kaweah Commonwealth will publish an
issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of this local disaster. To that
end, we are collecting the memoirs of those who were there.
Please submit written memoirs to The Kaweah Commonwealth
via email (email@example.com), mail (P.O. Box 806), or drop
off at the newspaper office (41841 Sierra Drive).
Photos may be scanned and emailed, but the highest resolution
possible should be retained. Photos may also be brought to the Commonwealth
‘E-cycling’ is so e-asy
Last Saturday’s “Clean Up Event” at the
Three Rivers Fire Station, sponsored by Tulare County Environmental Health,
was so successful with its collection of electronics that the organizers
want to ensure Three Rivers residents an opportunity to keep those outdated
TVs, cell phones, and computer components going to where they belong —
a recycling company. And thanks to Chantelle Horton of Three Rivers, an
ongoing arrangement to recycle “e-waste” is just a phone call
the do-it-yourself e-reycling contact right here in Three Rivers,”
Chantelle is a program coordinator with CSET’s new
E-Recycling Solutions. The recently organized company creates jobs for
the underemployed and receives recycling funds under the provisions of
the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003. The company organizes collection
events and operates an ongoing drop-off center at 8234 West Doe in Visalia.
certainly appreciate the commitment of our Three Rivers neighbors to recycle,”
To deliver electronic items to Chantelle for recycling, call
Park fire crews staying busy
Quarry Fire— Ignitions on this prescribed fire in the
Giant Forest area of Sequoia were ended Friday, Sept. 16. The burn, when
complete, will encompass 352 acres. The popular Congress Trail was closed
this week for visitor safety, but will reopen today (Sept. 23).
Comb Fire— This wildland-use fire was lightning-caused
and first discovered on July 22. It has burned over 1,000 acres in Kings
Canyon NP and Sequoia National Forest, but activity is currently low.
Grant West Fire— Ignitions on this prescribed fire
began yesterday (Sept. 22). The burn will treat 366 acres, located in
the northwest corner of the Grant Grove area in Kings Canyon NP. Several
area trails will be closed.
by Anthony Moreno
In May 2005, the Federal Trade Commission published a report
titled, “How not to get hooked by a ‘Phishing’ scam.”
The report describes how the scammers, or phishers, send
an email posing as a company you may deal with asking you to update, validate,
or confirm your personal account information. Some phishing emails threaten
dire consequences if you don’t respond. You may be directed to a
website that looks and sounds official, but do not succumb to these tricks.
The phishers are trying to steal your identity and run up bills or commit
crimes in your name.
Here are some tips to keep you from getting scammed:
1. Do not reply to messages or pop-ups that ask for personal
or financial information;
2. Do not click on the links to other websites;
3. Do not email personal or financial information;
4. Use anti-virus software and a firewall and keep them up-to-date;
5. Review your credit card and bank statements to be sure
charges shown are legitimate.
Look to your banks and credit card companies to help you
stay secure. Also, find out what they’re doing to keep their customers
Another example of when “phishing” opportunities
can occur is when your mortgage company sells your loan to another mortgage
company. This is a common occurrence, but to the uninitiated, it could
seem suspicious. What is supposed to happen is that your current lender
notifies you that your loan has been sold to another company, and they
state the name of the new company. At the same time, the new lender notifies
you they have taken over your loan from the current lender. Every aspect
of your loan remains the same. This scenario is meant to be only informative
and should not require you to answer any questions.
No matter what, vigilance is the key to moving through cyberspace.
You must take as many precautions as you possibly can to keep your identity
Anthony Moreno and his wife, Pat, own 3 Rivers Cyber Café,
which specializes in high-speed Internet connections, Wi-Fi, and computer
sales and repair.
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Tigers struggle against Kingsburg
When the special teams in a football game fail to make plays,
it can set up an opponent with great field position or, even worse, demoralizes
a defense by sending them right back out on the field without time to
even catch their collective breath. Last Friday, that lack of execution
on special teams was the biggest factor in the visiting Woodlake Tigers’
(0-2) loss at Kingsburg (2-0), 48-12.
Kingsburg’s Dominic Harris returned two punts for second-
quarter touchdowns and after an interception for another TD, the Vikings
led at halftime, 27-6. Ryan Baker’s 56-yard completion to John Gomez
accounted for a second-quarter score for Woodlake’s lone highlight
in what was otherwise a difficult first-half.
In the third quarter, senior runningback Aaron Payne scampered
for an eight-yard TD. But two-point conversion failed and that was the
extent of Woodlake’s offense on that fateful night.
Woodlake plays their home-opener against Strathmore tonight
(Sept. 23) at Robinson Field.
The Tiger JVs were whitewashed last Friday, 58-0, dropping
to a 1-1 record.
Cross-country girls win
Just getting to Firebaugh on the Valley’s west side
takes quite an effort, but for Tiger cross-country runners they had plenty
of energy left after they arrived last Tuesday afternoon (Sept. 20). The
girls’ team, led by Becky Griswold, a senior from Three Rivers,
placed first in a field of 15 teams.
The boys placed second, and they were led by senior Javier
Ceballos (17:29), who finished seventh overall. Ashley Contreras and Damais
Mendoza finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the girls’
Griswold finished fifth overall and completed the three-mile
course in 22:46.
was our first race of the season on a three-mile course,” said Becky.
Griswold said the win was “sweet,” and she knows
the Woodlake girls and boys teams have really improved and the times will
get even better.
The team travels to Hanford for a meet today (Sept. 23).