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

  Celebrating 10 years:

March 1995 ~ March 2005

For the past decade,

The Kaweah Commonwealth

has been telling readers

things they won't read, hear,

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In the News - Friday, APRIL 22, 2005

Roping celebrates

the cowboy way

   For a community event to enjoy the popularity and have the kind of staying power of the Three Rivers Lions Team Roping, somebody has to be doing something right. In truth, it’s a whole group of folks, but mainly it’s the 80 or so Lions who cater to the ropers and parlay this weekend’s festivities into its biggest fundraiser of the year.

  “It seems like the Lions Club is really growing because we have more people willing to lend a hand to help this year than ever before,” said Nancy Brunson, Lions Roping chairman. “We even have folks showing up who aren’t even Lions, but just want to get involved for this special event.”
   Brunson and her Lion colleagues will need all the help and cooperation they can muster from the volunteers and contestants because for this year’s Roping there are some landmark changes. For the first time in its 56-year history, the Three Rivers Roping will be a four-day event.
   Business owners like the new format because the earlier quitting time each evening will encourage ropers and their families to head on into town to eat, shop, and have more leisure time to see what Three Rivers has to offer.
   Van Bailey, past roping chairman for the local Lions Club, said the economic impact of the event is difficult to say exactly, but shouldn’t be taken lightly.

  “When you get right down to it, it’s for charity, but just the presence of these ropers and their families means thousands of dollars for the Three Rivers economy,” Bailey said.
   Bailey, who in the 1990s was instrumental in preserving the event when it was teetering on extinction, tells everyone he meets in the roping world:

  “If you’ve never been to Three Rivers, make this year your first. The money is as green as the hills,” he explains.
   Of course, it’s about a whole lot more than money. Three Rivers is one attractive setting, seeing old friends, preserving the cowboy way, and just plain enjoying the riders and their horses, are part of the weekend’s tradition. Roping has actually become a sport of choice for many families who have returned to country living, own horses, and want to share some quality time with folks who have similar interests.
   The sport itself evolved from a standard ranching activity when a couple of cowboys turned roping the front and hind ends of a steer for branding or doctoring into a competition. Nobody knows for sure where “roping” first started but, recently, the sport has exploded to a point where ropers of varying skill levels — professional and amateur — are often in the arena during “go rounds” of the same events.

   Team roping competition, now one of six standard rodeo events, begins with a steer in a chute and ropers on horseback to either side. A run begins with a steer being released from the chute and given a head start down the arena of about 10 to 15 feet.
   At this point, the ropers give chase and close what is known as the “barrier distance.” The first roper (the header) comes up on the steer’s left side and, throwing the loop, ropes the animal around the horns or neck.
   Next, the header secures the steer by wrapping the rope remaining in his hand around the saddle-horn (called dallying). After making these dallies, the rider then steers his or her mount to the left across the arena, pulling the steer along behind.
   It’s now the job of the partner (the heeler) to follow with steer, approach from behind, and throw a loop so that it encircles both of the steer’s hind feet. A great deal of skill and timing are required to throw a loop, so ropers must practice long and hard to perfect a winning technique.
   All of the action in a team-roping run usually occurs in less than 15 seconds with the very best partners doing it in approximately five seconds. It’s all about time, as the team that performs their job the fastest wins the event.
   Time is called by an arena judge (the flagger) who signals the timekeeper to stop time when both ropes are taut and each roper’s horse is facing the steer. Penalties may be added for false starts or if the heeler loops only one foot. “No-times” result when one of the ropers miss their mark altogether.
   Most sanctioned events like the Three Rivers Roping are three, four or six-steer averages, meaning that a winning team must catch up to six consecutive steers and cumulatively do it faster than any other team in the competition. If a team misses just one steer they finish out of the money. Those teams that rope their steers faster than anybody else can win a lot of money and maybe even a trophy saddle or a coveted buckle.
   But be forewarned. It’s a rush — racing headlong down an arena after a fast-moving steer and a successful run or two can turn into a lifelong addiction.
   Roping is the only rodeo sport not limited by age and encompassing the essence of the cowboy way — riding, roping, and sharing time recalling one’s exploits on horseback.
   The Three Rivers Team Roping is a very special social gathering that celebrates the American desire to compete and win.
   For the ropers, it’s a simple matter of being the mostest with the fastest and, best of all, it’s the local Lions doing what they do so well for the Three Rivers community.

Business owners

eye local potential

   When opening a business in Three Rivers, the best-laid plans seem to take a little longer to reach fruition. This is especially the case when trying to time a grand opening with the busy visitor season, which runs from April to September.

   Consider the popular coffee and book emporium in Three Rivers — The Cabin.
   The planning, the building, the furnishing, and, finally, getting the place open took several years of effort and substantial capital investment. Within two years of its highly anticipated opening in May 2003, the property was recently placed on the market, and after only two weeks, is “sale pending.”
   Although no details about the sale have been made public, initially some real estate agents were skeptical whether the asking price of $485,000 could “pencil out” as a business opportunity. Most patrons of The Cabin would agree that there is ample value in the riverfront business property.
   The owners, Ken Woodruff and wife Bette Bardeen, worked tirelessly to develop a business that the community has welcomed with open arms. But like any successful business in fickle Three Rivers, to do it right, the yeoman’s share of the work has to be done by the owners. For The Cabin, there was much accomplished but apparently the right time to step aside is now.

   For others in Three Rivers, the dream of owning a local business is only beginning. Anthony Moreno, who relocated with his wife from Seal Beach, had hoped to open an Internet café in the building next to Chumps Videos and DVDs. That building, he said, won’t be ready for at least another two months, so he’s going to move into the former location of Heart’s Desire near the Main Fork Bistro.
   Moreno said he sees his business, which will provide computer expertise and Internet services, as vital to locals and visitors. He says that getting Three Rivers some exposure on the Internet will help the entire business community and his café will be a friendly place where visitors can stop by to access local information.

  “I’ll have a sign hanging out front that will read ‘Tourist Information,’” Moreno said. “What I don’t know or have in the shop I’ll be able to guide the user through the resources available on the ‘net. I want to send my customers to local businesses.”
For locals, Moreno will also offer computer repair, tutorials, and custom installations.

  “I think the key for all our businesses is in developing more links to potential customers,” Moreno said. “Helping our businesses develop these resources will be my community service.”

   Like the proverbial prodigal son, Mike McCoy, a former longtime resident of Three Rivers, returns to Three Rivers after a brief respite in Redondo Beach. Mike is working to develop the property adjacent to the former Three Rivers Fire Station.
   Last year, he sold the thriving Texaco mini-mart business in Lemon Cove after transforming that property and is ready to reinvest in a retail hardware store.

  “I’ve done the research looking at the demographics from Tehachapi to Oakhurst, and Three Rivers can support a full-service hardware and supply outlet,” McCoy said. “I think local customers will appreciate the competitive prices, and what we don’t have, they can order right from the store’s computer.”
   McCoy says he will have the support of “the best co-op” in the industry. He brings business experience and capital to the venture and says he hopes to interest a younger partner who one day might want to be the sole owner.

   Tom Sparks of the Three Rivers Village Foundation reports that new businesses and old businesses alike will be interested to watch the progress on several fronts, including the development of a new “Village Center,” a scenic highway designation for parts of Highway 198, and especially the Three Rivers portion of the Community Plan. County Supervisor Allen Ishida said earlier this week that he plans to press staff for action on a separate planning element for Three Rivers.

  “Three Rivers is unique because of its geographical location,” Ishida said. “It’s going to take some specific ordinances to deal with the planning issues that are important to the community.”
Ishida said another edition of the monthly Town Meeting is in the works for May. A date and time for the upcoming meeting will be announced soon.

County restructures

fire service

   At Tuesday’s regular board meeting, Tulare County Supervisors finally agreed with California Department of Forestry (CDF) on a plan to meet a shortfall in this year’s budget and also to pay for fire protection in the upcoming fiscal year. After a lengthy negotiating process, the plan reduces services in certain outlying areas by eliminating at least 15 full-time firefighters at five stations — Visalia, Dinuba, Woodville, Doyle Colony, and Lemon Cove.
   Two battalion chief positions were also eliminated. The employees who lost their local funding will be transferred to other CDF positions. The two chiefs will remain in the county as “training captains” and also funded by the state.
   As soon as Tuesday, April 26, Dave Hillman, Tulare County fire chief, said the agency will replace those relocated firefighters with paid on-call firefighters. As volunteers, on-call personnel do not monitor emergencies at the fire station but routinely take calls at home or at the workplace.
   According to a local emergency volunteer, the closure will add more response time to Lemon Cove calls, and in the busy fire season, could also impact Three Rivers. At Tuesday’s meeting, Dave Spooner, a CDF firefighter who addressed the meeting, warned against a dependence on the paid-call personnel. Spooner said some volunteers are unavailable for a percentage of their calls and that can make the critical difference in a medical emergency.
   Personnel from the Three Rivers Fire Station routinely are first-responders on any local calls arriving at most addresses within 10 minutes. If calls were referred only to volunteers, the response time on the average would be 20 to 25 minutes at minimum.
   The restructuring probably won’t affect Three Rivers unless multiple calls come in at the same time. Lemon Cove area residents, though their station receives only a small number of calls, are faced with lengthier response times now.
   Eric Coyne, spokesperson for the board, said the Supervisors are taking a hard look at restructuring the county’s fire department. The newly signed agreement will allow the county to save $250,000 this year and $1.5 million next, he said.
   The board is also committed to exhaust all the options before they seek ways to enhance revenue or vote for a tax increase. Coyne also said that even though they downsized five stations they actually upsized three others.

  “We [the board] were able to get some cost reduction in the new plan with no actual loss in manpower,” Coyne said. “This is not a fix but a short-term restructuring that down the road will provide even better fire protection.”

Touch-screen voting

debuts in Three Rivers

   For the first time in Tulare County, Three Rivers voters will be treated to a new voting experience when they cast their ballots in the June 7 election.
   The registered voters in the Three Rivers Memorial District will be having a special parcel tax measure election on Tuesday, June 7. The Tulare County Elections Office will be using some new voting technology in this election called Direct Record Electronic (DREs) units or what is commonly referred to as “touch-screen voting.”
   Coincidentally, the new machines are provided by Sequoia Voting Systems. The company is based in Oakland.
   After the events surrounding the 2000 presidential election (remember the “chads”), the federal government passed the “Help America Vote Act,” which adds some requirements to the voting process and allocates funds to purchase upgraded voting equipment. Beginning Jan. 1, 2006, every polling place in the country will be required to have at least one voting unit to allow visually-impaired people to vote in private.
   Currently, the only technology that will allow this is the touch-screen, which can be supplemented with an audio headset. Tulare County’s current optical scan system does not meet this new requirement and the Registrar of Voters office is reviewing the options.
   Touch-screen technology is similar to a bank’s ATM, department store gift registry computers, or self-checkout registers at the grocery store. The touch-screen voting units are very easy to use and have many benefits to voters:

  —They highlight races that have no votes in them in case they were skipped by mistake.

  —They don’t allow a vote for more candidates than are allowed in a race.

  —The print size of the text is larger than a printed ballot so reading is easier.

  —A voter can choose either English or Spanish text.

  —With the touch of a finger, a vote can be changed or a mistake corrected prior to telling the unit to “Cast Ballot.”

  —The voting can be reviewed on the screen and on a printed log.

  —Similar to the current system, the results will be tabulated throughout the day so election-night results will still be timely.

  “Although we believe touch screens are easy to use, accurate, and secure, we do, however, understand that some voters may not feel comfortable with the idea of voting on a touch-screen unit and may want a paper ballot instead,” said Jerry Messinger, county Registrar of Voters.
   Paper ballots will not be available at the polls, he explained. But if a voter does not want to vote on the touch-screen unit, paper ballots are available via the absentee-ballot process.
   To obtain an absentee ballot, a voter needs to simply complete the absentee application on the back of their sample ballot booklet, mail it in, and an official paper absentee ballot will be mailed.

  “On the other hand, any permanent absentee voter that has already been mailed an absentee ballot, but wants to try the new touch-screen voting equipment for this election can take their unvoted absentee ballots to the polling place on Election Day and surrender it to the precinct board,” said Messinger. “They will then be able to vote on the touch-screen voting unit.”
   Questions, comments, or concerns may be directed to the Registrar of Voters office at 733-6275. For those who want to see a demonstration of how the touch screens work prior to the election, go to the following website: demo.php?lang=vv

   The only issue on the June 7 ballot in Three Rivers is a proposal that is being reintroduced by the Three Rivers Memorial District board of directors to levy an annual tax of $23 per parcel that would provide much-needed funds for the maintenance and operation of the half-century-old Veterans Memorial Building.
   The last day to register to vote in the June 7 election is Tuesday, May 23. Voter-registration cards are available at post offices, libraries, and other locations throughout Tulare County.
   Absentee ballots can be requested by mail from Monday, May 9, to Tuesday, May 31.
   To obtain a mail-in registration card or to request an absentee ballot, call 733-6275 or go online to:



invasive plants

By Melanie Baer-Keeley

   This is the second installment of three about the local management of non-native weeds.
   The best way to manage invasive non-native weeds is to recognize potential weed problems early in seedling stages; controlling them before they mature, reproduce, and spread; then monitoring them to prevent re-infestation.
   In our wild environment, it often seems difficult and overwhelming to control invasive plants, but there are some great resources available to help.
   The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a vital local agency. They partner with other organizations to help conserve, maintain, and improve natural resources and environment on private lands.
   One of the community projects spearheaded by the NRCS has been the removal of Yellow Starthistle, as well as Giant Reed in Three Rivers and throughout the county. A continuing effort that also involves the Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers as well as many volunteers, it is making a significant impact in the reduction of these noxious weeds.
   NRCS offers the public educational materials and assists in pest identification, in addition to providing removal, monitoring, and control recommendations on these weeds and other pests.
   In conjunction with the Tulare County U.C. Cooperative Extension, NRCS sponsors a low-cost herbicide-spraying program, made available to the public to curtail outbreaks of Yellow Starthistle. Future plans are to expand this program to target Italian Thistle.
   Conservationists Elizabeth Palmer and Joe Williams of NRCS are the public contacts for NRCS and can be reached at 734-8732, ext. 3, or via email at:
   The U.C. Cooperative Extension, whose goal is to “…to provide the citizens of Tulare County access to University of California educational and research programs,” is also a terrific asset to the community. It gives all property owners — homeowners, ranchers, and farmers — access to knowledgeable advisors familiar with cutting-edge scientific studies. Much of this information is available at their office or on their Internet site free or at low cost.
The Cooperative Extension’s “Weed Management in Landscapes” web page —

—gives suggestions on, for example, “How to Manage Weeds in Five Types of Landscape Plantings” and offers weed-eradication techniques including the relatively unusual hot water, steam, or propane treatments. Specific tips on herbicide selection, performance, and safety are also useful.
   Many other practical landscape solutions can be obtained from this website as well. The director of the county Cooperative Extension is Jim Sullins, who may be reached by calling 685-3303.
   Of the weeds found in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, most either pose minimal impact upon natural systems or are already so pervasive that it is unlikely they could ever be contained. However, many of the parks’ resources are being directed at controlling the top dozen most pernicious weeds within the park.
   The Natural Resources Division website — — profiles those dozen plants, providing a good guide to identifying them and great insight into the parks’ methods of managing several of the species that also occur in Three Rivers.
   For further information, call the NPS Resource Management’s Jonathan Humphrey (565-3720), Athena Demetry (565-4479), or me (565-3775).
   In the next installment, the invasive plants of greatest threat to Three Rivers will be identified along with recommendations on their control.

   Websites to assist in weed control and eradication:

  —U.C. Cooperative Extension Weed Research and Information Center:

  —California Department of Agriculture weed identification and information:

  —California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC):

  —National Invasive Species Information:

  —Cal Photo (with photos identifying plant, fungi, and animal species and more): photos/flora/

  Melanie Baer-Keeley is a restoration horticulturist at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This article was initiated by Diana Glass of Century 21 Three Rivers and sponsored in part by Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks.  

10 years ago this month

    FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 1995— The Tulare County Planning Commission voted to recommend that
the Board of Supervisors certify a zone change from rural-residential to commercial-recreation on a portion of the Thorn Ranch. The action, if adopted by the Board of Supervisors, would pave the way for a multi-million dollar destination resort.
   A NEW AMBULANCE arrived in Three Rivers.
   A TOTAL OF 1,400 teams competed at the 45th annual Team Roping.
   OBITUARY: VAN DIXON (1903-1995), of Laguna Hills, a Mineral King cabin owner since 1950.


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