Lewis Griswold

Griswold: Kaweah Oaks Preserve buys land to protect core

Sequoia Riverlands Trust has purchased a 22-acre parcel to add to Kaweah Oaks Preserve east of Visalia.

The newly acquired Hesse property on the north end of the preserve has no structures, but was once a plum orchard.

Sequoia Riverlands will apply its environmental restoration skills to plant native Valley oak trees, sycamores and other species, especially along Deep Creek, the waterway that borders the parcel on the north, said Aaron Collins, the trust's director of communications and community relations.

Kaweah Oaks Preserve was established 30 years ago to save a remnant of the Valley oak forest that once dominated the region.

The site was never plowed, partly due to its low-lying location in the Kaweah river delta that made it less desirable as farm ground due to floods.

Buying the property brings the total area of the preserve to 344 acres, and achieves the goal of protecting the preserve from development.

"It's a sensitive location," Collins said.

The purchase price was $420,000, with funds coming from a $552,000 capital campaign, which is still going on.

Besides expanding the preserve, Sequoia Riverlands Trust is raising money for signs to the preserve just north of Highway 198 on the way to Exeter and Woodlake, and for permanent rest rooms for the thousands of students who take annual field trips there.

A dedication ceremony to formally acknowledge the acquisition -- and to honor all the local donors that made the purchase possible -- will take place at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1.

YOSEMITE PHOTO: Amateur photographer Joseph Fronteras of Visalia has one of his pictures in a nature photo exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Starting Sept. 3, the "Wilderness Forever: 50 Years of Protecting America's Wild Places" gallery honors the signing of the Wilderness Act.

Fronteras' photo was one of 63 chosen from 5,000 entries by Nature's Best Photography and Wilderness50, a coalition of federal agencies and groups celebrating the Wilderness Act.

His photo, taken Feb. 17, 2012, shows the "natural firefall" at Yosemite National Park. When conditions are just right, the setting sun causes Horsetail Falls to glow as if on fire.

It was selected for most inspirational moment, honorable mention amateur.

"That was exciting, just because you get to be in the Smithsonian," Fronteras said.

A 39-year-old physical therapist in Fresno, Fronteras grew up in the Philippines and got his first camera at age 12 from his father. He's been shooting ever since, especially nature and travel, and is active at The Spectrum Art Gallery in Fresno.

NEW KINGS JAIL: A groundbreaking ceremony for the Kings County jail expansion will take place at 9 a.m. Monday in Hanford.

The 252-bed addition will relieve overcrowding, officials said.

The state is contributing $33 million toward the $40.5 million project, under phase two of AB900, the jail construction law of 2007.

Six housing units with cells, two dormitory-style units, an intake area and 12-bed infirmary are forecast to open in April 2016.