Lewis Griswold

Tourism manager wants feature at Visalia sequoia tree

Suzanne Bianco discusses a proposal for an interpretive feature at a giant sequoia tree in downtown Visalia.
Suzanne Bianco discusses a proposal for an interpretive feature at a giant sequoia tree in downtown Visalia. lgriswold@fresnobee.com

Suzanne Bianco, tourism and marketing manager at the Visalia Convention and Visitors Bureau, points to a large tree dominating the west side of the post office in downtown Visalia.

The 65-foot tall tree is a young giant sequoia on the Valley floor instead of in the mountains of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, its natural habitat.

But that is what makes the tree ideal for Bianco’s latest brainstorm: To make it the focal point of a proposed “Sequoia Centennial Interpretive Feature” where tourists could learn more about the big trees.

“Visalia is very strongly connected to the parks,” Bianco said. “It’s a piece of the park that’s down here in Visalia. It’s something I’d really like to embrace.”

To date, she has gotten the Visalia City Council on her side.

The council voted to support the concept and promised to write letters that Bianco could use to garner support from Rep. Devin Nunes and the U.S. Postal Service.

Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia-Kings, is also on board and wrote a letter of support.

The local postmaster supports the concept, but now it’s up to the upper management of the Postal Service to grant permission because it is government property, Bianco said.

The tree didn’t just sprout by itself. Two giant sequoias (one has since been removed) were planted by the park service and the post office in 1936.

“How fitting for that collaboration to continue today,” Bianco said.

If it works out, the plan is to install a split rail fence around the trees like those in Giant Forest and add a decomposed granite walkway, mulch, rocks and informational displays about the trees and the national parks, she said.

No federal funds would be used. Local organizations and individuals would be asked to contribute.

MASCOT MOMENT: The Adidas sports shoe and apparel company made a media splash by offering to redesign for free the mascot of any high school that has a Native American mascot and said its offer includes financial assistance.

That would include Tulare Union High, where the Redskins mascot is destined for elimination under a new state law.

No thank you, said Sarah Koligian, superintendent of Tulare Joint Union High School District.

“We are not interested in the recent offer by the Adidas corporation,” she said in a statement.

If the high school’s mascot name and images were all changed at once, it could cost close to $750,000, but the legislation allows a phase-in period, the statement said.

“We will stay the course and seek the voice of our community to determine our next mascot and image for Tulare Union High School,” she said.

Lewis Griswold cover the news of the South Valley for The Fresno Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold