Groveland News


A Brief History of Groveland and Big Oak Flat

Like so many other towns in the Mother Lode, both Groveland and nearby Big Oak Flat began as mining camps during the California Gold Rush of 1849. Originally known collectively as Savage’s Diggings, they were named for James Savage, who is credited with pioneering the placers along the creeks later known as Rattlesnake and Garrote Creek. Mr. Savage would no doubt have spent a long prosperous career here had not difficulties arisen between his Indian wives and the miners. He departed to Mariposa County and, by early 1850, the two camps were renamed Big Oak Flat (in tribute to a large, stately oak tree) and Garrote (the Spanish term for death by choking or hanging).

Groveland -  Deer Bush

The date and circumstances of the celebrated hanging which gave Garrote its name are unclear. It appears that a Mexican (who may have robbed a local trading post and stolen a horse in the process) killed a fellow countryman. He failed to escape and was quickly tried, convicted, and hung.

A smaller mining camp located three miles to the east of Garrote was originally known as San Ignacio Flat. It is believed to have been renamed Second Garrote in recognition of its role in witnessing the aforesaid Garrote execution. There are no substantiated cases of capital punishment ever being meted out at Second Garrote’s “Hangman’s Tree,” which is now gone.

Mining claims within Big Oak Flat and Garrote were initially restricted to ten feet square. By 1851, the local mining laws were relaxed, allowing each miner fifty yards in length up and down a prospective creek. Because of the limited water supply of Rattlesnake and Garrote creeks, the local Argonauts banded together to construct a water ditch and flume from the Tuolumne River’s South Fork at Hardin Flat to the placers of the Garrotes and Big Oak Flat. By 1860, the Golden Rock Water Ditch was in business and gold fever at a new high.

As the camps prospered the hastily-erected shacks and tents had given way to more permanent wood frame structures and buildings made of stone and adobe, the first of which was probably up by 1852. By 1860, bed rock flume mining companies were controlling up to a half mile of creek-side each. Big Oak Flat’s prosperity and growth had greatly over-shadowed the smaller Garrote camps and a large town had resulted. In 1860, Big Oak Flat was incorporated.

Unfortunately, the boom times were soon to wane. With the introduction hydraulic mining, the easy-to-mine surface deposits would soon be exhausted. A disastrous fire, reportedly incendiary in origin, hit Big Oak Flat the evening of October 20, 1863. The following morning, most of the town lay in ruin. The glow of the fire had been seen as far away as Sonora. Although many buildings were rebuilt, the fire signaled the beginning of a long, steady decline for the town. Incorporation was soon abolished.

At its height, Big Oak Flat, probably had over two hundred buildings and a steady population of 500 or more (estimates range up to 3,000.) Between 1849 and the 1870s over $25,000,000 in gold (roughly a quarter of a billion dollars in today’s market) was extracted from within the Big Oak Flat mining district, which included all three camps. Although once a prosperous town, when Big Oak Flat was surveyed for a town-site patent in 1877, apparently less than forty buildings remained and only a few mining claims were still active.

The Garrotes started small, stayed small, and consequently their decline was less pronounced. Second Garrote eventually became a ghost town. On the other hand, Garrote (or Garrote #1) maintained a fairly consistent permanent population. In 1877, when the town was surveyed for its land patent, it even appears to have posted a modest gain in the number of residences within the townsite. The town’s Gold Rush character, marked by a small business core surrounded by scattered residences and mining claims, continued thorough the balance of the century.

From the 1870s to the 1890s, the principal activity throughout southern Tuolumne County was ranching. With the opening of the Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite in 1874, tourism began playing an ever increasing role in the local economy. In 1875, Garrote was renamed Groveland.

By the l890s, improvements in technology and deep shaft mining techniques evoked a hard rock mining boom. By 1906, Groveland could boast of two operating stamp mills and several deep shaft mining operations. Big Oak Flat had at least three stamp mills which averaged twenty stamps each, a mile-long mining railroad, and numerous quartz mines. Electricity from Pacific Gas and Electric via the Partington Distribution Company arrived at Big Oak Flat in 1906 and was extended to Groveland in 1909. The large steam powered stamp mills soon converted to electricity. Fred Partington, who instigated this development, was superintendent of the Longfellow Mine. It is the Longfellow Mine where the sole surviving stamp mill in this area can be found today. Both towns still boast of a number of fine Victorian houses built during this period. Hard rock mining declined in the 1920s, and came to a complete end by World War II.

Big Oak Flat and, more particularly Groveland, experienced a building boom from 1916 to 1925 because of the arrival of the Hetch Hetchy dam construction crews. The City and County of San Francisco had been searching for a Sierra Nevada water source since the late 1800’s. With Congressional approval of the Raker Act in 1913, San Francisco had finally secured the Hetch Hetchy Valley to meet their needs. A railroad was necessary to supply the men and materials for the massive project. Groveled was selected as headquarters for the mountain construction division, and it was here that the main railroad shops were built.

As the Hetch Hetchy construction activity shifted westward, the two towns experienced an economic slump. During the Great Depression, Big Oak Flat and Groveland were once again reduced to sleepy little ranching towns. A number of Hetch Hetchy era buildings were lost through fire and demolition. In fact, eventually all of the construction-associated buildings and the railroad were removed in compliance with the Raker Act. However, downtown Groveland still contains some fine examples of commercial buildings dating from this time.

After World War II, tourism took an impressive upward swing. A healthy national economy, greater mobility and a greater interest in the Mother Lode brought an increasing number of travelers to and through Big Oak Flat and Groveland. In recent years, the region has begun to take its place alongside Yosemite National Park as a popular tourist attraction.

The preceding was taken from the 1988 Big Oak Flat/Groveland Historic Sites Survey, published by the Southern County Historical Society.

49er Festival Grand Marshals 2007 Built a Local Camp

Pine Mountain Lake residents Jerry and Paula Baker, the couple building a Groveland-area camp for kids with special medical needs, are the grand marshals of Saturday’s ’49er Festival. The Bakers, riding in an antique convertible, will be the second of 54 entries in the 9 a.m. parade down Main Street.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Jerry Baker said late last week from Tuolumne Trails, the 80-acre camp off Ferretti Road. “We’ve just had a tremendous amount of support.” In fact, community members have done everything from build bunkhouses to sew hundreds of pillowcases for the camp. “It’s an honor to see this community do something we can all be proud of,” Paula Baker said.

On a tour of the camp Friday, the Bakers enthusiastically showed off a 13,000 square-foot Great Hall soon to have its own elevator, two bathhouses equipped with wheelchair-accessible showers and a built-in swimming pool with four fountains.

Groveland Great Hall Interior

Work on the Great Hall should be complete in about two months, and this January a group of children with neurological disorders should become Tuolumne Trails’ first official campers.

The Bakers are being honored because of their “dedication and efforts” with building Tuolumne Trails. They have been working on the camp for the past three years and originally hoped to have opened the camp this summer, but the permit-approval process and changes with contractors have delayed the project.

Both retired, the Bakers moved full-time to PML nearly six years ago. The Bakers’ son, Scott, is the inspiration behind the camp. At the age of 9 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the Bakers saw a need for a place like Tuolumne Trails. At the camp, kids will be able to do traditional activities like crafts, games and roasting marshmallows. Scott Baker, who now lives in Arizona and turns 27 on Thursday, came home to visit and be part of the festival. He will be carrying a banner, along with his brother and sister-in-law, announcing his parents as grand marshals.

To learn more about Tuolumne Trails, visit The Union Democrat

A Community That Never Gave Up- 2001

They didn’t get a cent from Washington or Sacramento. They didn’t hire paid grant writers to send out pleas for cash. They didn’t approach Tuolumne County supervisors with hat in hand.

Instead the people of Groveland and Big Oak Flat got their library and museum the old-fashioned way: They earned it. It took more concerts, bake sales, auctions, spaghetti dinners and drawings than anyone involved cares to remember. But 15 years and nearly $700,000 later, a distant dream has become an asset and a source of highly justified pride.

“A shining testament to community spirit,” is the way Supervisor Mark Thornton put it.

The library has been operating since December 2000 and the museum had a “soft opening” in February. But Saturday will mark the formal dedication and coming out party for this handsome new building, off Highway 120 near Groveland Wayside Park.

Organizers promise “the biggest shindig since World War II ended.” And those involved in the marathon effort deserve every toast that may be raised. Their efforts have been unceasing, Herculean and, in this era of government handouts and strings-attached cash, completely independent.

Groveland News

“We didn’t get a cent from government until after we had met our own fund-raising goals said Gordon Norris, president of the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society. Here’s the bottom line: The museum-library will end up costing close to $700,000. Aside from $50,000 in Tuolumne County funds and a Sonora Area Foundation grant in the same amount – both received late In the process – every cent was raised by Grovelanders themselves.

The story began in 1986, when the late Avis Gookin, Ruth Kraenzel, Mary Laveroni and Wally Anker got together to found the new south county historical society (STCHS). “We thought it was high time our community had its own museum,” said Anker, a descendant of the area’s pioneer Priest family. By 1988, a library had become part of the plan, society membership had reached 100, the fundraising target was $300,000 and construction looked to be about five years away.

But a decade came and went and estimates more than doubled. The museum’s backers never gave up: More benefits were held, society membership climbed toward its present 450. Contributions mounted. Charlie “The Can Man” Heath alone raised $40,000 by collecting aluminum cans. Wally Anker’s son, world-renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker, brought in more than $20,000 with five slide shows.

The late Hal Pennock, an architect, designed the building free of charge. The Groveland Community Services District provided the land. Contractor Ken Goens, construction manager, donated much of his time, as did numerous tradesmen and builders.

Against what some might have said were impossible odds, the museum-library building is now complete.

Today it stands both as a tribute to its own community and as an inspiration to other communities. Union Democrat 2001 Editorial

Our Mountain Town - Groveland Entrance

Bash Set For South County Museum

Groveland will mark the completion of its new museum and library Saturday.

Featuring a building dedication, bake sale, live music and Groveland’s annual Poison Oaker Picnic at the nearly $700,000 building’s Wayside Park site, the celebration marks the end of 15 years of planning and fund-raising involving hundreds of Groveland and Big Oak Flat residents.

The product is a two-story, 9,000 square foot building that houses the Tuolumne county Library’s Groveland branch and the new Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum. The library opened to the public on December 4. Although the museum had a “soft opening” in February, it will officially and heartily welcome the public Saturday. A new photographic exhibit, “The History of Mountain Climbing in Yosemite” will greet visitors.

The museum will also include numerous permanent exhibits on the Groveland-Big Oak Flat area and its history.

Another highlight of the Saturday celebration will be a 7:30 p.m. benefit slide show by world-famous mountaineer Conrad Anker. “We expect all of the south county to show up sometime during the day,” said Marjorie Ward of the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society.

The celebration also marks the end of a remarkable community effort spanning more than a decade and a half: Although Tuolumne County kicked in $50,000 and the Sonora Area Foundation did the same, well over a half million dollars was raised through donations from Groveland-area families, former residents and others with ties to the community.

Concerts, bake sales, dinners, picnics and other benefit events have given the historical society a steadily growing source of income for the project. Charlie “The Can Man” Heath collected and redeemed $40,000 worth of aluminum cans which went to the project. Anker gave five benefit slide shows on his climbing adventures, generating more that $20,000.

“It’s not only a community effort,” added Wally Anker, a co-founder of the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society and its long-time fund-raising chairman. “It’s helped build our community.”

After years of planning, ground was broken for the museum-library in November 1999. It was completed about a year later. The two-story building includes a concrete-block ground floor, a wood-paneled second story and a green metal roof. Double doors open to a bright lobby illuminated by a skylight. The library-museum includes blue-gray carpeting, five main rooms, four restrooms, a small kitchen, a gift shop and a visitor’s information center in the lobby.

The Saturday celebration will be a chance for south county residents to give themselves a pat on the back, to thank the organizations and individuals who have led the successful effort, to enjoy the fruits of those labors and if nothing else, to have a great time.
By Chris Bateman, Union Democrat

Groveland Rallies Around New Museum

Hundreds of south Tuolumne County residents gathered Saturday to celebrate the formal opening of their new Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum and Library. “It’s a big show for a little community,” said Kessen Sawday, a member of the museum’s Board of Directors, watching the hometown crowd pour through the doors Saturday morning. “We had a good time putting all of this together and it was unbelievable the number of people who helped.”

Area residents filled Wayside Park on Highway 120 for the museum dedication and annual Poison Oaker Picnic. “It’s a great feeling! This represents a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” said museum board President Gordon Norris. “There have been thousands of donations and hundreds who worked on this. It is a real asset to the community.” While the building’s formal dedication was Saturday, the library actually opened to the public in December.

Library assistant Donna Manship said the community is already making full use of the building. “Our circulation has skyrocketed,” she said as a puppeteer entertained children nearby. “We gave out 95 library cards last year (at the former location) and we’ve already given out 650 cards this year,”

Among those admiring exhibits at the new museum was Charlie Heath, Groveland’s “Can-Man,” who collected thousands of aluminum soda and beer cans to help raise money for the building. “I came up with the idea nine years ago and it just caught on,” he said of his fund-raising can collecting. “Everything has to start with an idea.”

The Groveland community raised over $700,000 to build the 9,000-square-foot structure. Planning, fund-raising and construction for the project took about 15 years.

Docent Karlin Merrill pointed out one new exhibit, “History of Mountain Climbing in Yosemite,” and noted Groveland mountain climber Conrad Anker donated an ice ax he used to conquer Mount Everest to the museum. “I’m very proud we could have such a facility with so many wonderful displays,” Merrill said. Saturday night, the climber put on a slide show as part of the town‘s museum celebration.

Under bright noon sun, 40 members of the Tioga-Tenaya Marching Band showed off new navy and gold band uniforms and hats while waiting to perform for the bulging picnic crowd. “This is the first time we’ve had brand new uniforms. Prior to this the kids wore jeans and T-shirts,” said Diane Steele. “We had an incredible amount of support from the community with our fund-raising projects including our cookie dough sales.” By Julia Hollister, Union Democrat

REALTOR Lauree Borup Earns Outstanding Community Award

Lauree Borup

On Friday, February 18th, 2000, the Hetch Hetchy Association of Realtors held their Top Producers’ Awards dinner/dance at the Pine Mountain Lake Country Club. This annual event usually awards Realtors on their sales abilities, along with other earned awards. This is the first time in the Association’s history that a Realtor had been singled out for her contributions and service, solely to the Groveland community.

Tuolumne County Supervisor Mark Thornton was guest speaker and presented the SPECIAL AWARD to Lauree Borup. Lauree is the Broker and Owner of RE/MAX Yosemite Gold. In his presentation, Mark Thornton said, “In all communities there are those grand people whose efforts on behalf of community organizations pave the way for success of those groups. They carry the projects with their strength, enthusiasm, dedication, know-how and optimism. These people go the “extra mile” and in doing so carry the rest of us with them to success”.

Lauree Borup has been a strong community supporter for many years. Her hands-on experience from both her real estate career and her prior Tuolumne County Planning Department management position (from 1978 to 1987) enabled her to work closely within the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society (STCHS), the Groveland Community Service District and contractors to make the Museum/Library a reality. She spent many hectic years helping STCHS meet the requirements necessary to build the member’s dream, a new museum and library building next to the park downtown. Lauree now is Chairperson of the Building Committee and holds the office of Vice President of STCHS. She joined the STCHS Board of Directors in 1992. The Hetch Hetchy Association of Realtors was proud to honor its member Lauree Borup with the SPECIAL COMMUNITY OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD, 1999.

from Pine Mountain Lake News, 2000

Personal Background Cements to Museum

With her degree in Land Use Planning, Lauree Borup worked for Tuolumne County’s Planning Department for 10 years before making a career change to real estate. She’s now broker/owner of RE/MAX Yosemite Gold. Living in the town of Groveland, known for its part in the California Gold Rush, Borup joined the local Historical Society Board. With her background in land use planning and experience in dealing with politicians, contractors, and contracts, she agreed to chair the Society’s Building Committee for what was to become the future museum and library building. The search for a location led to a site given by CalTrans to the Groveland Community Services District, which then sold it to the Society for one dollar. Once the Society had saved enough cash to get the project off the ground, it began soliciting larger donations and the process snowballed from there. The Society eventually raised about $750,000 for the building and parking lot, mostly from individuals, some from the Sonora Area Foundation, and NONE from the government. And this from a town with barely 3,000 residents. The completed 8,900 square-foot structure is now known as the Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum and Library. The library opened in December 2000 and the museum opened in February 2001.

“The County was thrilled when we did this,” Borup says. “They thought it was fabulous because we built their branch library for them, so they took up the maintenance and utility costs for the entire building. It ended up being a win-win situation”.

From California Real Estate Magazine, October 2003

Article titled “The Power of One” by Joel Cone

Groveland Women Run Successful Businesses- 2006

At Perfectly Posh, customers can purchase a pedicure, some coconut sorbet and a colorful new skirt – all in the same shop. The boutique, off of Groveland’s Main Street, opened over the summer and provides younger people in town with a place to shop, said the store’s 22-year-old owner Candice Smith. Her store sells everything from clothing and shoes to yoga books and edible lotion.”It was a little scary getting started,” she said. “Everyone would say, ‘You know this is a retirement community. What are you thinking?’ A lot of older women come in and they’re just shocked.” (Candice now owns and operates Trendz 120)

Finding their own niche in the community has allowed many female business owners in Groveland, like Smith, to thrive.

Char Wrighton, president and CEO of Groveland based Zoo-phonics, said the key to business survival in Groveland is to provide a variety of products and keep customers coming back. “I’m astounded how many women own successful businesses up here,” Wrighton said from her safari-themed office on Ferretti Road. Her business, which teaches young kids the English and Spanish alphabets, is among the town’s most successful. Zoo-phonics has clients throughout the world, and the company consistently brings in more than $1 million in sales each year. “To keep a business open, you have to be so damned smart,” Wrighton said, adding that it is difficult for a business to stay open in Groveland because of the small population.

Zoo-phonics, which relies mainly on telephone and Internet orders, has nine employees, seven of whom are women. The company also employs 15 women who travel the country teaching the program, which uses physical movements and sounds to teach kids reading, writing and spelling skills. A specific body movement and animal is assigned to each letter. Children learn the letter “O,” for example, by extending their arms to their sides and sending gentle waves through them to emulate Olive Octopus.

“Zoo-phonics is all play, but it’s total earnest learning,” Wrighton said. The program started in California more than 20 years ago, has spread to every state in the nation and has gone international. There ate 10 Zoo-phonics academies teaching English in Japan, three in Singapore and more than 25,000 South Korean students use the program.

Wrighton said the company hopes to begin work this fall on a new day care and after-school learning center, otherwise known as Safari Academy,” in East Sonora (now operating)

Shirley Moreno, owner of the Corsair Cafe at Pine Mountain Lake Airport, said her business has also grown, along with the community, the past four years she has owned the cafe. She said Groveland has a supportive network of women in business. “Groveland’s pretty much run by women,” Moreno said bluntly. (Corsair closed its doors in 2008)

Women in town own a wide range of businesses, including hotels and quilting and interior design shops. Wrighton said the main benefit of having a business in Groveland is the area’s beauty. “You just look out your window and you can see deer walking across the parking lot,” she said. The downside, she said, is the many delivery trucks that frequent Zoo-phonics have to travel farther to reach the business. UPS, alone, visits them once or twice a day.

It’s also a long drive to an airport, which is a necessity for business trips around the world. This fall, Wrighton will attend an educational conference in England and a large book fair in Germany.

The Union Democrat Article in “Career Women 2006″ October 12, 2006 By Mike Morris

Other woman-operated or owned businesses: Groveland Hotel- Peggy Mosley, Hotel Charlotte- Lynn Upthagrove, Yosemite Gateway Properties- Nancy Jones, Curves- Erna Joncich, Priest Station- Helga and Denise Anker, Busy Bee Gardens- Helen Carr, Teri Metz Photography, . Husbands help out on many of these also!

ROOFBBees Give to Community- 2004

A Pine Mountain Lake women’s club known for helping others has a name that could be misunderstood. The Royal Order of Full Blown Bitches has given away about $100,000 since it was founded in 1994 by three women sitting around a table complaining about life in general. One of them made the following comment: “All we ever do is bitch, bitch, bitch. We should start our own club”

None of those three women still belongs to the club (one died and the other two moved out of the area), but their idea has evolved into a social and philanthropic group with about 70 members who call themselves ROOFBBs, pronounced roof-bees.

Their main fund-raisers are weekly dinners at the Pine Mountain Lake Country Club during televised Monday Night Football games and an annual golf tournament.

In addition to giving away $2,000 in scholarships each year and donating to such agencies as the Mountain Women’s Resource Center in Sonora, the women look for people who are destitute and need help. “People know who we are and that we have money to spend,” said President Jackie Baker. “They find us when someone needs help.” In addition to Baker, the board of directors includes Nancy Whitefield, vice president; Leanna Mattea, secretary; Patty Stevens, treasurer; and Bettie Hunt, historian.

The women require documentation before helping people, and they give away things, not money. For instance, when a woman needed gas to visit her husband in an out-of-area care home, they set up an arrangement with a gas station owner to keep her supplied with gas.

Another woman was helped the same way so she could visit the Bay Area for cancer treatments. They give about 50 low-income children each $25 gift certificates for a shopping spree in December, and provide gifts for the eight participants in Tuolumne General Hospital’s Adult Day Health Care program in Groveland. Last December they learned about a family in which the mother and older children all worked but still couldn’t afford firewood and other necessities. They gave the family a cord of oak firewood, gift certificates for clothes and groceries and movie passes.

“They were so grateful,” Baker said. “That kind of thing is what we are all about.”
The Union Democrat

Yosemite Planner Updates Supervisors- 2006

Our Mountain Town - Yosemite

Linda Dahl says her goal is to get kids to stick their toes in the sandy shoreline of the Merced River and “fall in love.” As chief of planning for Yosemite National Park, Dahl told the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors last week that the park is trying to reach out to children and minorities. But in a world of PlayStations and iPods, she said, helping kids connect with nature can be challenging.

“The entire National Park Service is grappling with this issue,” she said Friday, three days after speaking at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting. “We even have a task force to figure out how we stay relevant.” The park is working with the nonprofit Yosemite Institute to bring children up from the Central Valley for daylong field trips and week-long summer camps. How to expand visitor demographics, Dahl said, will be one of many topics park planners will look at in the coming months.

A workshop, scheduled for January in Yosemite Valley, will focus on how park planning efforts impact gateway communities like Groveland and Sonora. “Their vitality and our vitality are interrelated,” Dahl said. About 30 people attended a similar workshop held last month in Mammoth Lakes in Mono County.

Supervisor Mark Thornton — who asked Dahl to update the board on park planning efforts — said he thinks a series of meetings should be held, including some in Tuolumne County. Thornton, who represents the Groveland area, said a topic that should be brought up at future workshops is why Tuolumne County does not receive a larger slice of the transient occupancy, or hotel tax, collected at inns within the park. Mariposa County gets a large majority of that tax.

“I would really welcome you to bring that up,” Dahl told Thornton. Dahl said as more tourism-related data becomes available from regional visitor bureaus, Yosemite planners are learning more about what people do before and after they visit the park. That data includes how long people are staying in the foothills and how much money they’re spending. “We want to work together and figure out how to extend those stays, make those cash registers ring and keep people coming back time and time again,” Dahl told supervisors.

Craig Maxwell — owner of Sugar Pine Ranch, four miles outside of Groveland on Highway 120 — attended the Mammoth workshop, which focused largely on discussing “socioeconomic” data. While he said it is a “positive step” for gateway communities to be included in the park planning process, he warned about spreading both park staff and gateway community leaders too thin.

A federal court judge ruled earlier this month that park planners must prepare a new Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan and hold off work on nine projects in Yosemite Valley that could impact the river. This decision comes at a time when Yosemite staff are working on a similar management plan for the Tuolumne River corridor, which includes Tuolumne Meadows. Dahl told supervisors the park has already invested $1.4 million, held 12 meetings and received about 4,500 public comments on the Tuolumne River Plan. Because of that, “we feel we have a contract with the public” and the park will not abandon the Tuolumne plan for the Merced plan. The schedule for completing the Tuolumne plan, however, has been slowed down. Maxwell said while dealing with these major planning efforts, it could be difficult to analyze the park’s “socioeconomic” impact on gateway communities. “It will be interesting to see how they will conduct all of this activity in parallel and get it right,” he said.

The Union Democrat, November 27, 2006

Conrad Anker-Another Groveland Presentation

Since he last gave a slide show in Tuolumne County, Conrad Anker has been to a few more places most of us will never see. Like the towering rock spine that divides South Georgia, a remote, storm battered island between Tierra Del Fuego and Antarctica. And the cover of May’s issue of Outside magazine.

Anker will show pictures of one (South Georgia) and, maybe answer questions about the other on Saturday. That’s when the Everest-conquering climber returns to Groveland for a slide show – “Exploration: Yesterday and Today” – at the Tenaya School Gym.

Proceeds, as usual, will benefit the Groveland Museum and Library.

Son of Wally and Helga Anker of Big Oak Flat, Conrad spent many a summer at the family’s Priest Station ranch while growing up. He began his climbing career scaling El Capitan, Half Dome and other Yosemite peaks.

By the early 1990’s, what was once a hobby had become a paid profession, with sponsorships and year-round climbing schedule. With great ability, good looks and an easygoing manner, Anker’s star rose quickly. He starred in TV specials and National Geographic feature stories. But as the decade ended, two events make him perhaps the nation’s most famous mountaineer:

  • His discovery of the frozen body of legendary climber George Mallory on the slopes of Everest in the spring of 1999.
  • His survival, six months later, of an avalanche that killed his close friend, Alex Lowe, and another climber on the slopes of Shishapangma, a 26,291 foot mountain in Tibet.

Anker came to Groveland for a show on the Everest expedition in January of 2000, and then returned to his passion with a vengeance.

That spring Anker duplicated the South Georgia Island climb made by Ernest Shackleton and two other members of his ill-fated Antarctic expedition in 1914.

“It’s an amazing story,” said Anker of Shackleton’s months-long ordeal, which saw his ship trapped and crushed by polar ice before he and his crew engineered a miraculous, harrowing escape. “Kind of puts commercialized, packaged things like ‘Survivor’ in their place.”

“Exploration: Yesterday and Today,” Anker continued, focuses on two early expeditions – Shackleton’s voyage and Mallory’s 1924 attempt to conquer Everest with partner Sandy Irvine – and on his own present-day re-creation of those exploits. “The slide show will have archival photos of both early expeditions and shots of our own trips,” said Anker. “The show looks at how exploration has changed over the decades and how it has stayed the same.” A question and answer session will follow, and someone may ask about that Outside cover. Or its provocative tease: “His friends are gone. His life is a soap opera. His career is in overdrive: The High Cost of Being Conrad Anker.”

Anker sighed at its mention. “It was a little much,” he said of the story. “But I am a public figure. I guess it comes with the turf.” As Outside reported, Anker has lost three climbing friends to mountain accidents. And he did marry Lowe’s widow, Jennifer, and is stepfather to her three boys, ages 5, 8 and 12.

“Sure it’s changed my life,” acknowledged Anker, who has moved to Lowe’s Bozeman, Montana home to raise his new family. “I’m a father and husband now. I want to be around to help my boys with their homework, play with them, celebrate birthdays with them.” So he has trimmed his climbing schedule and is picking his spots more carefully.

“You won’t find me in that moving snow and ice, in that dead zone above 24,000 feet, as much,” promises Anker, an inherently careful man who knows only too well the risks of his sport. But he’s not about to retire: Anker climbed in Mongolia and Antarctica last year and will leave for Pakistan just days after the Groveland show. Tibet will come this fall.

“There are rewards as well as risks,” Anker said. “Maybe those rewards aren’t concrete, but the challenge, the inspiration, the sense of accomplishment still make it worthwhile.” It is an appreciation for some of those rewards that Anker hopes to bring to his slide show audience Saturday night. By Chris Bateman, Union Democrat

Volunteers Bring Books to South County Classes

The Groveland Bookleggers are volunteers who help young students learn the advantages of using the library. Seven volunteers and five substitutes take books to kindergarten through third-grade classes at Tenaya Elementary School. Each volunteer works with a different teacher, visiting a classroom twice a month, reading to the students, encouraging them to use the library, and leaving six or seven library books for them to read between visits.

Marilyn Bangs, a retired teacher who worked in Pleasanton, brought the program to Groveland with the encouragement of Tuolumne County Library Director Connie Corcoran. “We didn’t know a lot of people when we moved here,” she said. “I joined a ladies’ club and a residents’ club, and I wanted something to make me feel like I was giving back to the community.”

Bangs patterned the program after the Pleasanton Bookleggers. Volunteers in that program brought library books into her classroom, read to her students and encouraged them to use the library. “They did a wonderful job,” she said “so when I was looking for a way to get involved in this community, I decided this program fits right in with all of the other good things people do here.”

Other regularly scheduled volunteers are Faye Buckley, Marilyn Fields, Judi Maguire, Nadine Pedron, Joan Mosby and Kathy Oing. Substitutes are Patricia Aldrich, Dorothy Harte, Maggie Jacobson, Ann Johnson and Virginia Rayment.

Most of the volunteers are retired teachers. Their goal is to enhance the teachers’ programs. They work with teachers before their visits to find out what subjects need to be emphasized. For instance, if the students are studying penguins, there will be books on that topic. Bangs said she is willing to talk with representatives from other branch libraries about starting similar programs at schools in their districts. The Union Democrat

Stunt Pilot Retires to Pine Mountain Lake

Pine Mountain Lake, popular in part because of its airport, is now home to one of aviation’s most highly regarded and talented aerobatics pilots. Wayne Handley is an internationally known stunt pilot and airshow performer, a coach for other airshow stars, a former U.S. Navy aviator and a former crop duster. He set the world record for inverted flat spins in 1989 with 67 consecutive revolutions, then beat his own record in April 1999 with 78 rotations flying a Giles G202. In 1999, Handley set many time-to-climb records in his Turbo Raven, an aircraft he designed and software giant Oracle sponsored. Handley also received many aerobatics awards — including the International Council of Air Shows Sword of Excellence for outstanding service and personal contribution to the airshow industry in 2001. He was named to the ICAS Foundation Air Show Hall of Fame in 2005. In 1996, he was given the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship by World Airshow News, and in 1997, he received the Art Scholl Showmanship Award from ICAS.

Making such honors even more impressive is the fact that Handley was not encouraged as a child to become an aviator. “When I was about 12, I’d chase the crop dusters on my bike and dream about being a pilot when I grew up,” he said, “but my father wouldn’t let me fly while I lived in his house. He thought it was too dangerous.” Handley, originally from Carmel, hooked up with the campus flying club when he went to Hartnell College in nearby Salinas in 1957. Two years later, he had 70 hours in flying time. He used that experience to get into flight school in the U.S. Navy where he trained in, among other things, the Grumman F9F Cougar and F-11 Tiger carrier-based fighters. He had also met his wife, Karen, at Hartnell. They were married in 1961, and she later became his business manager. In 1963, faced with staying in the Navy or taking a crop dusting job back home, he chose to be with his family — by then he and Karen had two daughters — and start crop dusting. The couple’s third child, a son, was born later.

The Handleys had their own crop dusting business in the Salinas Valley for 21 years and built the Greenfield Airstrip, which they sold last year. In 1983, he traded a helicopter rotor assembly for a small aerobatic Pitts SIC aircraft. That was the start of his aerobatics business, which combined crop dusting techniques with his own style of aerobatics flying. “We found out that with sponsors we could make more money doing air shows than we made crop dusting,” he said, “and the time was perfect. Our children were grown, and Karen could go with me.”

While flying was his love, it had its share of danger. On Oct. 3, 1999, Handley was flying the Turbo Raven during an air show in Salinas when the engine failed. The plane crashed and he suffered a broken back. “My whole family was there,” he said. “I think it was harder for them than it was for me. Still, Handley fully recovered. One of his sponsors was the giant software company, Oracle. Handley and Oracle founder Larry Ellison had become friends when Handley gave flying lessons to Ellison’s son. After Handley recovered from his accident, Ellison gave him a $260,000 Extra 300L aerobatics airplane, built in 2002, which is now kept at Pine Mountain Lake, along with Handley’s Cessna. “It was a very emotional moment,” Handley said. “I’ve never had another gift of such magnitude.” He said there are several of the Extra aerobatics airplanes at Pine Mountain Lake.

Handley donated his Oracle Raven, another plane he designed and Oracle sponsored, to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Ore., on Aug. 20, 2005, where it shares a home with the famed Howard Hughes airplane popularly known as the Spruce Goose. The Handleys first came to Pine Mountain Lake about four years ago to visit friends and fell in love with the area. They visited the area frequently until buying a house in the gated community.

“They are a wonderful addition to the community,” said Dick Collier, a 27-year resident of Pine Mountain Lake and co-owner of Mother Lode Aviation. “They were already part of our pilot’s community before they acquired a home here.” “I guess you could say I’m semi-retired,” Handley said, “but I don’t see real retirement in my future.” He continues to do some aerobatics coaching and gives seminars for pilots on how to react to emergency situations. “Military and commercial pilots are constantly getting training on how to handle emergencies,” he said, “but that kind of training isn’t in place for general aviation pilots.”

Although Handley plans to work some, he and his wife also moved to Groveland with recreation in mind. “We both love fly fishing and skiing,” he said. “Now, we can ski winters and fish summers, and I can work enough to keep my hand in. I still fly every weekend.”

“Santa got me a golf bag, shoes and lessons for Christmas,” he said. “I think that’s a hint of something else I’ll be doing.”

By Lenore Rutherford, the Union Democrat

Hotel Charlotte Has New Owners- 2003

Newlyweds Lynn Upthagrove and Victor Niebylski met while they were both living on boats in a Redwood City marina and “very quickly fell in love,” Upthagrove said.

She was working for a travel writer, and he was saving up to buy a restaurant in St. Louis. They married in October 2002 and put their heads together to find a hotel where Upthagrove could put her travel-industry know-how to good use and Niebylski could live out his dream of owning his own restaurant. They exhaustively searched the United States for the ideal hotel and almost decided to move to Maine before they realized there would be snow to deal with for half the year.

The couple looked at a quaint lodge fronting Highway 120 in Groveland. Stenciled in gold on the front window is the name, “Hotel Charlotte.”

“This is actually the second property we had seen, and we didn’t think we could afford anything in California,” Upthagrove said. Eventually, they decided the hotel was perfect for them, and Upthagrove jokes it was because the town fits so well with her last name.

June 2003 was move-in month, and the couple got to work right away, opening up the dining room that had been closed for three years and making various improvements and repairs. Niebylski, not wanting to serve the same fare already being cooked up in Groveland, put together his menu after visiting other restaurants in town. The result is a Mediterranean-Italian menu with antipasti, salads, pastas, meat dishes and a few kids’ choices.

Upthagrove said one of her favorite dishes is the chicken Florentine, which comes topped with spinach and mozzarella in a lemon white wine sauce. Hotel Charlotte’s previous owner, Ruth Kraenzel, suggested the couple put artichoke chicken on the menu because it was a popular dish when the Café Charlotte was open a few years ago. The decided to call it chicken Jerusalem and serve it with artichokes, mushrooms, shallots and fresh herbs with white wine and a touch of cream.

“And she’s right – it’s a very popular dish,” Upthagrove said.

Niebylski said customers seem to enjoy his meaty lasagna, which has been selling out on a regular basis. The restaurant is open at 5:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. This week’s special is grilled shark with wasabe.

The Hotel Charlotte has several small rooms, the beds covered with homey quilts and four of the bathrooms outfitted with claw-footed bathtubs. For a reduced price, guests have the option of taking a room without a bathroom and sharing one at the end of the hallway.

Also in keeping with tradition, Upthagrove brought along her wire-haired terrier, Bob, who’s pretty content to lounge underneath the furniture in the front room. Kraenzel’s hotel dogs were two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Lady and Duke. She had run the hotel since 1984, when she and her husband Jim bought it. Jim Kraenzel said, his wife will miss running the Hotel Charlotte. “She enjoyed it very much,” he said. “She had a good time with it – she got to meet a lot of people and kind of entertain people…she was not in any rush to sell it, but she also decided it was time.”

Of Upthagrove and Niebylski, he said, “We think they’re going to do a very good job.”
By Erin Mayes, the Union Democrat

Old Priest Grade Improvements Worth the Wait- 2003

The news that Old Priest Grade would close for five days this week and for three entire months next year prompted one Groveland resident to gasp. Sharing the much longer New Priest Grade with unskilled out-of-county drivers, she told a reporter, was a prospect she didn’t relish.

She is hardly alone: The closures will no doubt inconvenience hundreds of Groveland, drivers, add many hours to the south county’s collective commute and take a toll in frustration and exasperation.

But the closures should nevertheless be cause for celebration:

  • Tuolumne County crews will this week repair a section of the steep, narrow road weakened by last winter’s nearly incessant rains. The work will prevent the pavement from collapsing with the coming winter’s storm and, perhaps, eliminate the need for a far longer road closure down the line.
  • Next year’s three-month closure will bring much more significant improvements. The road will be widened and guardrails will be installed on the sharpest, steepest curves.

The work will hardly turn Old Priest Grade into a landscaped boulevard with wide shoulders and vast site distances. But it will make the road, site of numerous injury and fatal accidents, far safer than it is today.

More importantly, the $770,000 in county work to be done next year will guarantee that Old Priest – a vital artery for south county residents – will continue to be a two-lane road for the foreseeable future.

It wasn’t always that way. A high accident rate and nearly a million dollars in court judgments against the county in 2001 led to a consultant’s report that listed a number of options – including complete closure.

In November of that year, Tuolumne County’s Local Transportation Commission (now Transportation Council) voted to close the road to downhill traffic. In a comment that still sticks in the craw of Grovelanders, LTC member Dave Sheppard said those that drive the steep, tortuous road “are only trying to be macho.”

The south county reaction? “Macho” signs and T-shirts, worn with defiant pride.

In August 2002, the county Public Works Department recommended making Old Priest a one-way road until improvements were made. But, confronted by a crowd of more than 300 at the Tenaya School gym, the Board of Supervisors a week later voted to keep the 1.85-mile road open to two-way traffic and at the same time set the wheels in motion for key safety measures, including a weight limit, a speed limit, widening and guardrails.

The speed limit (25 mph) and the weight limit (7,500 pounds) were put into effect within weeks. The other improvements, to be paid for with a $400,000 federal safety grant and $370,000 in country cash, will come next year. “We’re doing what we said we’d do.” Said Darin Grossi, assistant director of Public Works.

So, as long as the three-month closure might seem it is no cause to complain. Besides, as Dave Sheppard might admit, macho drivers don’t whine.

School District Building Bond- 2005

Big Oak Flat-Groveland School District voters deserve an A for their work last week.

Their overwhelming, 67 percent endorsement of Measure M Tuesday reflects a community that is committed to education and to the future. The $9.3 million bond issue will pay for much-needed improvements at Tenaya Elementary School and for new buildings at the district’s two high schools.

To be parlayed with matching funds and state aid into more than $17 million worth of construction and modernization projects, the bond decision is the most important and far reaching made by south county voters since 1989, when unification led to establishment of Tioga and Don Pedro high schools.

Not only will the cash completely modernize Tenaya School and rewire all three campuses for state-of-the-art computers, but it will give Tioga and Don Pedro high school gymnasium/multi-purpose buildings they have lacked since their doors opened.

These signature buildings will not only be extensively used by students, but will give the campuses a permanence that they have until now been without. “They will show our schools are here to stay,” said Triolo.

The district long ago established Tioga and Don Pedro as thriving campuses that, although small, offer a variety of educational challenges and opportunities. Yet over the years trustees and administrators also battled the loss of students to Sonora High School, nagging budget problems and the notion that the two schools were somehow marginal and perhaps not worth the community’s investment.

The failure of a $5.75 million bond issue in 2003 did not help. Yet the district board and administration did not give up. They immediately began planning for a second bond issue. This time they did in right: The tax burden on property owners was eased, a specific construction plan addressing needs on all three campuses was drafted, an energetic and involved campaign committee recruited and the endorsement of all school board candidates secured.

Students and teachers did their part, securing California’s coveted Distinguished School honors for Tioga. But parents and teachers alone could not have carried the day. Without support from young people without children and from retirees whose children are grown, Measure M had no chance. But not only did south county community voters of all ages support the bond issue, they did so in numbers that will be envied by school districts throughout the state.

Big Oak Flat-Groveland District trustees, administrators, parents and teachers should be commended for convincing voters of the crucial importance of Measure M. And voters should be congratulated for making an investment that will pay dividends for years to come. Union Democrat editorial, 2005

Tioga High Sets the Standard-2003

Six years ago it was a novelty.

“Tiny Tioga triumphs,” announced The Union Democrat headline, heralding the small Groveland high school’s 1997 win over steep, high-enrollment competition in the annual Tri-County Academic Decathlon. At first many might have thought it was a fluke, like the downstate Hickory Huskers whipping South Bend for the Indiana High School basketball championship in the early 1950s. “But it wasn’t: Since 1997 Tioga (enrollment 125) has bested competing high schools in Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amador counties five more times.

In 1999, the Timberwolves went on to win the small-school state championship. Last year they took second. The schools latest triumph came Saturday, when Tioga bested Summerville, Bret Harte and Mountain Oaks of San Andreas. In March it’s on to Modesto and yet another state decathlon championship meet.

But by now this is all ho-hum, right? Hardly: That a small, relatively new (founded in 1989) school can consistently excel academically is big news every year.

Winning the Academic Decathlon is hardly a parlor trick: Its questions cover numerous courses and subjects. Rules require participation by students having a range of grade-point averages. Although knowledge of the decathlon and of its rules obviously helps, you can’t win by cramming all night with a Thermos of coffee.

The inescapable conclusion is that Tioga High School is doing something right. It has less than a tenth the enrollment of Sonora High School and about quarter of Summerville’s. Matching Tuolumne County’s two larger schools when it comes to academic and extracurricular vari­ety won’t happen any time soon. But when it comes to basics, the education provided at the nine-classroom, eight-teacher school is top notch: Virtually all of Tioga’s kids graduate and close to three quarters of them go on to college.

Not only that, but school spirit abounds:

Decathlon team members Scott Rogers, Sean Rogers, Melissa West, Pedro Cruz, Lauren Hoskins, Christo­pher Waggle, Adam Hoskins, Meghan McKinney, Teresa Pyse and Mathew Danforth devote hundreds of beyond-the-classroom hours, to preparing for the decathlon competition.

They were followed from Groveland to Altaville’s Bret Harte High School last Saturday by an enthusiastic cheering section of friends, parents and fellow students. And the winners hope the same gallery will join them in Modesto next month.

Yes, we’ve grown used to Tioga’s excellent performances In the Academic Decathlon. But that doesn’t make this small school’s achievement any less remarkable.

Tioga student’s, teachers and administrators should be commended. Again. Union Democrat editorial

Tioga Team Scores Big at Statewide Decathlon- 2004

Eight months of daily studying paid off for Tioga High School’s Academic Decathlon team members when they took second place in their division at the state competition last weekend. The eight-member team took more than 20 medals back to Groveland, chalking up the seventh successful year at the competition.

“We did very well,” said Charlene Wrighton, the team’s coach and a Tioga teacher. “This is good news for the kids, but to me, I’m always trying to get the community to see how great Tioga is.” Although the Tioga team has been studying every day since July holding week-long study sessions before competitions only interrupted for extracurricular activities or emergencies, they didn’t stop when they reached Modesto, site of this year’s state competition. “They flashed flashcards all though dinner,” Wrighton said. “Every meal, every single downtime. They work harder than anyone I know.” Late nights were spent in the team’s hotel hallways, flashing study cards on subjects like economics, math, literature, art and music, preparing to compete against huge schools from Los Angeles and Oakland.

Tioga placed 26th out of 50 schools statewide, beating out Oakdale High and Davis Senior High, among others. “When you look at it that way, we beat pretty gigantic schools,” Wrighton said. “We were just amazed at that.” Wrighton attributes the team’s success to the group dynamic that formed among the students. “That last week together we were so close,” Wrighton said. “The girls in the group got makeovers together and learned to cope with stress by rubbing each others’ feet. “This was an unusual group because we did a lot of talking about what we’re grateful for” Wrighton said. “We did a lot of team building.”

After the competition, team members were exhausted and “The thing that is the cutest is that I had phone calls from the group (Sunday night) asking when we’re going to start studying for next year” she said. None of the eight Tioga team members – Sean Rogers, Amber Brooks, Melissa West, Tara Garrett, Katie Wrighton, Meghan McKinney, Nick Waggle or Kristin Winkler – was available for comment yesterday.

“They’re back in school catching up with everything,” Wrighton reported. “They’re totally responsible for all their other classes.” By Claire St. John, Union Democrat

Youth Center, Skate Park, Playground Coming to Groveland- 2005

A new youth center, skate park, basketball court and playground are coming to Groveland’s Mary Laveroni Community Park. Groveland Community Services District, the agency that runs the park, entered into an agreement Monday allowing Tuolumne County to put a new youth center in the park starting this summer. The current Groveland Youth Center is on Ferretti Road near the Main Street Market. Mike Russell, recreation director for the county, said the new location is more visible and will have better lighting than the existing center, which was built in 1978 and was the county’s first youth center.

The new youth center, a manufactured building measuring 36 by 40 feet, is being funded by a $223,673 federal grant to the county. It will be next to a building housing the Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum and the Groveland branch of the Tuolumne County Library. The center will overlook a yet-to-be-built basketball court, which will be next to a new skate park. Once a dirt area at the eastern end of the park dries out, the ground will be leveled, gravel will be put down and then a concrete foundation for the skate park will be poured.

A Sonora Area Foundation grant paid $25,000 for the concrete foundation, while the Groveland Skate Park Committee raised $100,000 for the park’s ramps. Whatever concrete is left over from the skate park’s foundation will be used for the basketball court. Both the basketball court and skate park should be up and running by the summer, Jim Goodrich,GCSD general manager says.

Also due this year and adjacent to the youth center is a new playground with equipment donated by the San Jose Family Camp on Cherry Lake Road.

Barbara Broad — chairwoman of the Groveland Area Involved Neighbors, a community group seeking to improve life in southern Tuolumne County — said students should have a sense of pride in the new building because some of them were involved in helping plan its purpose.

Broad said GAINs met with several students at Tenaya Elementary School and Tioga High School to see what they wanted from a neighborhood youth center.

“One of the most important things to them was to have a decent place to work on their homework.” Broad said she anticipates many opportunities for young people at the center. “The significant issue here is to have a central, visible and inviting location for our young people, where we intend to foster plans for arts and craft classes, field trips, special interest groups, mentoring, and homework assistance, with volunteers from the community,” she told the GCSD board.

A lease agreement approved by GCSD directors Monday will allow the county to put the new center in the park for a charge of $1 a year for the next 20 years. After that, the county will have the option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years.