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Jul 21 2015
Walk to Support Cancers Survivors, Fundraise at Kodiak Relay for Life
Tuesday, 21 July 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Walk, run, and just move your body for people with cancer at the Kodiak Relay for Life this Friday. You can participate for as much as 24 hours or as little as 24 minutes according to one of the event chairpeople, Kathie Morin. It’s not about how you do it, but why.

“It gives people an opportunity to come and walk in remembrance of or in honor of someone who is still fighting or has lost their fight to cancer,” says Morin. “And we raise money so that we can give it to the American Cancer Society to help with either research or to help people get to where they need to go for treatment.”

Morin says she’s known family and friends who have survived or passed away due to cancer. She says this year her reasons are even more personal.

“Just this last November, seeing the sight of it, being with a family member – with a sister – who was diagnosed with breast cancer, being there the day that they told her and then watching her go through the treatments and being there during radiation and going with her and then going again during chemo,” Morin says. “Also, several friends that live here in Kodiak who are fighting right now who have just found out within the last few months.”

And she says this is the fourth year she’s taken part.

“Knowing that I can do it for the people who can’t. That’s the big thing. Or those who aren’t here that are still fighting that had to leave the island and that I call my friends and stuff. Being able to go there and walk is just my way of saying that I’m thinking about them.”

The event starts at 6 p.m. on Friday and continues until 6 p.m. the next day. There are many different ways to participate. You can take a zumba class on-site, buy from vendors, or just show up to support the cause. Morin chooses to walk the whole 24 hours.

She says she’ll take it slow.

“The biggest thing is having people come walk with you. Have friends or family that come and walk with you and talk with you, or just put my earpieces in and turn my music on,” says Morin. “Change your shoes a lot. Change your shoes, your socks. And eat every couple of hours. Drink a lot of water.”

Morin says the relay will be at Woody Way Field across from the Kodiak Area Native Association. For more information or to signup for a team, call her at 539 – 1495. You can also check out the relay website.
 
Jul 20 2015
With Sunshine Comes Pushki Burn Potential
Monday, 20 July 2015
pushki-in-bloom.jpg
 Pushki, (Heracleum maximum), also known as cow parsnip, can be a culinary delicacy for adventurous localvores, but is more well-known for its tendancy to give the unaware severe chemical burns, espeically on sunny days. Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge photo via Flikr.
 
Jay Barrett/KMXT
With the recent return of sunshine around Kodiak comes a renewed threat of burns from a very common plant - pushki, or cow parsnip. It's known is some places as wild celery, and when it's young, parts of it are actually edible.

But when it matures and you get the oils from the plant on your skin, it could cause severe chemical burns when exposed to the ultraviolet light from the sun. Janice Chumley is the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension agent in Soldotna.

"There are toxins that are located in the stem and the little hairs on the stem on pushki that when it comes in contact with the skin can cause burns. It depends on how sensitive you are to that, obviously to that, but good burns, causes blisters, and the more sun that you're exposed to with that the greater the burning becomes,” she said. “And so it is really painful for people that have encountered pushki and have been burned by that, it leaves scars and it kind of almost permanently sensitizes you to that area and sunshine exposure."

Chumley says the combination of sunny weather and yard work can turn a pleasant afternoon around fairly quickly if proper cautions aren't taken.

"If you're out mowing or weed-whacking and say it's a nice day and you're wearing shorts or short sleeves or sandals and you don't realize what it is you're hitting with the weed-whacker, it could cause you some pretty severe damage later on,” she said. “It's important to dress accordingly when you're dealing with plants like that, that have that toxic affect. So that means long pants, shoes, socks, gloves are always helpful. And often if you realize you're dealing with pushki specifically, I would encourage you to wear goggles, hat, and if you're very susceptible, wear a respirator."

Yes, she said wear a respirator.

"You can easily burn your lungs as well,” Chumley said. “There have been episodes of people who have been hospitalized from too much pushki exposure. Smashing and inhaling that and having to be hospitalized."

If exposed, Chumley recommends washing thoroughly with soap and water and if burns develop, seek medical attention.

On the other end of the spectrum is the consuming of pushki as a wild food delicacy.

"Oh yeah, yeah. There are many people who eat this, but it has to be when they're young. You know you gather the plant when it's little, not when it's full blown, open into a flower. You know that's really the difference. If you're using it as a food source, you're already familiar with how to prepare it and how to harvest it and how to dress accordingly for it,” she said. “And if it's a new plant to you, then, as with all new things, you should take precautions before eating a lot of or certainly harvesting it and making sure that that's done at the correct time."

She also warns that dead pushki that's gone to seed can still cause burns, and so recommends caution even in the fall and winter. 
 
Jul 20 2015
Local Artist Designs Marine Debris Ornaments for Capitol Christmas Tree
Monday, 20 July 2015
captiol_tree_bonnie.jpgDillard with two examples of ornaments by children in the class she taught. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Every year, a different state decorates the capitol Christmas tree in Washington DC, and this summer, ten Alaskan artists will design the ornaments. Bonnie Dillard is a retired teacher and one of those involved. She explains the project is meant to be a community effort.

“Each artist created a lesson plan so that teachers around the state or community members, whoever wanted to lead a workshop to create these ornaments could do so, and they’d have the lessons plans and examples in front of them,” Dillard says.

Dillard says marine debris has been a concern of hers for many years and she’s chosen it as her medium. She says she recently led her first class with children at a local summer program.

“I created a plan for a marine debris animal,” Dillard says. “A fish, since we’re a fishing community, and basically you cut up the debris and you wire it together into shapes and patterns, and they end up being very sturdy. You have to make an ornament that can hold up in the weather, because it will be outside.”

And Dillard says the fish need to be colorful to stand out against the green of the tree, which will come from the Chugach National Forest. She says she hopes to raise awareness about the marine debris washing up on the coast.
    
“It’s important that kids realize that this is a problem,” says Dillard. “And as they grow up, I’m hoping that they will become passionate about taking care of the place where they live instead of blindly buying things and not thinking about what happens to their garbage.”

Dillard encourages kids and adults in Kodiak to get together to make the ornaments and submit them for consideration to hang on the capitol tree. She says she hopes to see workshops pop up around town. Check out the project's website for more information.
 
Jul 17 2015
Marine Debris Removal Project Just the Beginning
Friday, 17 July 2015
barge_picture.jpgA picture of the barge during loading the Kodiak marine debris. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A barge landed in Kodiak this week in its first stop to pick up marine debris at sites along Alaska and British Columbia shorelines. It sailed early Thursday morning with almost 100 tons of debris picked up from beaches in the Kodiak Island Borough. The Japanese government is largely funding the project through donations in an effort to help remove debris washed up from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
 
And while it’s a huge endeavor, according to one organizer, it’s just the beginning.


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We catch up with Island Trails Network’s Director of Education, Outreach, and Marine Programs at the organization’s marine debris storage yard.

The majority of bags are on the boat, but excavators are still lifting the remainders onto trucks.

Tom Pogson says the barge workers had some issues that day, but nothing they couldn’t deal with.

“We got up early this morning and came out and everybody was in place and the barge tied up on time,” says Pogson. “And the tide was possibly a bigger factor at a very low level than we thought it was going to be, but they already had a plan and they just threw a bunch of gravel up on the barge and that created sorta of a positive track for trucks to roll off and on the barge and it’s been going steady ever since.”

We spoke with another organizer, Chris Pallister, the next day at the barge kick-off event to find out how the launch went.

Pallister is the president of Gulf of Alaska Keeper, a nonprofit that’s been involved in tsunami debris cleanup for a few years and has been integral in the marine debris removal project.

He says the operation has already reached an obstacle.

“The barge left a little after 4 a.m. this morning on its way to Afognak. Unfortunately, there’s a big storm out there right now and the barge has to go to Blue Fox Bay to pick up debris that’s stashed there, and the barge will get there okay, but we can’t get our helicopters and our crew down there, because there’s 65 knot winds up north of there, so our crew’s kinda holed up in Port Chatham right now.”

And while that may be run-of-the-mill with a project like this one, or any sea-based venture, they have other concerns too.

“This thing is funded just right down to the dime,” says Pallister. “There’s no extra money here, and we’re already having weather delays and other things that are happening that are raising the cost of this thing. So, it’s fairly stressful. So, I’m staying awake at night, I’ll put it that way.”  
         
Pallister says the marine debris will just keep on coming.
 
 “This is the beginning because this needs to be done on a probably every three year basis. Everybody needs to clean up stuff, keep doing this, and then every few years we take a massive load out of here. I really think is the beginning. This is a prototype process and if it all works well, I hope to see it repeated.”

He says he thinks the project will fall short of funds and says he’ll fundraise to try to make up the difference.
 
Jul 17 2015
Afognak Camp Dedicates Final Building to Two Late Community Members
Friday, 17 July 2015
dennis_and_julie_dance.jpgDennis and Julie Knagin dancing. Photo via Native Village of Afognak

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A tribal culture camp has completed its transition from all-tent based to a permanent fixture on Afognak Island.

Dig Afognak recently closed in its final building, a mess hall. Tribal administrator Melissa Borton says they’ve been making the change to a building-based camp for the last six or seven years.

“We’d been operating our mess hall kitchen and pantry out of three separate tents over the last many years and the mess hall was the most expensive, the largest construct, but it was important, because we wanted everybody to be able to have family style eating, to eat in the same building,” says Borton. “We really feel it’s important for the kids to be able to interact with all of the adults and the elders at camp.”

She says the Native Village of Afognak and Afognak Native Corporation partner on the camp and Saturday will be a shareholder family picnic. The camp will host a naming ceremony that day and dedicate the mess hall to the late Dennis and Julie Knagin, who were both active in the Alutiiq language learning scene.

Borton says they were involved with the camp from the beginning and would come to teach the campers.

“And just to be there to be good role models for the kids. Julie was on our tribal council since inception up to the day she passed, making sure that the camp stayed around, that we continue to teach our culture and our traditional values, and all of the things that were important to them stayed a part of camp.”

She says they’ll officially name the building the Dennis and Julie Knagin Mess Hall. The ceremony is closed to the general public.
 
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