About 200 people gathered at Soldotna Creek Park Thursday August 27 not only to eat salmon, but also to save salmon. Local conservation, sport fishing, and commercial fishing groups came together to celebrate salmon on the Kenai Peninsula. Wind gusts and sideways rain cleared just before the start of the second annual “Eat Salmon Save Salmon Community Barbecue,” sponsored by Cook Inletkeeper in cooperation the Kenai Watershed Forum, Kenai Area Fishermen’s Coalition, Trout Unlimited, and United Cook Inlet Drift Association. “Although the barbecues spread featured lots of delicious goodies, including homemade cookie bars, and homemade baked beans from Where It’s At Mindful Food & Drink, the star of the culinary show was fresh sockeye salmon donated by Snug Harbor Seafoods,” Kaitlin Vadla with the Cook Inlet Keeper who has organized the last two free feeds. “Local sport fishing group the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition, grilled the fish to perfection on Frontier Community’s colossal grill. Local musicians, Mike Morgan, Matt Boyle, and Kurt Erikson coaxed the sun from behind the clouds. Kids (and kids at heart) had fun decorating salmon t-shirts. Families brought blankets and camp chairs, it was indeed a big community picnic,” she said. Between a break in the music, speakers from the local groups hosting the event said a few words about what each of their organizations are doing to promote the long term health of the Kenai River and Cook Inlet fisheries. Afterwards, Senator Peter Micciche and Borough Assembly candidate David Wartinbee each took the stage briefly, emphasizing how the health of the community is tied to the health of our fish and fish habitat.
Also present at the event was the “Eat Salmon Save Salmon” banner and “Governor Walker, Alaskans choose salmon, not coal,” a reference to the Chuitna River on the west side of Cook Inlet where an outside mining company is proposing a 300 foot deep open pit coal strip mine through the salmon spawning headwaters of Middle Creek, one of the tributaries of the Chuitna River. “This event was a celebration of salmon,” said Vadla, “We are eating salmon tonight and working together so people around Cook Inlet can continue to eat salmon for thousands of years to come.”