Kaitlin Vadla, left, of Cook Inletkeeper, returned Monica Zappa’s boot full of donations and tips for winning her fourth Iditarod at the Stand For Salmon send-off event on Tuesday, Feb. 28 2017, at Odie’s Deli in Soldotna. (Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Zappa sent off to fourth Iditarod with salmon message

  • Wednesday, March 1, 2017 11:22pm
  • News

Before leaving for her fourth Iditarod, musher Monica Zappa spoke to a group of well-wishers about her connection to Alaska fisheries and the Stand for Salmon campaign.

“We’re here for two reasons,” said Carly Wier of Cook Inletkeeper, one of the event’s sponsors. “To send Monica off and to get folks interested and educated about fish habitat laws.”

The send-off event on Tuesday night was held at Odie’s Deli in Soldotna and focused on both Zappa’s Iditarod Trail Sled dog Race journey and her work with the nonprofit organization Stand For Salmon, a group focused on ensuring the longevity and health of Alaska’s salmon industry.

“Monica is a commercial fisherwoman so she has a lot of passion and experience in sticking up for fish and fish resources,” Wier said. “It’s a great fit.”

Organizers detailed legislation being drafted by the House fisheries committee that would update Title 16, the law protecting fish habitat in Alaska.

“We expect to see (the legislation) soon, but in the meantime we’re doing everything we can to tell people about this and hoping to have the support we need once this bill is introduced,” said Eric Booton of Trout Unlimited.

Zappa moved from Wisconsin to Kasilof in the fall of 2010, where she met 23-time Iditarod racer Tim Osmar. She began working with Osmar, as both a mushing partner and commercial fisherwoman.

“I realized I had totally fallen in love with the lifestyle of fishing and mushing,” Zappa said. “But I also realized that I wanted to have a bigger focus (when racing).”

Since 2012, Zappa has been racing with a message — to protect Alaska’s salmon habitat. On her team’s rookie Iditarod run in 2014, they handed out informative packets to villages along the trail.

“It’s commemorative of taking the mail by dogsled,” Zappa said. “But I was going to take a message by dogsled through the Iditarod.”

Zappa explained that both her livelihood as a fisherwoman and her passion for mushing depend on the fish in Cook Inlet. She has worked in the salmon industry as a processer, on a drift boat and, for the past five years, has been a setnetter.

Over the course of a year, her dogs are fed at least two tons of salmon, Zappa said.

“We sent out at least 500 pounds of salmon on the Iditarod trail itself,” Zappa said. “We couldn’t do this without salmon.”

As she approaches the Iditarod trail, Zappa says her biggest concern is the health and safety of her dogs, especially three-year-old Dweezil.

“He’s my baby and I’m bringing him for the first time this year,” Zappa explained. “This is his first Iditarod. Last year he had an injury the week before and it was heartbreaking. This year I’m so excited to bring him, but I still have that apprehension that he could get hurt.”

Zappa explained that she’s most looking forward to the solitude and the finish line.

“Being out on the trail, out in the middle of Alaska and miles away from a road knowing that 99.9 percent of the population has never been to a place like this before is really cool,” she said.

During the send-off event, organizers sent Zappa’s boot around Odie’s Deli to collect donations and tips for winning the Iditarod.

“Of course I want to win the Iditarod,” Zappa said, “But for me doing this work (with Stand for Salmon) is more important.”

Reach Kat Sorenson at kat.sorenson@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Signs protesting the annexation petition proposed by the City of Soldotna are seen along the Kenai Spur Highway, in Soldotna, on Tuesday, Oct. 21. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Annexation decision could go to voters

Boundary commission opens 7-day comment period on whether or not to send annexation to ballot box

COVID-19. (Image via CDC)
State reports more than 200 new cases, again

DHSS announced 215 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Wednesday.

Emergency worker Melanie Chavez takes a COVID-19 test sample at the Juneau International Airport screening site on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. The City and Borough of Juneau raised its health alert level Tuesday as the number of cases grows locally and statewide. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Increase in COVID cases could overwhelm hospitals, experts warn

Mask now so businesses stay open later, they say.

This graphic shows the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District risk levels associated with different numbers of new COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough School District)
With COVID cases rising, district focusing on flexibility

Central, eastern and southern peninsula schools are now all at high-risk levels.

Alyse Galvin (courtesy photo)
Election 2020: A conversation with Alyse Galvin

Galvin is challening Rep. Don Young for Alaska’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

11 new cases on the peninsula, borough’s positivity rate passes 7%

DHSS announced 200 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska on Monday.

A screenshot from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s COVID-19 dashboard shows current case trends and threat levels as of Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (Screenshot courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough School District)
Southern peninsula schools go to remote learning after increase in COVID-19 cases

Increase in COVID-19 cases pushes Southern Kenai Peninsula into high-risk category

The sign outside Soldotna City Hall is seen here on July 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna’s disaster declaration extended to Dec. 31

The resolution originally extended the declaration by 90 days.

A biker leads a line of cars driving off the Homer Spit at about 1:30 p.m. Monday, in Homer after a tsunami evacuation order was issued for low-lying areas in Homer. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer New)
Large quake prompts tsunami warning

A tsunami warning was issued at about 12:55 p.m. for low-lying areas in Homer and Kachemak Bay.

Most Read