Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, July 02, 2007

Volunteers recover second body in lake

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FAIRBANKS - Searchers have recovered the body of a Fort Yukon teenager missing at an Interior lake since Memorial Day weekend.

The body of Travis Alexander, 19, of Fort Yukon was found Saturday.

Still missing is Kathy Garrigan, 24, of Oak Park, Ill.

Alexander, Garrigan and Liza Lomando, 20, were last seen alive May 27, the Sunday of Memorial Day, in a canoe on Harding Lake about 45 miles south of Fairbanks.

The body of Lomando was pulled from the lake that night. The canoe was recovered on shore.

The three worked in Nenana for Tribal Civilian Community Corps, which is affiliated with AmeriCorps and the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

Since the official search was called off, the nonprofit Tanana Chiefs Conference has sponsored efforts to recover the bodies of Alexander and Garrigan.

As many as 13 boats, two with sonar equipment, were expected to scour the lake over the next few days, said Ginger Placeres, TCC spokeswoman.

About 75 percent of the shoreline of the 2,500-acre lake is lined with cabins or homes and its waters are popular with skiers and fishermen. Searchers over the weekend made a plea for boaters to give the search area a wide berth.

"People are still jet-skiing out there and sail boating and playing out on the water," said Tanana Chiefs spokeswoman Ginger Placeres. "I'm sure there is going to be more of that because of the Fourth of July."

Mushers sign up for Iditarod at picnic

WASILLA - Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champions Lance Mackey, Mitch Seavey and Martin Buser, along with 65 other contenders signed up on Saturday for the 2008 race.

Dozens of mushers, including the three champs and former Yukon Quest champion Aliy Zirkle, signed up at the annual Iditarod Trail Committee picnic for race volunteers.

Fifteen others, including five-time Iditarod winner Rick Swenson, legally blind musher Rachael Scdoris, and Ryan Redington, grandson of Joe Redington Sr., the father of the Iditarod, submitted their entry paperwork by mail.

Iditarod spokesman Chas St. George said the race purse will be bigger this year, but just how big won't be announced until just before the race begins in March.

Last year the ITC paid a total of $794,800 to the top 20 mushers, plus $1,049 each to 28 other mushers who completed the grueling 1,100 trail from Anchorage to Nome, according to race officials.

The ITC has raised the entry fee from $1,875 in 2007 to $3,000 for 2008, but none of the mushers were complaining, although a few said they would have preferred more notice of the increase.

"I will leave financial management of the race to the board of directors," Seavey said.

Mackey of Fairbanks was one of the more sought after mushers at the annual picnic. This year Mackey, a cancer survivor, was the first musher to win both the Quest and the Iditarod.

He smiled as he autographed hats, sweatshirts and racing bibs, and talked about plans to run the two races again in 2008.

"I'd like to win (the Iditarod) again," he said. "That's the plan, but there are 80 other mushers out there with the same plan."

Seavey, of Seward, winner of the 2004 Iditarod, said the difference between placing ninth last year and winning "is the quality of the team. I have the right strategy," he said. He said that next year's team would be a good one.

Buser, of Big Lake, a four time Iditarod champion, whose last victory was in the 2002 race, said he plans to run most of his dogs from this year's team in 2008. Buser said he was also designing new sleds, to replace those worn out over the last two years.

With him for the sign-up was his younger son, Rohn, 17, a Junior Iditarod champion who will be running his first Iditarod in 2008.

"It's his first and probably the only Iditarod he can run," said the elder Buser, since the Wasilla High School senior is looking ahead to college and post-graduate studies.

Biking graffiti-buster paints away trash

ANCHORAGE - Every morning Jeffry Schmitz rides his bike to work from Dimond to Midtown, watching for spray-painted scrawls and Sharpie scribblings on trail bridges and tunnels.

After work, he comes back and paints them out.

Schmitz is a vigilante graffiti-buster, among a handful of paint-brush-wielding volunteers helping the city in what's lately been a losing battle with trail-side vandalism. People like Schmitz provide invaluable help, said Doug Ellison, the city's lone paid graffiti-abatement painter.

"We just can't keep up with it. ... I'm about 50 calls behind right now," Ellison said. "We kind of got it under control, but this spring it just went nuts."

Schmitz, 56, works as a microwave technician at ACS. Graffiti started getting under his skin 15 years ago when his children were still small, he said.

"It didn't look good. Some of it was obscene," he said. "Sons, wives, daughters, nuns, all look at this stuff."

Now's he's outfitted an old green mountain bike with a five-gallon bucket that carries paint and brushes that he pedals after work to graffiti spots. The city pays for his paint.

Around the city graffiti is on the rise, Ellison said. Some is gang-related, some is just kids up to no good. Every year the city goes through about 1,300 gallons of paint and graffiti remover, which costs around $20,000, he said. Schmitz and Ellison both said the city needs more volunteers.

"I'd like to see this expand with other people volunteering to do it - on the Chester Creek trails in particular," Schmitz said.

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