Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

2017 distinguished citizen named


This award is given to a resident who is passionate about Green River.

It’s given to someone who goes above and beyond though volunteering and supporting projects from behind the scenes to improve Green River.

Not only has this person been an active volunteer, but has demonstrated a long history of civic involvement to the community.

It’s a prestigious award only given out to one person each year and this year the Green River 2017 Distinguished Citizen of the year award went to John Freeman.

Freeman was nominated by Pat Robbins, who had nothing but good things to say about him in her nomination letter.

“John’s efforts on behalf of Green River have resulted in a vast legacy to the entire region through the Green River Greenbelt,” Robbins said in her letter.

According to Robbins, during the early 90s, the Green River Parks and Recreation Advisory Board identified the development of the river corridor as a priority for development.

“While this idea had been talked about 20 years prior, it wasn’t until John was appointed chairman of the board that it became a priority,” Robbins said.

Soon after Freeman took over as chairman of the board, the board started working with Roger Moellendorf, who was the city’s park and recreation director at the time. They created a 501 c3 nonprofit organization. Freeman, Moellendorf and the board worked to develop a master plan and share that master plan with the community.

During this time, grants were obtained and a boat ramp was placed at Stratton-Myers Park, historical signs were placed along Expedition Island and Scotts Bottom Nature Area was developed. Not only were these things done, but walking paths that tie the river to all of the city’s parks and schools were eventually constructed. Most of the members who were involved in the project have either passed away or have moved to another location, Freeman is still in Green River and remains active.

“The improvements you see along the river corridor today are a result of those early efforts,” Robbins said. “For his amazing vision, the passion to convince others of the potential benefits of the project, the drive to keep moving the project forward and the energy to bring the project to fruition, John has truly distinguished himself in the community.”

Freeman was surprised when his name was called at the Green River Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon, which is when the announcement took place.

“I’m very grateful. The Greenbelt is definitely a benefit to the community,” Freeman said.

However, Freeman was quick to pass on the credit to others. Freeman said he has received a couple of city and state awards for his work on the Greenbelt project, but it was a group effort.

“That group in itself was amazing for all the work they’ve done,” Freeman said.

He wanted to mention the late Howard Baker, Richard Watson and Mark Fowden for all their work on the project. He also wanted to thank Moellendorf for all of his work on the project and the previous Green River city councilmen and mayors for their support.

“They made me look awfully good,” Freeman said. “I would have to go back to my records to get a complete list of all those who helped.”

Freeman also wanted to mention Dick Hartman of Union Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad Foundation. Hartman wasn’t on the Greenbelt Task Force, but was instrumental in getting the land needed to complete the project. Hartman also helped the city obtain funding to complete the trails.

Freeman said when he was told he was nominated for the award he figured it was for his work on the Greenbelt or for his work as a legislator. Even though, Freeman has accomplished a lot, he didn’t think he would receive the award.

“I didn’t think I’d have much of a chance,” Freeman said.

“John is also an educator and a legislator,” Robbins said. “John, however, is not seen as a politician, but as a public servant.”

Freeman was flattered by what Robbins said in her letter. He said he has always considered himself as a public servant. He was proud to say a lot of Green River High School students already have a year of college education completed because of his encouragement to provide those kinds of programs.

“The administration did the work. I just provided the encouragement,” Freeman said.

Freeman wanted to thank his wife and family for supporting him in all of his efforts especially since it took time away from them.


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