JP Observer: Local woman at hub of green space communications

Everyone who knows her pretty much agrees: Sarah Freeman is a force of nature. The Jamaica Plain resident exhibits relentless energy to keep the community informed about and advocate for the outdoors.

For years, Freeman, on behalf of the Arborway Coalition, has sent at least one email a week to what is now a list of more than 200 people about what is going on with local green space and projects related to it.

Recent subject lines show a potpourri of everything environmental locally: Casey Arborway construction update; a concert in Franklin Park; Emerald Necklace news; gas leaks in the ground; the Muddy River; Frederick Law Olmsted Homestead; Parks and Recreation Department news; bicycle tours; the joys of hiking, a meeting about the Arborway Yard…

The emails are informative and come from a range of mostly local sources. “I try not to tell people what to do,” Freeman said in an interview last week. “I just try to get them in the loop. I try to keep them motivated.”

She is a member of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s (ENC) Board of Overseers and attends many Boston green space meetings in that role and on her own volition, which keeps her busy and well-informed.

Pressed to say how much time it takes her to research and send the information, she admitted, “Some weeks it equals a half-time job.”

Her paying job is related to her volunteer work. She has managed studies at the Harvard School of Public Health (now part-time) looking at the role of physical activity in helping people cope with chronic illness and aging since 1981.

The Arborway Coalition, which turns 20 this year, was founded by Freeman, her late life partner Sam Sherwood, and neighbor Lisa Koch. Its goal is to work with government agencies and local residents to “preserve the Arborway as a green multi-use parkway connecting three Emerald Necklace parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted: Jamaica Pond Park, Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park,” according to written materials.

Freeman said she is excited that the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council has revived its dormant open space committee to be the “Environment, Parks and Energy Committee” and she hopes to join it.

Freeman was an avid hiker, marathoner (including at Canada’s Arctic Bay) for years, and skier even before she moved to JP in 1993.

She grew up in a rural area of Ohio, the daughter of a Polish Jewish couple who had lived in the woods to escape Nazi occupiers during WWII. “I have a special fondness for the woods and forests because of that,” she said.

Some local environmental efforts have not yet culminated in success—like getting full protection for Hellenic Hill at Jamaica Pond, Freeman said. But she pointed to the upcoming creation of a green space connection between the Arboretum and Franklin Park when Casey Arborway construction is complete as the latest in some major victories.

“It has been fascinating to be in this for the long haul,” Freeman said of her decades of communication about improving the local environment.

She’s a natural at it, for sure.

To be added to the Arborway Coalition email list, contact Freeman at [email protected].

[Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.]




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