Freese’s Eagle Scout project helps to save lives

On Sept. 11, 16-year-old Keegan Freese of Monticello received his Eagle Scout Award, following a two-year-long project. Congratulating Freese are, front from left, Matt Lorenzen, Lynette Bohman, Freese, Lisa Oswald, Devin Fagan, and Paul Gibbs with the District Scouts. Back row are Freese’s parents Niki and Kirk Freese. (Photos submitted)

Freese and his fellow Scouts worked all day on Sept. 12, 2018 to place the posts for this project. Freese installed GPS and mile-marker posts along the Maquoketa River to assist those on the water in case of emergency. Helping Freese (left) is Jayden Orcutt.

This is an image of what the signs look like that Freese designed and placed along 7 miles of the Maquoketa River. They not only include GPS coordinates for the river, but mile trackers as well.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

Monticello High School junior Keegan Freese is glad to be able to add a pretty prestigious milestone to his roster before he graduates high school. 

On Sept. 11, Freese received his Eagle Scout Award after completing a two-year Eagle Scout project. 

Freese started his project in the summer of 2017, and completed the physical work in the summer of 2018. What remained was a lot of paperwork and reports. 

“I worked really hard to get it done,” Freese said, looking back. “Unlike acing a test, there was a lot to this; it was a long run.” 

Freese felt he did good in the end, and was glad he stuck with this project all the way through. 

“People said it needed to be done and it was a good idea,” he said. 

Even the Boy Scout Board of Review complimented Freese on his choice of project. 

In June 2017, the Monticello Express ran an article, helping to being about awareness of Freese’s Eagle Scout project. He was seeking donations to erect 14 signs along a 7-mile stretch of the Maquoketa River. The signs include a specific GPS location along the river, should someone need assistance while floating or boating on the water. Each sign is in accordance with the U.S. National Grid System (NGS) Emergency Location Markers (ELM). The signs instruct people to call 911 in case of emergency, and to relay the GPS location so authorities can easily locate them on the water. 

Freese said his project not only benefits those who use the river, but law enforcement and emergency personnel as well. 

Freese placed his signs every half-mile, starting at Monticello Jellystone Park. 

At first, he planned to place the signs in public property along the river. He contacted Jones County Conservation and the Iowa DNR for permission. Unfortunately, his request was turned down due to the liability involved. The letter from the DNR stated the signs would detract from the scenery along the Maquoketa. 

When Freese’s request was denied, he contemplated scrapping his initial Eagle Scout project idea. He thought of a back-up project, building fish habitat structures for the lake at Central Park. 

“But I really liked my project,” he said. “I actually wanted to do it.” 

Then, Conservation encouraged Freese to place the signs on private property. He sought permission from five landowners along the river. All signed off on Freese’s project. 

On Aug. 12, 2018, Freese, his fellow Scouts, and adult volunteers spent about five hours on the river placing his signs. He was assisted by John O’Brien with Freese Motors. They loaded supplies and people in four different canoes and worked together to bring Freese’s project to reality. 

“It was a quick project,” Freese said of the short timeframe it took to get it done. “I thought we’d have to do it in two phases.” 

Each sign was placed 3 feet into the ground, and cement was poured to secure it in place. 

Freese was able to have much of his materials donated. What remained was purchased through donations he received. 

The metal posts that hold the signs were donated by the Iowa DOT, as they were broken posts that were going to be discarded. 

The green mile-marker signs were donated by Tracy Yousse with The Sign Shop. The brochures Freese used to promote his project and seek donations were made and donated by the Monticello Express. The cement was donated by Spahn & Rose Lumber Company. Carquest donated nuts and bolts to affix the signs to the posts. 

In addition, Freese received numerous monetary donations from businesses and individuals. 

“I got multiple $100 donations from random people,” marveled Freese. “It was amazing!” 

Freese ended up raising $1,238. His project cost just under $1,000, so he was able to donate $260 to the Monticello Fire Department. 

“They’ll benefit from this project, too,” he said of the department performing water rescues. 

Freese said seeking donations wasn’t something he enjoyed doing, because he wanted people to get something out of his work. 

“I wanted to do something in return,” he said. 

Looking back, Freese said his project went as well as could be expected. After putting up all the signs, a tree fell one of the signs near Kitty Creek. He went back and fixed it after learning of the incident. 

As part of Freese’s contract with the landowners, he plans to provide maintenance of the signs from here on out. 

“This project really meant something to me,” he said. Freese himself enjoys spending time on the river, and wanted to do something he was passionate about. 

“These signs will help save someone’s life.” 

After Freese sought approval from the NGS, he found out that his brainchild was being shared across the country. Law enforcement in Georgia became aware of the signs Freese designed and had similar ones made for a walking trail, also using the NGS coordinates. 

Freese is pretty proud to have inspired others with his work. 


Subscriber Login