Category Archives: Current Issues

Remembering Richard P. Buegler


Painting by Sarah Yuster

Remembering Richard P. Buegler

Richard P.”Dick” Buegler, a founder of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and its president for nearly 30 years, a man who dedicated his life to environmental education and natural areas protection on Staten Island, died last Saturday, November 5, at Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, where he lived with his wife Toni for some years. He was 88 years old. Our condolences to his dedicated and loving wife, Toni, and to his son David and daughter Susan and their families on this irreparable loss to our close community.

I am humbled to have been asked by Protectors President Cliff Hagen to write a brief remembrance of Dick’s life and work. Dick has been honored by the numerous citations he has received from elected officials over the years and he has well deserved the recognition and praise bestowed on him by respected national environmental organizations.  Any park or bluebelt on Staten Island would be a suitable testimony to his tireless efforts at preserving and improving the natural world around us. And, most assuredly, Clay Pits Pond State Park Preserve will stand as a monument to his preservation efforts.

I think that I am among the few people who have known Dick Buegler the longest. Dick has been an influence in my life for 40 years, the majority of my life, ever since he stood up in front of my high school biology class at New Dorp and discussed PCBs, or the Krebs cycle, or the finer points about dissecting a shark. Mr. Buegler, as he was known to me then, instilled in me the fundamental notion that the environment is the product of interdependent systems sublimely in balance, that we are responsible for the environment, and that if we take without giving in return, we risk disturbing that balance to our harm. Later, after I graduated from college, I reconnected with Dick on Greenbelt walks and soon began implementing much of the ideas he taught me, leading me ultimately to join Protectors and serve as Vice President and later as President. Dick’s goal has always been to educate people enough so that ideas translate into action. A better understanding and appreciation for the natural world begets a determination to fight for the preservation of natural areas and the environment.

Dick explained his philosophy about creating a purposeful life and developing an active environmental consciousness in 2004 when he wrote: “Most of us consider walks, tours, hikes and such to be pleasant recreation, but most of you attend those events for more serious reasons than a day out in the fresh air. We are learning to appreciate the natural environment and developing our own environmental ethic. As we see destruction around, natural areas being obliterated and environmental degradation occurring, our presence on walks and activities in the natural environment makes a statement that we care. Yes, we care.

We care about wildlife and plants, trees, shrubs and wildflowers, the birds and the insects. We want to leave a heritage of a healthy natural environment for those after us. We are constantly learning how much a part of the natural environment we are. We find out that our own actions add to the earth’s distress. We consume fuel, food, natural products, even the air and water of our planet, and none of us—certainly not Protectors—feel that we are entitled to as much as we want. So we try to drive less, walk and bicycle more, reduce our consumption of excess foods and avoid foods and other natural products that are responsible for the degradation of the communities where they are grown.”

And in another place he summed it up as follows: “As Protectors members, we have a very deep concern for our natural environment, a dedication toward preservation of unprotected natural areas and a willingness to work persistently towards protection of native woodlands, wetlands and previously designated parklands.”

Dick has passed into memory now. And it is incumbent upon each of us, whoever was touched by his generous and patient mentoring, whoever witnessed his effective leadership and ability to shape discourse to serve a greater common good, to remember the man he was and further his life’s work. For Dick is not truly gone if the work he dedicated the better part of his adult life to endures and bears fruit through us, for as long as we remember him.

Dick had tremendous gratitude for you, our Protectors’ members, and he more than once remarked that your dedication and commitment were key factors to our numerous successes. Protectors of Pine Oak Woods is Dick’s legacy and his memorial. May we carry its mission further and with it the name of Richard P. Buegler.

I hear the ringing call he used to gather us together on the trail: “Eye-eh-la! Eye-eh-la!”  There he is, just ahead and around the bend, quietly waiting to see if I will spot and identify the rare trailside orchid he has found. Just a second, Dick, I nearly have it, just a second while I consult my Newcomb’s. I see and absorb the simple and pure joy he conveys in that consummate interaction with Nature. How will you remember Dick?

Hillel Lofaso

PPOW/HEP Work Shop – Wednesday, July 20th – 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM at Blue Heron Park

PPOW/HEP Work Shop – Wednesday, July 20th – 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM at Blue Heron Park

Designated as an Estuary of National Significance under the Clean Water Act, the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary is a complex ecological system in the midst of a major urban center. The NY-NJ HEP was authorized in 1987 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is one of 28 National Estuary Programs in the country. HEP is an ongoing effort to protect, conserve, and restore the estuary though a management conference composed of representatives from local, state, and federal government; scientists; business; and civic organizations. The Hudson River Foundation (HRF) seeks to make science integral to decision-making with regard to the Hudson River and its watershed and to support competent stewardship of this extraordinary resource. This purpose is pursued through support of scientific research; communication to expand knowledge about the river among the scientific community, policy makers, and the public at large; initiatives to enhance management of the Hudson ecosystem; education about the River; and physical improvements to the riverfront.

HEP is engaging in a public participation process in anticipation of the release of its 5-year action agenda. HEP’s 5-year action agenda will guide the government agencies, utilities, civic organizations, and scientists that comprise HEP to establish common programmatic, research, and funding priorities. The goal of the public participation process, which includes these workshops in addition to web-based survey tools and outreach at public events, is to ensure that HEP’s programmatic priorities for the Harbor Estuary are aligned with the needs of watershed communities.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods is partnering with HEP to co-host a public workshop designed to identify the priorities of the public, local government, community organizations and other stakeholders throughout the estuary. Situated at the epicenter of HEP’s core area, Staten Island is a critical location along the Hudson River estuary and we need to have a voice in the decisions being made about the waters off our shore.  Our public workshop will be held Wednesday, July 20, from 7:00pm till 9:00 pm.  For more information contact Cliff Hagen at or call 718-313-8591.

Protectors Semi-Annual Spring Meeting Sunday April 3 from 1-4

Protectors Semi-Annual Spring Meeting
Sunday, April 3,  2016 – 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
(Located at the end of Hylan Boulevard in Tottenville).

Guest speakers will include John Kilcullen, Director of Conference House Park
Up dates on the 
status of the Bluebelts at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve;
DEC’s decision regarding BJ’s onForest Avenue; 
Grasshopper Sparrows and 
Parks without Borders.

Additionally, a photographic exhibition showing those natural areas, parks and open spaces that Protectors has been instrumental in conserving will be installed at the Lenape Gallery at the Conference House Park Visitors’ Center.  An opening reception will be held in the Gallery immediately following the semi-annual meeting.

For more information, call 929-428-0878 or visit


Volunteer to fight shoreline erosion before ground freezes


Volunteers Liam Haggety and Liam Murphy plant American Beachgrass at Great Kills Park on Nov. 15,  2013. (Courtesy of National Park Service)

By Kathryn Carse |
on January 12,  2016 at 10:31 AM

STATEN ISLAND,  N.Y. — The race is on. Beachgrass is being planted by a Student Conservation Association team in Great Kills Park, but more volunteers are needed to assist them get 50,000 stems planted before the ground freezes.

The prolific native plant is instrumental in protecting the shoreline from erosion.

“American Beachgrass is the best native plant for stabilizing sand dunes on the windswept beaches.  It is deeply rooted, and stands in tussocks 4-to-5-feet-tall.  A single planted stem can multiply into a dozen or more stems in one growing season,” explains George Frame, a biologist with Gateway’s Natural Resources team.

Most other plants cannot thrive on dry dunes constantly spritzed by salt spray. One of the American beach grass secret weapons is to spread by rhizomes (underground stems) and by seeds.

It contributes to the health of the dunes in another way too.

“The tall dense tussocks cause wind-blown sand to drop out of the air, thereby adding height to the dune,” said Frame.

The Student Conservation Association aims to develop conservation leaders and lifelong stewards of the environment through hands-on experience. In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, volunteers are asked to join in the effort on Saturday, Jan. 16th, from 9 a.m. until noon to participate in this beachgrass restoration project.

Meet in the main parking lot at Gateway National Recreation Area, Great Kills Park, across from the ranger station. If Saturday has rain showers, participants will take cover in cars, and then plant between the showers

To Whom Do You Trust To Speak For Parks on Staten Island: President’s Message

THOUGH PROTECTORS OF PINE OAK Woods remains fully committed to the preservation of open space on Staten Island,  we are often compelled to negotiate a greater stewardship of those properties we fought long to preserve.

Protectors continues to call for the de-mapping and transfer of Department of Transportation properties in the Greenbelt. We continue to monitor both the Goodhue Woods purchase and the conservation easement over Pouch Camp. Both deals are incomplete. Recognizing the imminent purchase of the St. Francis Friary, our organization is waiting to congratulate the new owners and educate them about the ecological value of the woodland property.

Meanwhile, Protectors continues our less-celebrated, underappreciated task of safeguarding the quality of preserved properties from irresponsible, ill-informed proposals that undermine the initial intent for those properties.

This year began with our successful effort to add an environmentally responsible voice to the West Shore Business Improvement District (WS-BID). Originally, the district management association responsible for the maintenance and security for the WS-BID (nearly 50% of the district is Parks property) was designed to exclude Parks representation. Despite Parks’ insistence, the creator of the WS-BID, the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC), was adamant that Parks not be involved.

Buffeted by Protectors energies—our comments at Community Board 2, our letter writing to City Council and our communication with the NYC Department of City Planning—SIEDC had to capitulate, and the WS-BID district management association is now to maintain regular communications related to the WS-BID properties with the Borough Commissioner of Staten Island Parks.

Soon after the resolution of the WS-BID impasse, Protectors was invited by the Staten Island office of the Department of City Planning to take part in a working group tasked with clarifying discrepancies in the zoning rules and regulations that govern the Special Natural Areas District, the Special South Richmond District, Lower Density Growth Management Area and the Hillside Preservation District. Our seat at the table was filled at each meeting of the working group and our concerns were shared. The productive discussions were driven in part by a commitment to the environmental integrity of our Borough of Parks.

Protectors works regularly with many of our elected representatives and government administrators to improve the quality as well as the quantity of parkland and open space on Staten Island. Nevertheless, we understand the need for constant vigilance.

Currently, Protectors is working to neutralize the impact of misinformed proposals that would introduce active recreation into the environmentally sensitive areas of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve. The proposals—kayaking and fishing in small, shallow ponds, mountain biking and dog walking along horse trails—are unrealistic and inappropriate for a State Preserve guaranteed protection by Article 20 of State Park law.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has been celebrating the establishment of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve for 40 years and we appreciate State Park’s financial dilemma. Maintenance and operation budgets are too often tied to park attendance numbers and our representatives in State government unfortunately leverage this mechanism of finance to impose their personal preference on the properties entrusted to State Parks.

Protectors has been working with State Parks, the horse riding community and local environmentalists to increase attendance at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve without impacting the environmentally sensitive nature of the area. Capturing true statistics reflective of actual park usage will alleviate the financial constraints imposed by our representatives in State government.

You, as a member of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, play a large role in our success as a volunteer, environmental preservation organization. Our strong, vocal membership allows Protectors’ voice to be shared, sought out and heard on issues relating to the stewardship of those properties which make Staten Island great. Protectors of Pine Oak Woods remains the champion of our Borough of Parks.
—Cliff Hagen

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