President's Letter

Protecting Our Valuable Natural Areas in Parks and at Home

Natural areas conservation and preservation require constant stewardship.

THE MISSION OF PROTECTORS OF PINE OAK WOODS is twofold: advocating for the preservation of open space and for the increased stewardship of park properties.
Our Borough of Parks celebrates diverse habitat from Ward Hill to Ward’s Point. The success of Protectors has allowed the preservation of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve, Mount Loretto Unique Area, Blue Heron Park, Mariners Marsh Park and so many other beloved woodlands and wetlands.

Less celebrated, but no less important, the other portion of Protectors’ mission addresses the increased stewardship of the properties preserved. It is no accident that our beautiful park spaces remain green and clean. Our parks departments—at the city, state and federal level—work diligently with minimal resources to manage and maintain thousands of acres of woodlands and wetlands.

But the stewardship of park properties is more complicated than simply mowing lawns and trimming tree limbs. The health and wellness of our green spaces is an ongoing, never-ending task. And since many hands make for light work, Protectors has embraced many stewardship opportunities.

For nearly twenty-five years Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has conducted a monthly Forest Restoration Workshop somewhere in the woodlands of Staten Island. Each month participants are invited to identify and remove invasive species of trees, shrubs and climbing vines while replacing those plants with native flora. Month after month volunteer stewards—Protectors members, retirees and students seeking community service—have enjoyed restoring the health of our parks.

Most recently, Protectors has written in support of NYC Parks’ plan to combat an invasion of emerald ash borer beetles within the Greenbelt. Our Greenbelt hosts a variety of ash trees, each susceptible to infestation of the destructive beetle which has devastated forests across the Northeast. In tandem with this important work, Protectors is developing a response to a NYC Parks proposal to “restore” a number of acres of woodlands impacted by invasive species along the southern edge of Willowbrook Park.
Protectors of Pine Oak Woods has also been involved with a Working Group at the Department of City Planning. This work addresses the need for home owners, builders and architects to be stewards of their property and the natural resources therein. Zoning amendments seek to better protect trees and aquatic resources across the Island by incentivizing the increased stewardship of older, larger trees and natural areas located on private property. 

Similarly, to incentivize the increased stewardship of natural resources on private property, Protectors has established a program to acknowledge and celebrate those who manage a garden made safe for children and wildlife. Protectors encourages the practice of natural gardening, the use of fewer insecticides and pesticides within gardens across the Island. With generous financial support from Con Edison, we challenge each neighbor fortunate enough to have a garden to keep their garden natural for the benefit of all. And if gardening is of interest, but you haven’t an opportunity to practice, you may consider getting involved with the Friends of Blue Heron Park. This spring Protectors is teaming up with the Friends of Blue Heron Park for mutual benefit. We are cross-sharing our membership bulletins, because with more information comes more opportunity for stewardship.

The work of Protectors continues as we advocate for the preservation of open space along the shores of Great Kills Harbor, along the serpentine ridge above Stapleton, within the boundaries of Long Pond Park and Arden Heights Woods and dozens of other locations offering opportunities for preservation. We also continue to call for an increased stewardship of parks in ways simple and complicated. We are busy. We are always working and we invite everyone to join our efforts. We encourage everyone to become a member of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and begin advocating for an increased stewardship of our Island’s natural resources in our parks and our yards. See the enclosed membership envelope or go to to join or renew.

—Cliff Hagen

Spring 2021