A tribute to Warren

A Tribute to Warren

In memory of Teatown’s first director and naturalist.

Warren building “Warren’s Sugar House,” which still stands today.

We are deeply saddened to share the passing of Teatown’s very first naturalist and director, Warren Balgooyen.

After graduating from Colby College with a BS in biology in 1964, Warren came to work at the Kitchawan Research Laboratory, which at the time was a field station of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG). But it wouldn’t take long for him to be drawn to the several hundred acres of undeveloped land nearby that had been recently donated to BBG by the Swope family. Warren would spend his evenings restoring the old horse trails on that parcel of land, which would eventually become the Teatown that we know today. He would serve as Teatown’s first naturalist and director until 1982.

In Teatown’s nascent stages, there was uncertainty surrounding what direction the organization would take. As Teatown’s first director, Warren paved the way for the impactful nature programming that Teatown continues to deliver, and developed Teatown as an environmental education center — an innovative idea in its day. He envisioned a center where the community could come to both passively engage with nature, and actively participate in programming.

In fact, the spirit of the nature programs that he developed in the early 1970s aren’t very different than our current programs at all. Teatown’s Trails, the quarterly newsletter, invited the community to events such as “The Decline of the Predators: Man’s Unrecognized Ally” and “Life in a Freshwater Pond.” In the winter of 1979, Warren would write an article (view by clicking here) on the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and evidence of a warming planet — long before others began to sound the alarm on man-made climate change. He also began the tradition of inviting world-class speakers to give presentations at Teatown.

Ice cutting on the lake
Making maple syrup in Warren’s Sugar House

Warren built the Sugar House with the help of a few volunteers and made maple syrup at the end of winter. It still operates today to the continued delight of schoolchildren and adults who visit — a testament to the strength of the legacy that he has left with us. We fondly remember Warren as a renaissance man, as someone who loved to work with his hands, someone who possessed incredible knowledge and cared deeply for the natural world, and someone who used his charisma to inspire our community to lifelong environmental stewardship.

This sugaring season will be a nostalgic reminder of Warren’s impact on Teatown’s culture. We wouldn’t be what we are today without his early guidance and leadership.

For Warren’s obituary, click here. We have also made a couple of the articles that he contributed to our Trails newsletters available in PDF format, which can be viewed by clicking here and here.

An interview with Warren

This interview was recorded as a part of “A Place Apart,” a historical interview series created about Teatown in 2003.

A special thanks to Geoff Thompson, Larry Provost, and Mary Lou Minard for sharing their historical knowledge of Warren and his contributions with us.