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Sep 16, 2011 1:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Trail Dedicated To Edwin "Buzz" Schwenk

Sep 20, 2011 2:24 PM

Under blue skies and bright sunshine, the air crisp with the first hint of fall, elected officials turned out on Friday morning to dedicate the Edwin M. “Buzz” Schwenk Pine Plains Trail in Westhampton.

The trail, which is sited near the Suffolk County Water Authority Building on Riverhead Road, will celebrate the life of Mr. Schwenk, who died in December 2009. He was 86.

Mr. Schwenk, who was born in Southampton Town, was an avid environmentalist integral in the creation and adoption of the Community Preservation Fund, which utilizes a 2-percent real estate transfer tax to facilitate purchases of open space and farmland preservation, and also helped draft the legislation to preserve the Central Pine Barrens.

A dairyman and, later, a builder and owner of Omnibuzz Associates in Southampton, Mr. Schwenk was remembered with warmth and humor by his colleagues on Friday as they shared anecdotes of his life.

“He was a gentleman,” said Peter Scully, regional director of the State Department of Environmental Conservation. “He never let his emotions get the better of him—and he always had a twinkle in his eye.”

Mr. Schwenk was remembered by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. as a mentor to many—and a friend. “Thank you for sharing him with us,” he said to Mr. Schwenk’s wife, Diana Schwenk, and daughter, Diana S. Urban.

Of Mr. Schwenk’s fierce efforts to protect the pine barrens for future generations, State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle said, “He became a tiger about preservation.”

With an unveiling in May of the Edwin M. “Buzz” Schwenk Memorial Highway sign on County Road 39 in Southampton, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said whether it be cars buzzing along the roadway or bees buzzing in trees on a tranquil nature path, “Everywhere you go, there’s Buzz.”

Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, who admitted he and Mr. Schwenk were not friends at their first meeting, wrote a heartfelt and humorous poem chronicling their rewarding work over the years.

Kevin McDonald, director of public policy and funding for The Nature Conservancy, spiritedly recalled a lunch he had with Mr. Schwenk in 1996, at which he championed the CPF with his trademark enthusiasm. “Once Buzz committed to something, there was no stopping him,” he said.

Diana Urban, Mr. Schwenk’s daughter and a Connecticut state representative, said the mantra among politicians is usually, “What have you done for me lately?”
But Friday’s ceremony was testament to the legacy her father left, she said: “They never forgot the work he did.”

Ms. Urban remembered a father who loved animals and who, in his private life, adored his dogs and horse Big Ben. She said she envisions her father crossing the rainbow bridge and his beloved pets, ears perked up and tails wagging, waiting to welcome him.

She added that a nature trail in his honor was in perfect keeping with his passion for nature and animals. “Every time you walk the trail, he’s there,” she said.

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