Last week, the Western New York Land Conservancy and Friends of Jackson Falls received notice of a $20,000 grant from the Gallogly Family Foundation to help save Jackson Falls in Aurora, N.Y., and turn it into a nature preserve. This grant is a challenge gift, which means the community must step up to match it, dollar for dollar, in order to for it be used towards creating the Jackson Falls Preserve.
But there’s a twist: a single donor must match the entire $20,000 challenge gift. That donor will have one of five benches to be placed at the preserve named in their honor. As a special bonus, those five benches will be hand-crafted by Roycroft Renaissance Master Artisan Thomas Pafk, who is also a neighbor to the Jackson Falls property. Only two of those five benches are still available to donors of $20,000, so time is of the essence.
“We are so grateful for this gift,” said Kerrie Gallo, deputy executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and co-chair of the Friends of Jackson Falls. “I had a chance to visit Jackson Falls earlier this spring with my two little girls. We had so much fun exploring the forests and splashing through the creek. I want this land to be protected forever, so that children can always experience its natural beauty.”
Jackson Falls, a 57-acre property between Center Street and Hubbard Road in the Town of Aurora, has two gorgeous waterfalls, a deep ravine and mature hemlock forests. It is home to migrating birds, breeding frogs and salamanders, and rare wildflowers. Its forests and wetlands are natural filters that improve water quality downstream in Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Once protected, it will become a publicly accessible nature preserve. The Land Conservancy and the Friends of Jackson Falls, a 30-person group of community members committed to protecting Jackson Falls, have until Oct. 31, 2016 to raise $600,000 and purchase the property, open its trails and ensure its long-term care. If not protected, the land could be cleared and subdivided, cutting the community off from the waterfalls. Fortunately, they have already raised more than $400,000 of the $600,000 needed.
In addition to its natural wonders, Jackson Falls is steeped in local history. The Village of East Aurora is known throughout the world for its Roycroft Arts and Crafts community. Elbert Hubbard, visionary founder of Roycroft, often visited the forests and farms just south of East Aurora. He even built a cabin there for longer stays away from the hustle and bustle of the village.
A few years after Hubbard died aboard the Lusitania, Cecil Jackson purchased a gorgeous tract of land on a hill overlooking Hubbard’s cabin and the village. Cecil was the son of one of the Roycroft’s earliest workers in the furniture shop, Merritt Jackson. Cecil ran the Roycroft bank and stayed there until 1938 when the Roycroft business succumbed to the Great Depression. While Merritt was one of the first Roycroft employees, Cecil was one of the last.
The land that Cecil purchased is the same land that will become the Jackson Falls Preserve. It’s safe to say that Elbert Hubbard himself knew the land well; he probably stopped by often to admire the distant village that he helped build. The current owners – three brothers – are Cecil Jackson’s grandchildren. Steven Searl, MD, one of the three brothers, said, “We hope the preservation of this land for public enjoyment will carry forward the spirit of the Roycroft that was so important to our grandfather.”
Nancy Smith, executive director or the Western New York Land Conservancy and co-chair of the Friends of Jackson Falls said, “We have an incredible opportunity now to protect Jackson Falls for future generations. We need people to donate any amount they can to save this place, before our deadline in October. If you can match the $20,000 challenge gift, you will be one of only five people honored with a bench hand-crafted by a Roycroft Renaissance Master Artisan.”
The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for future generations. The Land Conservancy envisions a future in which open spaces, working lands, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty are cherished and protected as part of the landscape and character of Western New York. The Land Conservancy is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and is one of 1,700 land trusts nationwide, including 90 in New York State. Land trusts have protected 40 million acres over the last 20 years. For more information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities or the mission of the Western New York Land Conservancy, please call (716) 687-1225 or visit www.wnylc.org.