Stella Niagara Preserve receives $35,000 from local foundations

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The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has just approved a grant in the amount of $25,000 for the Western New York Land Conservancy for the creation of the Stella Niagara Preserve, a new, publicly-accessible nature preserve along the Niagara River in Lewiston. This news comes just days after the announcement that the M&T Charitable Foundation will contribute $10,000 toward the project! The Land Conservancy has now received more than $2.9 million of the more than $3.2 million needed to create the Stella Niagara Preserve.

Support from these two foundations comes at a critical time. In February, the Land Conservancy received a $200,000 challenge gift from Pamela and Joe Priest to help create the Stella Niagara Preserve. When this $200,000 challenge gift is matched, the project’s fundraising goal will have been met. The Land Conservancy is asking local donors to donate by June 1, 2015, in order to complete the project on time and open the preserve to the public later this year.

The Stella Niagara Preserve property includes 29 acres of land on the west side of Lower River Road, just north of the Village of Lewiston. The land is currently part of the 130-acre Stella Niagara Education Park, owned by the Sisters of St. Francis. The Sisters recently evaluated their economic realities as part of a long-range planning process and decided to sell this 29 acres. In keeping with the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sisters’ deeply held concern for the natural environment, the Sisters asked the Land Conservancy to purchase this spectacular property and protect it for future generations to enjoy.

With a quarter-mile of shoreline, the 29-acre Stella Niagara Preserve property is the largest undeveloped privately-owned parcel of land left along the entire Niagara River. The property is home to significant Native American, War of 1812 and Franciscan history. The small chapel and peace memorial on the property have sgraffito murals by well-known Polish artist Joseph Slawiński. The property supports endangered and threatened species of plants and animals, supports highly productive fish spawning habitat, and is part of an internationally designated, globally significant Important Bird Area. The view from Lower River Road across the property to the river is breathtaking.

Once the land is acquired, the Land Conservancy will open it as the Stella Niagara Preserve and will provide walking trails, fishing access and a place to launch a kayak. The Land Conservancy will also restore the property’s critical wildlife habitat, protect its historic structures and art, and carefully steward the property for future generations. The Stella Niagara Preserve will serve as a catalyst for creating the Niagara River Greenway — the necklace of parks and open spaces along the length of the Niagara River envisioned by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.

Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, said “The Community Foundation remains committed to driving significant community change in support of enhancing and leveraging our region’s natural resources. Our support of the Stella Niagara Preserve will provide residents and visitors alike the opportunity to experience the wonder of our region’s natural and cultural heritage.”

According to Derek Johnson, senior branch manager at M&T Bank in East Aurora, “The creation of the Stella Niagara Preserve will represent an incredible achievement for the whole region, as businesses, foundations and individuals have banded together to preserve this important environmental and historical site for future generations of Western New Yorkers to enjoy. M&T is honored to partner with the Land Conservancy to make the Stella Niagara Preserve a reality.”

“We still need $105,000 to match the challenge gift,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Land Conservancy. She added, “The outpouring of support from all over the region, from East Aurora to Buffalo to Youngstown and even from Canada and Pennsylvania, has been incredible. Each contribution brings the Stella Niagara Preserve one step closer to becoming a reality.”

All donations for the Stella Niagara Preserve are tax-deductible. Donations can be made on the Land Conservancy’s website (http://wnylc.org/), or by sending a check made payable to the “Western New York Land Conservancy” to P.O. Box 471, East Aurora, N.Y. 14052. Donations of all amounts are helpful, and there are several different naming opportunities for donors who contribute $10,000 or more. For questions, please contact the Land Conservancy by calling Nancy Smith at (716) 687-1225 or emailing nancyrs@wnylc.org. Please join this effort and make the Stella Niagara Preserve a part of your legacy!

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 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 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 http://wnylc.org/.

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