Stella Niagara Preserve
The Stella Niagara Preserve is the most ambitious and high profile project in the Land Conservancy’s history. The preserve is located on the Niagara River along Lower River Road in the Town of Lewiston just north of Niagara Falls, and sits across from the Stella Niagara Education Park and Center of Renewal. With 29-acres and over a quarter-mile of shoreline, it is the largest privately-owned, undeveloped tract of land along the entire length of the Niagara River. The property is incredibly scenic, and is one of our region’s most ecologically and historically important places.
In June 2015, after a more than $3 million capital campaign, the Land Conservancy purchased this spectacular property from the Sisters of St. Francis. It was opened to the public in July 2015 and features walking trails, fishing access, and a place to put a kayak in the water. Visitors can park at the Lewiston Senior Center in the lot nearest Pletcher Road and the baseball diamonds.
For information on what to do or places to stay in the area while visiting Stella, visit the Lower Niagara River Chamber of Commerce website.
The Land Conservancy has prepared a Vision Plan to help guide our landscape restoration design and the ongoing stewardship and maintenance of the Stella Niagara Preserve. It will inform decisions about public access, as well as activities, programming, and collaborations at the Preserve. It will also help guide the creation of interpretive elements and education components, from signage and displays on-site to education and outreach materials about the Preserve.
Hiring Darrel Morrison – A World-class Nature Preserve
The Stella Niagara Preserve will be a world-class nature preserve that provides an iconic cultural, natural, and recreational link in the emerging Niagara River Greenway. The Land Conservancy has hired nationally renowned restoration landscape architect team of Darrel Morrison and Nancy Aten to create a concept plan for the entire preserve, and to restore prairie grassland and a savannah landscape to a major portion of the site. The Land Conservancy will begin implementing the plan in 2016.
This wonderful video from the Library of American Landscape History will help you get to know Darrel and his work:
Importance of the Property
The property has incredible ecological importance. The entire Niagara River is an internationally designated globally significant Important Bird Area, a designation shared with places like the Everglades and Yellowstone. The property itself has a variety of habitats including a riparian zone, a large meadow, a forested area, and vernal pools. These habitats support rare plants and animals like the threatened Bald Eagle and Lake Sturgeon, as well as an endangered shrub called Ninebark. The shallow off-shore shoal supports larval Smallmouth Bass, Yellow Perch, and Rock Bass. The property was placed on the Niagara River Area of Concern priority habitat list in 2012, making it an international priority for protection.
The property also has significant cultural importance. It is a nationally designated Peace Site and is part of the Niagara County Historic Trail. The preserve is also part of the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area. It was an important canoe landing site for the region’s Haudenosaunee who used the Niagara River for transport, trade and fishing. Known locally as the five-mile meadow, it is the very spot where the British landed in 1813 to capture Fort Niagara. It has been home to the Sisters of St. Francis since 1907. The chapel, thought to be the tiniest religious structure in Western New York, was in the national spotlight in 1955 when it ‘miraculously’ survived an ice jam and flood that destroyed many other properties along the river. The property is also home to several sgraffito-style murals by Józef Sławiński, a renowned Polish artist.
Because of the property’s gentle slope down to the river, it is one of the few natural landing sites on the Lower Niagara, perfect for launching a canoe or kayak. The off-shore area, known locally as the ‘Stella Drift,’ creates ideal conditions for fishing. The view from Lower River Road overlooking the property and the Niagara River is breathtaking. Considering these factors, the site is ideal for public access.
View Natural, Historic Stella Niagara from WGRZ’s “2 The Outdoors”
Check out this fantastic drone footage of the Stella Niagara Preserve
Fundraising To Date
The Land Conservancy surpassed the $3.27 million needed to create the preserve in late May, 2015. Funding received and committed includes $1,853,487 from the Niagara Relicensing Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund, $500,000 from the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee, $300,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the Joint Venture Habitat Protection and Restoration Program, and $150,000 from the Greenway’s Town of Lewiston/Host Communities Standing Committee.
The project received hundreds of individual donations from throughout the community. In February of 2015, Pamela and Joe Priest, residents of the Town of Lewiston, contributed a $200,000 challenge gift, which was also met in May 2015.
The project also received incredible support from foundations, including:
- $200,000 from the Tower Family Fund, Inc.,
- $65,000 from the East Hill Foundation, $50,000 from the John R. Oishei Foundation,
- $50,000 from the Gallogly Family Foundation,
- $25,000 from The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation,
- $25,000 from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo,
- $15,000 from the Hahn Family Foundation,
- $10,000 from the M&T Charitable Foundation,
- $10,000 from the Joanne & Frank Collins Foundation, and
- $2,000 from the Western New York Foundation.
The Land Conservancy received a catalyst grant in 2014 from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Land Trust Alliance through the NYS Conservation Partnership Program. This program is funded through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). This grant supported efforts to create the Stella Niagara Preserve and to protect other land in the Niagara River Greenway.
The Land Conservancy is still fundraising, as there is much left to do and we will need resources to carefully steward the land for future generations.
If you are interested in supporting the Stella Niagara Preserve, please go to our Donation Page.
If you have any questions, Contact Us. Thank you!
Click HERE for a downloadable brochure.