The Western New York Land Conservancy announced this week it was awarded $1,843,487 from the Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund toward creating the Stella Niagara Preserve.
The fund was created as part of the Niagara River Greenway from the Niagara Power Project relicensing agreement. When combined with the $500,000 received from the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee earlier this year, the Land Conservancy will have received more than $2.3 million of the $3.1 million needed to create the first nature preserve along the Niagara River to be owned and operated by a not-for-profit.
Located on Lower River Road in the Town of Lewiston, across from the Stella Niagara Education Park and Center of Renewal, the 29-acre Stella Niagara Preserve property includes more than a quarter mile of scenic shoreline along the Niagara River and supports rare plants and animals. It was an important canoe-landing site for the region's Haudenosaunee and is the exact location where the British landed in 1813 to capture Fort Niagara.
Once acquired, the Land Conservancy will restore grassland and savannah habitat and open it to the public with walking trails, fishing and kayak access.
Commenting on the award, Greg Stevens, chairman of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, said, "The Stella Niagara Preserve represents an important accomplishment in our vision of creating a necklace of protected and publicly accessible open spaces along the length of the Niagara River. It is great to see the project moving forward with so much support."
Nancy Smith, executive director of the Land Conservancy, said, "We are so pleased to be working with the Sisters of St. Francis to create the Stella Niagara Preserve. Our goal is to continue their legacy of careful stewardship of this extraordinarily unique, and ecologically and historically important property, while at the same time providing opportunities for new public access to the Niagara River."
"Stella Niagara is a gateway between the Niagara River and New York state's 62nd Senate District, which I represent," said Sen. George D. Maziarz. "This project will help improve the region's already high quality of life, and preserve our unique cultural and natural heritage."
Sister Edith Wyss, provincial minister of the Sisters of St. Francis, the current property owner, said, "There are certain places in the world that are so spiritually uplifting and whose beauty is so awe-inspiring that they just have to be protected for future generations to enjoy. Stella Niagara is one of those treasures. We sincerely thank everyone for helping to make this possible."
The success of the project now hinges on obtaining the remaining $800,000 needed to acquire and maintain the preserve. Smith said, "We are relying on our Western New York community to step up and ensure that this important piece of our heritage is secured."
The Land Conservancy is looking the remainder of the funding to come from local businesses, foundations, private donors and other funding sources.
For more information on supporting the Stella Niagara Preserve, contact Smith at the Land Conservancy at 716-687-1225 or email [email protected].