Lewiston family offers $200,000 challenge
The Western New York Land Conservancy recently announced receipt of a $200,000 gift the land trust hopes will lead to the creation of the Stella Niagara Preserve.
At 29 acres and with a quarter-mile of shoreline, the Lower River Road property is the largest undeveloped, privately owned parcel of land left along the Niagara River. It includes high-quality habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife, and it supports endangered and threatened species of plants and animals, such as lake sturgeon and bald eagles. The property also is home to significant Native American, War of 1812 and Franciscan history.
The Western New York Land Conservancy, a regional, not-for-profit trust, works to permanently protect local lands with significant value for future generations. It views the Stella Niagara Preserve property as one of the most important natural and cultural resources in the region.
Challenge gift donors Pamela and Joe Priest of Lewiston presented the $200,000. When matched by donations from the local community, the project's fundraising goal will be met.
"We couldn't have asked for a more personally fulfilling cause to support than the Stella Niagara Preserve project," Pamela and Joe Priest said. "Our family drives by its location on Lower River Road almost daily and enjoys the pastoral scenery it provides when boating on the Niagara River in the summer. The Stella Niagara Preserve is especially meaningful to us, because our children both graduated from the adjacent Stella Niagara Education Park."
"The Stella Niagara Preserve project continues the tradition of stewardship and protection of the environment that the Sisters of St. Francis have shepherded for over 100 years and we are honored to be part of it," the couple said.
The total cost of creating the Stella Niagara Preserve is just over $3.2 million, and includes purchasing the shoreline parcel from the Sisters of St. Francis, opening it to public access with walking trails, fishing, and kayak access, restoring wildlife habitat and maintaining the preserve in perpetuity. The proceeds from the sale of the property, amounting to $2.25 million, will help the Sisters of St. Francis sustain their programs for youth and women, including their elementary school, their educational programs to academically struggling, low-income youth in Niagara Falls, and a respite program for low-income single mothers, grandmothers raising grandchildren, and women with cancer.
"I am delighted to see so much support for this wonderful project," said Sister Mary Serbacki, a member of both the Sisters of St. Francis and Friends of the Stella Niagara Preserve. "The Stella Niagara Preserve property is an important part of who we are - both as Franciscan sisters and as part of the greater Lewiston community. We have every confidence that the Land Conservancy will be great stewards of this land and its heritage."
The Town of Lewiston also is involved in assisting the Stella Niagara Preserve project financially.
"By protecting our natural and cultural heritage, the Stella Niagara Preserve will have positive impacts on our environment and quality of life, and will also have tremendous economic benefits," Town of Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey said. "The preserve promises to attract tourists, outdoor recreationists and other visitors to our town."
The Town of Lewiston and the Niagara River Greenway Host Communities Standing Committee recently committed $150,000 of the town's recreation/tourism fund toward the Stella Niagara Preserve. This funding will be allocated over three years in support of the preserve's stewardship fund, allowing the Land Conservancy to operate and maintain the preserve without burdening taxpayers with annual costs.
At this point, the Land Conservancy remains $200,000 shy of matching the challenge gift from Pamela and Joe Priest and is enlisting the community's support.
"We still need $200,000 to match the challenge gift," said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Land Conservancy. "The Stella Niagara Preserve is our most ambitious project ever, and the outpouring of support from the entire community has been phenomenal. It is critical that local donors - residents, businesses and foundations alike - step up and donate before June 1 of this year to help create the Stella Niagara Preserve."
All donations to the Stella Niagara Preserve are tax-deductible. Donations can be made on the Land Conservancy's website, www.wnylc.org, or by sending a check made payable to the "Western New York Land Conservancy" to P.O. Box 471, East Aurora, NY 14052.
Donations of all amounts are welcome. There are several naming opportunities for donors who contribute $10,000 or more.
For more information on this project, contact Smith at 716-687-1225 or email [email protected].