Stella Niagara Nature Preserve Nears Fundraising Goal

If the remaining $300,000 is collected prior to the June 1 deadline, the preserve will be on schedule to open later this year.

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

The Western New Land Conservancy has reached 90 percent of its $3.2 million funding goal for the establishment of a nature preserve along the Stella Niagara riverfront property. The conservancy announced last week that a $25,000 donation came in from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, just a few days after a $10,000 donation was received from the M&T Charitable Foundation. That puts the organization at $2.9 million in total fundraising for the 29-acre Stella Niagara Preserve.

"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," said Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president and CEO of the foundation. The support arrived at a "critical time," according to the conservancy, which is currently seeking to match a $200,000 challenge gift from Pamela and Joe Priest. If achieved, the organization will have met its funding goal.

Representatives of the conservancy emphasized the swiftly approaching June 1 deadline for donations, as vital grants are set to expire if the funding goal is not reached in the next few weeks. If the remaining $300,000 is collected prior to the deadline, the preserve will be on schedule to open later this year.

"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," Smith added.

The preserve is slated to offer residents free, year-round access to the largest undeveloped, privately owned parcel left on the Niagara River. According to the conservancy, the property boasts cultural connections as a home to Native Americans, as a landing point for the British during the War of 1812, as the home of the "little chapel" that made headlines in the 1950s for surviving a devastating ice jam, and as a place of meditation for the Franciscan sisters of Stella Niagara, who served as stewards of the property until it was sold to the conservancy.

Visitors to the site will have an opportunity to witness many threatened plant and animal species, flocks of birds that use the Niagara Gorge, an internationally designated "Important Bird Area," and as a migration route and riverfront access to the water, a rarity along the steep crevasse. According to a press release distributed by the conservancy, the organization sees the preserve's establishment as a "catalyst" for the unrealized Niagara River Greenway, a "necklace of parks and open spaces along the length of the Niagara River envisioned by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr."

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