STELLA NIAGARA PRESERVE
With 29-acres and over a quarter-mile of shoreline, the Stella Niagara Preserve is the largest privately-owned, undeveloped tract of land along the entire length of the Niagara River. Stella is incredibly scenic and is one of our region’s most ecologically and historically important places. The preserve is located on the Niagara River along Lower River Road in Lewiston just north of Niagara Falls and sits across from the Stella Niagara Education Park and Center of Renewal.
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 has been an important canoe landing site for the Haudenosaunee who use 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 numerous sgraffito-style murals by Józef Sławiński, a renowned Polish artist.
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 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.
The Land Conservancy prepared a Vision Plan to guide our landscape restoration design and the ongoing stewardship and maintenance of the Stella Niagara Preserve. The plan has guided our decisions about public access, activities, programming, and collaborations at the Preserve.
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 project also received hundreds of individual donations from the community. In February of 2015, Lewiston residents Pamela and Joe Priest gave an amazing $200,000 challenge gift, which was met in May 2015.
Support for Stella
In May 2015, we surpassed the $3.27 million needed to create and care for the preserve. We received generous support from the Niagara Relicensing Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund ($1,853,487), the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee ($500,000), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the Joint Venture Habitat Protection and Restoration Program ($300,000), and the Greenway’s Town of Lewiston/Host Communities Standing Committee ($150,000).
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.