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.
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. Nationally-renowned landscape architect Darrel Morrison was recently hired 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 his plans in 2016.
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. 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.