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Challenge Gift to Help Create the Stella Niagara Preserve Will Match New Donations Dollar for Dollar | Community Spirit

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Challenge Gift to Help Create the Stella Niagara Preserve Will Match New Donations Dollar for Dollar
Challenge Gift to Help Create the Stella Niagara Preserve Will Match New Donations Dollar for Dollar


The Western New York Land Conservancy and the Friends of the Stella Niagara Preserve announced that they received a $200,000 challenge gift from a local couple, Pamela and Joe Priest, to help create the Stella Niagara Preserve, a new nature preserve on the Niagara River in Lewiston. When this $200,000 challenge gift is matched by the Buffalo-Niagara community, the project’s fundraising goal will have been met. The Land Conservancy is now asking residents, businesses and foundations to donate and match this challenge gift by June 1, 2015, in order to complete the project on time and open the preserve to the public later this year. 

The total cost of creating the Stella Niagara Preserve is just over $3.2 million and includes purchasing a 29-acre 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. Proceeds from the sale of the property, amounting to $2.25 million, will help the Sisters sustain their programs for youth and women, including their elementary school; 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. 

Pamela and Joe Priest, the challenge gift donors, said, "We couldn't have asked for a more personally fulfilling cause to support than the Stella Niagara Preserve project. 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. Our daughter continues to be educated by the Sisters of St. Francis at the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart. 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 Stella Niagara Preserve property is one of the most important natural and cultural resources in our region. At 29 acres and with a quarter-mile of shoreline, the property is the largest undeveloped, privately owned parcel of land left along the entire Niagara River. The property 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 is also home to significant Native American, War of 1812 and Franciscan history. 

Sister Mary Serbacki, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis – the current property owners – and a member of the Friends of the Stella Niagara Preserve, said, "I am delighted to see so much support for this wonderful project. 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."

Dennis Brochey, supervisor of the Town of Lewiston, said, “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. 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 Greenway Recreation/Tourism Fund towards 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 local taxpayers with annual costs. 

“We still need $200,000 to match the challenge gift,” said Nancy Smith, executive director of the Land Conservancy. She added, “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 helpful, and there are several different naming opportunities for donors who contribute $10,000 or more. For questions, please contact the Land Conservancy by calling Executive Director Nancy Smith at (716) 687-1225 or emailing her at nancyrs@wnylc.org. Please join this effort and make the Stella Niagara Preserve a part of your legacy!

The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for future generations. The Land Conservancy envisions a future in which working lands, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty are cherished and protected as part of the landscape and character of Western New York. The Land Conservancy is one of 1,700 land trusts nationwide, including 90 in New York State. Land trusts have protected 40 million acres over the last 20 years. For more information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities or the mission of the Western New York Land Conservancy, please call (716) 687-1225 or visit www.wnylc.org.


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