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Creation of the Stella Niagara Preserve assures public access to a natural wonder

An important stretch of the Lower Niagara River is close to being dedicated to public use forever. The Western New York Land Conservancy is working on raising the money to buy a quarter-mile of riverfront property in Lewiston, an effort that should be supported by the Buffalo Niagara community.

Doing so will guarantee public access to this 29-acre piece of nature on Lower River Road while helping the sellers, the Sisters of St. Francis, which has operated a school at Stella Niagara for more than a century.

The Stella Niagara Preserve would open by late summer or early fall, but the money needs to be in place prior to purchase, anticipated by June 1.

The fundraising push is within $200,000 of its $3.27 million goal after two major contributions. Pamela and Joe Priest of Lewiston last month pledged $200,000 in a matching challenge gift. Then the committee that controls Niagara River Greenway funding in Niagara County approved $150,000, to be allocated in three annual $50,000 installments.

The purchase and opening of this property would give the public walking trails and access for fishing and launching kayaks. It would restore wildlife habitat and maintain the preserve in perpetuity.

The conservancy says that besides being a nationally designated Peace Site and part of the Niagara County Historic Trail, the site has significant ecological importance.

It includes a variety of habitats: a riparian zone, a large meadow, forest area and vernal pools. Rare plants and animals make their home on the property, which contains a globally significant bird designated area.

Continuing to develop the greenway is profoundly important for the region for both quality of life and economic reasons. At a time when other parts of the country face dire water shortages, we sometimes take for granted our amazing natural resource. We should take every opportunity possible to enhance water quality and create more public access.

Improvements to the greenway will enhance tourism and the economy, giving people coming here to visit Niagara Falls more destinations to visit along the Niagara River.

The site of the Stella Niagara Preserve is one of the largest remaining undeveloped privately owned sites along the Niagara River. The purchase of this riverfront property will have major public benefits and is exactly how Niagara River Greenway funds were intended to be used.