2 The Outdoors: Natural, Historic Stella Niagara

LEWISTON, NY- "John Muir has said that in every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks, and I think that is especially true in a place like Stella Niagara."

It seems to be a constant in life, that when people come together for the common good, when they strive to rise above the mundane, great things become reality. That is exactly what is happening these days at Stella Niagara in Lewiston.

The Western New York Land Conservancy is currently in the process of raising funds to purchase 29 acres of pristine land along the lower Niagara River, with the intent to make it a preserve that will be open to the public.

But they couldn't even begin to do it without the support of the current owners, the Sisters of St. Francis. The sisters have been stewards of this beautiful property for over 100 years, but have recently been looking to sell the land.

Their cooperation with the Land Conservancy seems like a match made in heaven, says Sister Diane Gianadda of The Sisters of St. Francis. "The Western New York Land Conservancy came to us at a time when we were wondering, What shall we do? So, in some ways, our prayers to God, to say help us to know what to do, are always answered through people."

Nancy Smith, Executive Director of The WNY Land Conservancy, agrees. "This property is amazing ! It's important from a number of different perspectives, for the economy , our ecology, this property has cultural and historic importance, and I think that the most important thing is it's beauty and it's opportunity to have the broader public have access to this incredibly beautiful place. "

The acquisition of the land is the largest undertaking yet for the Conservancy. Although much of the funding is in place, Jajean Rose-Burney of The Land Conservancy says they still need a guardian angel to come through to complete the purchase.

"We've raised more than $2.3 million, and a lot of that has come from Greenway funding, but we've also started having individual private donors just sending us checks and we have to protect Stella Niagara. We've had foundation support already, but we are about $800,000 away from being able to celebrate success, and say this is a protected preserve and it's open to the public, and we think we'll be able to do that in a year ."

Once the deal is sealed, all of Western New York will be able to enjoy one of the last undeveloped tracts of land along the Niagara, a land with diverse habitat and wildlife ... and one that radiates peace and tranquility.

"When you come here," says Rose-Burney," You can sit on the Niagara River, the lower Niagara River. It's wide, it's blue, it's calm, there's birds, there's trees, it's quiet, it's just a really calming, fantastic place to be."

It's a fitting homage to St. Francis, the sisters' patron saint, and the Conservancy intends to continue the work the sisters have so ably carried on for so many years.

"St. Francis was a saint who believed that God spoke through the beauty of nature, among other things," says Sister Diane. "He's considered the patron saint of ecology, and (he) also believed that all God's gifts are meant to be shared by all people."

Smith tells 2 The Outdoors: " We want to honor their stewardship of the land, and St. Francis of Assisi and the tenets that he cared about will be reflected in the way that we steward the land."


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