LEWISTON, N.Y. (WKBW) - Dozens of acres of land are being added to the Niagara River Greenway. For the first time, the Stella Niagara Preserve's trailways will be open to the public.
The 29-acres of land are filled with a meadow, trails and a gorgeous view of the Niagara River. The Stella Niagara Preserve is also known for its wildlife and birds that migrate through.
"It's designated in that capacity," explained Nancy Smith with the Western New York Land Conservancy. "So it's as important as the Everglades or Yellowstone from the perspective of wildlife habitat."
Stella Niagara is historical as well. A landing at the bottom of the hill peeks out over the Niagara River. It's where the British landed before capturing Fort Niagara in the War of 1812. Today it's known as a spot to launch kayaks and canoes, as well as a great place to fish.
Since the early 20th Century, the land has been owned by the Sisters of Saint Francis. The Sisters only recently sold it to the Western New York Land Conservancy.
Beautiful artwork, some of it inspired by history, is also intertwined into nature.
The Grotto represents a religious statue. The Peace Shrine was built to mourn President John F. Kennedy. Early in the Sister's ownership of the land, a chapel was built as well.
"They've owned the land since 1907, and since that time the Tiny Chapel was built and sgraffito artwork was constructed inside," Smith explained.
The artwork inside even shows a reminder to the historic ice jam that flooded and destroyed surrounding buildings in 1955 - but the Tiny Chapel withstood the phenomenon. Some consider this a miracle.
The trailways officially open to the public on Tuesday afternoon.
The WNY Land Conservancy is also hiring Darrel Morrison, an ecologically focused landscape architect to refine the meadow. The new owners plan to eliminate any foreign plants. Morrison is expected to look at the climate and soils in the area to determine what was at the Stella Niagara Preserve before people intervened.
Hoping to get feedback from the community, the new owners also plan to hold a public meeting about the preserve's future.
The school run by the Sisters of Saint Francis, which has had access to the preserve throughout the years, will remain in operation.
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