Nationally known landscape architect to redesign Lewiston nature site

Jun 5, 2015

The Stella Niagara Preserve sits on the shore of the Niagara River. It's the largest plot of undeveloped land along the waterway.
Credit Western New York Land Conservancy

The future of the Stella Niagara Preserve is safe in the hands of its new owner. The Western New York Land Conservancy will go ahead with plans to maintain the 29-acre site on the Niagara River in Lewsiton, which is home to a mix of history, nature, and culture.

Western New York Land Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Smith said a fundraising goal of nearly $3.3 million to make the purchase was surpassed.

“We’ve actually set a new target of $3.8 million and that includes some additional funding for our stewardship fund and to enhance the restoration effort,” said Smith. “That’s part of what allowed us to be able to call up Darrel Morrison within a couple of weeks of owning the property and ask him if he was interested in getting involved.”

Darrel Morrison is a nationally renowned landscape architect who specializes in ecological restoration and natural design. He and the Land Conservancy will take part a public engagement process to decide how to proceed with restoration of the site.

A chapel is located on the grounds of the Stella Niagara Preserve
Credit Western New York Land Conservancy

Morrison says it’s always exciting to restore biodiversity to a place like Stella Niagara. He says our history of settlement, agriculture, and suburbanization, generally moves nature in one direction.

“That would be to diminish the natural diversity that occurred, so we get down to a very simplified and, oftentimes, not very functional landscape,” said Morrison.

Stella Niagara is not the epitome of that kind of outcome, but it still has the potential for returning to its roots.

“And so if we can delve into it and determine what would be a natural species combination or a group of plant communities, than we can begin to reverse that direction,” Morrison said.

His goal is to restore prairie grassland and a savannah landscape to a major portion of the site. He says he hopes a feeling of tranquility and peace will come over visitors, in an area that will change dramatically throughout the seasons.

Smith and the Land Conservancy hope the site, along with Morrison’s design, will capture the imagination of the community and inspire its residents to invite nature into their own back yards. She says she already has.

A kayak launch will be part of the recreational appeal of the Stella Niagara Preserve.
Credit Western New York Land Conservancy

“I have a very small village yard, but I have a prairie that’s providing benefits to butterflies and to birds that are in my yard. So if every resident does that, and if we do that with our municipally owned properties and even our businesses, the benefit for wildlife is profound.”

The Stella Niagara Preserve will be open to the public later this summer.