Tranquil site in Aurora to be preserved

Sep 26, 2016

A picturesque site in Aurora will be preserved following a successful fundraising effort that was given a huge boost by a local family.

Credit Western New York Land Conservancy

Don and Barbara Owens are neighbors of Jackson Falls Preserve. Their kids spend time exploring the beautiful creeks, forests and waterfalls. Don, founder of Elma-based Earth Dimensions, Inc., is a long-time environmentalist and supporter of the Western New York Land Conservancy.

When the Owens discovered the site could be lost to development, they contributed $200,000 to preserving it. The huge donation helped advocates to meet a $600,000 goal by October 31. The Conservancy will now purchase and preserve the site.

“It was so much fun to announce this contribution at our 25th anniversary gala on Wednesday night,” Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Smith told WBFO. “Don stood up, and the entire room rose to celebrate his contribution. There was a standing ovation of almost 300 people clapping to celebrate this very, very generous gift.”

In honor of the donation, the site has been renamed Owens Falls Sanctuary.

Credit Western New York Land Conservancy

The tranquil site has ties to the historic Roycroft movement. Roycrofter Cecil Jackson bought the property in the 1920s. It stayed in the family until his thre grandsons wanted to preserve the land, but were not in the position to donate it. Smith said it has other Roycroft ties.

“There’s a little cabin across the street on Majors Park that was visited by Elbert Hubbard. So, we are certain that Elbert Hubbard also spent time in these forests and I’m sure was as inspired by them as I have been visiting it over the last, you know, year that we’ve been working on this project.”

Owens Falls Sanctuary is important for other reasons as well, Smith said. She noted that the sanctuary includes vernal pools, which are vital to ecosystems, and it’s an important breeding ground for some birds and other wildlife.

“The quality of the habitat here is very high,” Smith said. “So, it’s a hemlock, beech, yellow birch, oak forest with magnificent ferns and wildflowers, more so than many of the other natural places. So it’s the quality of the habitat, the importance to water quality and the Roycroft history. It just has so many features.”