Conservationists receive another $8-million boost from state legislators for Banning Ranch acquisition

The Banning Ranch, located along Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach has been used as a working oil field since 1934.
Another $8 million was given by California legislators to acquiring Banning Ranch, a 384-acre property along Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach that has been used as a working oil field since 1934.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Conservationists are now at the $72-million mark of their $97-million goal to acquire Banning Ranch, a 384-acre property at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, and turn the oil field into a public park.

The Trust for Public Land announced Monday that state legislators allocated $8 million to be put toward the purchase of the property. Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) said in a Facebook post that she was “thrilled” to have secured the allocation in this year’s upcoming state budget.

The budget is now on its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign prior to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

“Forever protecting Banning Ranch is a one-in-a-generation opportunity,” said Petrie-Norris in a prepared statement.

“This project will restore vital coastal wetlands, provide unparalleled coastal access for surrounding underserved communities and preserve this jewel for all Southern Californians to enjoy,” she said.

The Trust for Public Land secured an exclusive agreement with the property holders of Banning Ranch in May after Newport Beach philanthropists Frank and Joann Randall donated $50 million to the Banning Ranch Conservancy in 2019.

As part of that agreement, the organization needs to raise the total funds needed to purchase the land by next April. Upon doing so, the land would then be conveyed to a public agency to be turned into and maintained as a public park. Efforts to protect the land dates back decades, according to the Banning Ranch Conservancy.

The Trust for Public Land also recently received a $8-million grant from the California Fish and Wildlife Department.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit said that the organization now has $22 million in public funds recommended, awarded or in the state budget and is currently working with other funders to bridge the remaining gap. At least $11 million is still being sought after in pending federal grant requests.

“Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris and Senator Min, as well as the governor and members of his administration deserve the gratitude of all Californians for their vision and hard work,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, the state director for The Trust for Public Land in a statement. “Reducing oil operations and putting Banning Ranch in public hands is a legacy issue for California, one that will provide park equity and coastal access to millions in the region.”

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