Banning Ranch development foes protest at Land Trust event

A group of people opposed to a plan to develop part of Banning Ranch in Newport Beach protested near an April 16 event in Costa Mesa organized by the Newport Banning Land Trust.

The Land Trust, which serves as a steward for more than 230 acres of the Banning Ranch property, co-presented an Earth Day-related Teens Give Back event for the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Department at Fairview Park. Seventh- through 12th-graders were invited to participate in creating a native demonstration garden at the park as part of a program the trust said focuses on restoration and habitat maintenance.

The small group of protesters held signs with messages such as “Don’t be fooled — Newport Banning Land Trust is a tool for Shell and ExxonMobil.”

Arlis Reynolds, a protest organizer, said the protesters were members of Greenpeace Orange County and Greenpeace USA.

“While we completely agree with the values of educating children about nature and creating opportunities to connect with nature, we believe the developer, NBR [Newport Banning Ranch], has created the NBLT solely to facilitate approval of their development project, and we disapprove of their use of city staff and children for their propaganda,” Reynolds said in an email. “We believe NBLT is misleading the community and our children about its role in the sacrifice and development of precious open space.”

Robyn Vettraino, executive director of the Land Trust, said earlier this month that such events, including an April 12 Earth Day commemoration for fourth-graders held at the trust’s office in Costa Mesa, promote “community involvement in our restoration and long-term stewardship.”

“So getting kids involved at a young age is a great way to engage them for the long term but also bring the experience home for their family and friends to hear about,” Vettraino said.

Newport Banning Ranch LLC is looking to build homes, retail space and a boutique hotel on a portion of the 401-acre property next to the Santa Ana River and across Coast Highway from the ocean. Banning Ranch is one of the largest remaining undeveloped areas in Orange County.