Letter to the Editor: Banning Ranch Completes Acquisition as Public Land

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A view of the Banning Ranch property in Newport Beach. — Photo by Christopher Trela ©

In a victorious moment, a goal that has taken decades to come to fruition, the darling of the coastal preservationists, Banning Ranch, acquired $11.5 million dollars from the Coastal Conservancy last week to complete its acquisition as public land.

It had taken many years for preservationists to first gain approval by the Coastal Commission and then secondly acquire the $97 million necessary to purchase the site.

When I retired in 2008, the Banning Ranch Conservancy became the first charitable group to which I donated time and effort.

I was drawn to the cause after attending a presentation by Suzan Forster and Dorothy Kraus and consequentially meeting the President Terry Welsh, all three impressing me greatly with their knowledge of the precious attributes of Banning Ranch and their fervor for preserving it as the largest remaining private coastal parcel between Ventura County and the U.S / Mexico Border.

Many local citizens from the coastal area volunteered to make this dream come true.  They were particularly inspired by the background story of how In 1999 Terry Welsh and a partner founded a Sierra Club task force which focused solely on the future of Banning Ranch.

Through Terry’s influence and perseverance, he was able to create the separate independent non-profit Banning Ranch Conservancy in 2008. The interesting drama that unfolded includes institutions and characters such as the Coastal Commission and Commissioners, famed newspaper reporter Steve Lopez, the City of Newport Beach, and the California Supreme Court which ultimately resulted in Banning Ranch winning approval to proceed as an independent entity.

At this point all it needed to acquire were the funds to purchase the site. The rest is now history.

A view of the Banning Ranch property in Newport Beach. — Photo by Christopher Trela ©

The goal of Banning Ranch Conservancy is to refresh and repair the coastal resources which have been damaged by decades of oil production to prepare for its use as a public space. Eventually it will provide access opportunities such as trails and low-impact overnight accommodations.

Several local political figures have become involved in aiding Banning Ranch Conservancy to meet its goals: Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, Costa Mesa Council members Arlis Reynolds and Manuel Chavez, Guillermo Rodriquez (California Director for the Trust of Public Land) and Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.

One would be remiss not to mention the generous gift of $50 million dollars donated by Newport Beach philanthropists Frank and Joann Randall in 2019 to the non-profit Trust for Public Land, which helped secure an exclusive agreement with the owners of Banning Ranch for the acquisition.

Lynn Lorenz / Newport Beach

Banning Ranch / photo by Christopher Trela
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