NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Environmentalists received the final funding needed Thursday to purchase the 384-acre Banning Ranch oilfield as part of an effort to restore the land as an open-air park.
The state Wildlife Conservation Board has awarded up to $15.5 million in grants to nonprofit groups Trust for Public Land and Banning Ranch Conservancy for the $97 million purchase of Banning Ranch .
The Newport Beach property is considered one of the last private lands along the Southern California coastline, and conservationists have spent nearly 20 years lobbying for its preservation.
Conservationists said Banning Ranch has “open space potential” with the possibility of restoring its coastal wetlands and creating a park.
Guillermo Rodriguez, the state of California director for Trust for Public Land, called the grant a “significant moment in the decades-long community struggle” to close the park access equity gap in southern California. California.
“We’re thrilled to give residents the opportunity to realize a dream of what Banning Ranch can be and to work alongside them to bring their vision to life,” Rodriguez said.
Trust for Public Land and Banning Ranch Conservancy said it spent several years securing public and private funding to purchase the land, including an $11.5 million grant earlier this month from the Coastal Conservancy of California.
A $50 million donation in 2021 from Newport Beach philanthropists Frank and Joann Randall helped Trust for Public Land secure a deal to buy Banning Ranch.
“It was a team effort and we kept our eyes on the prize,” said Terry Welsh, president of Banning Ranch Conservancy. “This is a historic moment for our coastline, and for nature and park lovers everywhere.”
The next step in conservation efforts will be to draft a plan to clean up Banning Ranch and remove oil facilities and infrastructure, the nonprofits said.