Banning Ranch conservation effort wins Fish & Wildlife Grant

Efforts to create a beachfront oasis and public park on the mouth of the Santa Ana River took a major stride forward when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced an $8 million grant for purchase of Banning Ranch.

“The dream of converting Banning Ranch into a public park has been around for decades, and is now getting closer and closer to reality,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, California state director at The Trust For Public Land. “We see this grant as a giant vote of confidence for the future of Banning Ranch and a recognition of its benefits to the regional community.”

Banning Ranch is a 400-acre working oilfield on the mouth of the Santa Ana River. The Trust for Public Land recently entered into an exclusive agreement with the owner to purchase the property, a critical step made possible by a $50 million contribution from local philanthropists Frank and Joann Randall.

The Trust for Public Land has until next April to raise $100 million to purchase the land, which would then be conveyed to a public agency to develop and manage it as a public park.

“This grant adds $8 million toward our goal, and we are deeply grateful to the Department of Fish and Wildlife staff and director Chuck Bonham,” said Rodriguez. “That’s a big step, but we still have a long ways to go to climb this mountain and a limited time to reach the top.”

The grant comes from California’s Proposition 1, which funds projects that improve water supply reliability, restore important habitat and species, and build more resilient, sustainably managed water systems. Besides its potential recreation value, Banning Ranch is habitat for endangered species and will host more wildlife as the Santa Ana estuary and wetlands are restored.

“The potential benefits of conserving Banning Ranch as a park and nature preserve are outstanding and widespread,” said Nancy Gardner, president of Orange County River Park and former Newport Beach city council member. “Many people will enjoy Banning Ranch in the near future, but the real payoff will come for generations in the future. It’s exciting to see the vision get one step closer to reality.”

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