State Agency Grants $11.5 Million for Buying Coastal Wetland in Newport Beach

By Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis
Drew Van Voorhis is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. He has been a journalist for six years, during which time he has broken several viral national news stories and has been interviewed for his work on both radio and internet shows.
May 10, 2022 Updated: May 11, 2022

An effort to purchase and preserve a 401-acre wetland in Newport Beach, California, received major help after state coastal agency officials unanimously approved millions of dollars of funding for the cause on May 5.

The Trust for Public Land—a nonprofit organization advocating for preservation of parks and open spaces—will be receiving up to $11.5 million from the Coastal Conservancy, a state agency that aims to preserve natural lands and waterways, to help complete the purchase of Banning Ranch, located in Newport Beach by the Santa Ana River.

The nonprofit wants to help keep the park from being developed like many other areas of the Orange County coastline, with hopes to transform the wetland into a coastal park.

“Today’s unanimous decision by the California Coastal Conservancy to support up to $11.5 million in funding for this acquisition brings us one step closer to this decades-long goal,” Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said in a statement.

Epoch Times Photo
Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley speaks on the opening day of a coronavirus vaccination site at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Calif., on March 31, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Banning Ranch is the largest private open space on the coast of Southern California, with its value at $96 million, a steep amount the Trust has to raise in order to purchase it.

Foley said the property can become an enjoyable community open space that preserves “ancestral homelands of local tribal communities” and protects “many sensitive, threatened, and endangered plant and animal communities along with providing coastal park access for several disadvantaged and socially vulnerable communities.”

She described the purchase as “within reach” after a historic gift from Newport Beach Philanthropists Frank and Joann Randall, who in 2019 donated $50 million to support the effort.

The extra help from the Coastal Conservancy went a long way for Banning Ranch conservationists, who say the ranch needs to be protected. The conservancy unanimously approved the funding.

The proposed park will be able to service over 8.4 million residents that live within an hour’s drive of the park. Of those 8.4 million residents, one-third of them live in park-deficient communities.

The area is described by the nonprofit as a “biologically diverse mix of coastal wetlands, riparian woodlands, coastal bluff sagescrub, grassland, vernal pools and rare species habitat.”

At least six endangered wildlife species have been found there, including the San Diego Fairy Shrimp, Light-footed Clapper Rail, American Peregrine Falcon, Least Bell’s Vireo, California Gnatcatcher, and Belding’s Savannah Sparrow.

Drew Van Voorhis is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. He has been a journalist for six years, during which time he has broken several viral national news stories and has been interviewed for his work on both radio and internet shows.