Words by Tess Becker
Newport Beach is a small coastal city in southern California with a population just short of 85,000. It’s known for its sizeable boat-filled harbor and two piers the Newport Beach Pier and Balboa Pier. The town is also home to a former oil field along its coastal bluffs.
That oil field has just recently been purchased by a non-profit called Trust for Public Land to clean up the area and turn it into a state park.
The region, called Banning Ranch, is considered one of the last open swathes of coastal real estate in southern California and was eyed by developers for years. But conservationists and Indigenous leaders fought to keep the region free from development.
The land has been an active oil field since the 1940s but oil operations have officially stopped with the recent purchase and conservationists will get to work cleaning up the land.
“It’s surreal after years of trials and tribulations that today a nearly 400-acre property is now in public hands,” Guillermo Rodriguez, the Trust for Public Land’s state director said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to increase habitat restoration and wildlife restoration in an urban setting.”
The Trust for Public Land ended up accumulating $97 million in public and private money to purchase the land with a $50-million donation from longtime Orange County residents Frank and Joan Randall.
“For more than two decades the property has been in total and utter disrepair,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine), who helped secure state funding for the purchase. “And I think we’re on the precipice of turning it into a jewel not just for Orange County, but for all of Southern California.”