Banning Ranch is a 400 acre parcel of coastal bluffs and adjacent wetlands located in the vicinity of West Newport Beach, close to where the Santa Ana River enters the Pacific Ocean.
In 1874, Southern California financier and transportation magnate Phineas Banning (known as "The Father of the Port of Los Angeles"), acquired 4,077 acres of prime farm and ranch land located in the vicinity of the Santa Ana River for $17,500. Much of the Ranch eventually became present-day Costa Mesa.
The Ranch shifted focus in 1943 when oil was struck with the completion of Banning Well #1. Over the past 60 years, Banning Ranch has produced nearly 36 million barrels of oil.
In November 2006, Newport Beach voters approved a General Plan prioritizing the acquisition of Banning Ranch as an open space amenity for the community and the region.
What remains of Banning Ranch is just 400 acres of wetlands, coastal bluffs, and mesa situated north of Pacific Coast Highway between the Santa Ana River and Superior Ave.
Remarkably, the property has escaped the high-density development that is characteristic of most of Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, and Huntington Beach – thanks in part to its status as a working oil field.
Today Banning Ranch is the largest privately owned parcel of open space in the West Newport Beach area, and is home to southern coastal bluff scrub and vernal pool habitats, as well as protected species such the California gnatcatcher, coastal cactus wren, California least tern, Belding’s savannah sparrow and fairy shrimp.
Banning Ranch also serves as a link between publicly owned open spaces on the South (Sunset Ridge Park), West (Army Corp of Engineers and restored wetlands which include Semeniuk Slough) and North (Talbert Nature Preserve). In an era where nearly all remaining privately owned coastal open space in Orange County is being developed, Banning Ranch is truly a gem worth preserving.
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