“President and Mrs. Reagan have announced that the Reagan ranch in Santa Barbara has been listed for sale,” stated a 1996 press release from his office. It went on to read, “Sadly, since President Reagan’s illness, it hasn’t been used.”
A seemingly sad ending for the place that that once served as the “Western White House” and brought the president so much joy. President Reagan said of his beloved mountaintop retreat, “From the first day we saw it, Rancho del Cielo cast a spell over us. No place before or since has ever given Nancy and me the joy and serenity it does.”
Once the sale of the property was announced, the future of the sprawling 688-acre property high in the Santa Ynez mountains was uncertain. Sadly, even though it was a presidential property, it drew few potential buyers. Then California Governor Pete Wilson wanted to use federal money to buy it for a state park, to be run with private money, but other government officials objected and the plan never came to pass.
That is when Young America’s Foundation president Ron Robinson and its board of directors stepped in. Robinson first thought of the idea for the Foundation to save Rancho del Cielo and enlisted James V. Lacey (former California Young Americans for Freedom member, YAF National Director, veteran of the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations, author, and lawyer) and Frank Donatelli (former Pennsylvania YAF State Chairman, YAF National Treasurer, Reagan administration official, lawyer, political consultant, and current member of Young America’s Foundation board of directors) to assist in negotiations to save the ranch.
It was 20 years ago this month (December 2, 1997, to be exact) that most of the Young America’s Foundation board of directors gathered at the Reagan Ranch for the first time to advance the process of saving it. Robinson recalls the day they took the trip up the long, winding road to the ranch “was wet, cold, and miserable outside–but everyone who saw it said ‘yes.’” The board convened later that evening to discuss moving forward with purchasing the property to preserve it as a living monument to Ronald Reagan and to pass his ideas to future generations. The rest, as they say, is history.
Twenty years, a “schoolhouse for Reaganism” at the Reagan Ranch center in downtown Santa Barbara, and thousands of students later, Ronald Reagan’s memory, values, and accomplishments are alive and well at Rancho del Cielo.
Young America’s Foundation is poised to carry on its mission of ensuring that increasing numbers of young Americans understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values for many years to come with the help of President Reagan’s “most favorite spot on earth.”