The decades-long struggle to keep dog walking at popular places like Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, and Muir Beach is nearly over. The National Park Service has released a rule to implement a new dog management plan in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and it’s even worse than previous versions.
The Park Serivce is taking public comment on this proposed rule until May 25. This is your last chance to argue against its proposed restrictions on people with dogs.
If the Park Service gets its way, there will be no off-leash dog walking anywhere on GGNRA land in San Mateo County. The only off-leash in Marin will be at Rodeo Beach. Popular Muir Beach and many currently off-leash trails will become on-leash or no dogs allowed.
In San Francisco, dogs will be banned—even on-leash— from over three-fourths of Ocean Beach and most of Fort Funston. They will be banned from the East Beach at Crissy Field. There will still be off-leash areas in San Francisco, but their size will be cut by over 50 percent.
Maddeningly, Park Service staff cannot cite any solid, scientific evidence that dogs have caused significant impacts on the environment or other visitors at any site in the GGNRA. Instead, the changes seem based primarily on anecdotes, prejudice, and staff preferences.
Over the last five years, the Park Service has released two versions of a dog management plan that included similar cuts. In each case, public comment was overwhelmingly opposed to the restrictions. The boards of supervisors of all three counties with GGNRA land—Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo—are on record as opposing the plan, largely because of their concerns the plan will force more people into much smaller city parks.
Yet when the Park Service released the draft rule in February, it included even more restrictions. Park rangers and park police will be able to demand proof of rabies vaccinations, dog licenses, and a demonstration of immediate recall (if the dog is off-leash) from anyone, even if the dog is well behaved. The Park Service has budgeted $2.6 million to hire personnel to enforce the new restrictions, setting the stage for repeated, unpleasant interactions with people walking dogs, including those that meet all the requirements.
In addition, the Park Service wants even more restrictions on people walking from four to six dogs. They’ll be banned entirely from Ocean Beach, and they’ll be banned everywhere in the GGNRA in the evenings and on the weekend. They’ll have to get the same expensive permit as commercial dog walkers, even if they’re not professionals. These new expenses and restrictions could have a substantial negative impact on fosters and rescue groups whose volunteers often care for multiple dogs while trying to place them in forever homes.
Finally, the few places left that will allow dog walking may not be there for long. The new rule allows the GGNRA superintendent to arbitrarily impose increasing restrictions if she decides there’s not enough compliance with the new rule. Within five to 10 years, it’s plausible there could no longer be any dog walking anywhere in the GGNRA.
Keep in mind that people have only ever been able to walk with dogs, either on- or off-leash on just 1 percent of GGNRA land. Now that will be cut by at least half (and by 90 percent with respect to off-leash access).
The restrictions have come as the Park Service shifted management priorities for the GGNRA away from recreation. It prefers to manage this highly modified, urban recreation area the same way it would manage a remote, pristine wilderness. That’s just absurd.
It’s crucial that all who support dog walking in the GGNRA send in a comment on this draconian rule. If we remain united in opposition to these new restrictions, we will prevail.
What You Can Do
Make a comment. For more information on the rule and suggested comments, go to SFDog.org or CrissyFieldDog.org. To comment before May 25, VISIT: www.Regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NPS-2016-0002-0001
Send mail to: General Superintendent, GGNRA, Attn: Dog Management Proposed Rule, Fort Mason, Building 201, San Francisco, CA 94123
Sign the Petition: Don’t Let NPS Restrict Access to the GGNRA: tinyurl.com/2016DogPetition
Sally Stephens is the current chairwoman of the San Francisco Dog Owners Group.
Main article photo by: GOGA-Park-Archives-CC