Off-leash News and Views, September 2011


As our regular readers know, Bay Woof champions canine-friendly causes – such as the rehabilitation of mistreated Pit Bulls and adoption (rather than buying a puppy) as the most conscientious way to add a new member to your pack. When it comes to off-leash recreation, we are firmly in the camp of more, please, not less.

Having plenty of places to exercise our dogs off leash is not something we can take for granted. Dog rules on public lands are created and continually revised by government agencies, advocacy groups on both sides, and regular people who decide to take matters into their own hands. Having a dog requires us to be engaged and active. Occasionally we ask local dog lovers in the know to update us on important dog matters in the greater Bay Area. Read on to learn all you need to know about what’s up for playful pups in San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz. If you want to see your location included in a future Rover Report, please contact



GGNRA and Dolores Park DPA Updates

By Sally Stephens, Founder San Francisco Dog Owners Group

GGNRA: The public comment period for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s (GGNRA) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a Dog Management Plan ended on May 30th. The DEIS’ Preferred Alternative called for reducing the amount of space available for off-leash recreation by roughly 90% in places such as Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, Crissy Field, and Marin County. Indeed, many areas that are currently off-leash in those places would become “no dogs allowed,” even on-leash. The Preferred Alternative would ban any off-leash access on all GGNRA lands in San Mateo County.

The GGNRA is currently analyzing the public comments it received and deciding how to alter the proposed plan (if at all) in response to them. Unfortunately, the analysis is being done by the same GGNRA staff who have shown significant bias against off-leash recreation over the years. Many dog people doubt these staffers can objectively analyze and respond to comments that challenge their work on the plan. The GGNRA has put all the comments online at

What can you do now? Contact your Federal Elected Officials, especially Senator Dianne Feinstein, and ask them to demand that an independent entity evaluate the public comments because clearly GGNRA staff are biased against those that don’t support their Preferred Alternative.

The GGNRA expects to publish their response to the public comments early this fall.

Dolores Park: The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (RPD) has begun a major renovation of Mission Dolores Park. The Park currently has two Dog Play Areas (DPA), where well-behaved dogs can be walked off-leash. One, in the southern half of the park, is above the Children’s Playground. The other, in the northern half along Dolores St., has an L-shape that goes along Dolores (commonly referred to as “Hipster Hill”) and up a bit along the 19th St. promenade.

These two DPAs have always been shared-use, with many types of people and activities taking place in them. In particular, when pick-up games of soccer, volleyball, or badminton start up in the northern DPA, people with dogs move to the other DPA and vice-versa.

RPD is now holding public meetings to find out what the community wants for Dolores Park. Unfortunately, RPD appears to want to remove or drastically reduce the northern DPA, offering to somewhat expand the southern DPA in exchange. However, this will likely increase conflicts between people with dogs and people with children at the playground, will increase congestion in the smaller DPA, and will force people entering the park from the north to walk nearly the length of the park to reach an off-leash area.

Local advocacy group Dolores Park Dogs is working hard to retain the two shared-use DPAs that were agreed to in 2005 after years of hard work and contentious meetings. They ask that you let RPD know you want shared-use off-leash areas on both sides of Dolores Park. As of this writing, talks regarding the DPAs are continuing and seem somewhat promising. The final public meeting will be August 25 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM in the Mission High School Cafeteria. Please attend and help in whatever way you can to maintain both DPAs at Dolores Park. For updates, go to the Dolores Park DOG website:

Sally Stephens is the Chair of the San Francisco Dog Owners Group. You can read SFDOG’s response to the GGNRA DEIS on its website:



Off –Leash Access Limited by Park Districts

By Emily Rosenberg, Co-Founder Oakland Dog Owners Group

More dogs and fewer places to take them – that’s the story of a dog’s life in the East Bay. There’s nothing like the fun of finding the “right” dog park or trail for your best friend. But it isn’t easy when dogs are banned at most parks in Oakland and are forced to be on-leash in an ever-larger number of East Bay Regional Parks. There is lots happening on the parks scene right now and dog owner participation is vital to securing space to play with our dogs in the future.

There are new threats to off-leash access at the Albany Bulb area, which is owned and managed by multiple government agencies with conflicting laws and attitudes about off-leash access. The off-leash issue is still up in the air and is being carefully watched by The Albany Landfill Dog Owners Group and Friends (AL-DOG). The group will be coordinating the long, laborious process of protecting our off-leash access and can be reached at

Redwood Park is putting up more fences every few months that restrict access at the Serpentine Prairie, and very few trails at newly opened Regional Parks allow off-leash access.

This spring, the East Bay Regional Park District conducted a long survey about park use, including off-leash dog attitudes, which will likely have a significant  impact on key decision makers as they develop a new Master Plan for the park district. Dog lovers are unhappy that the survey seemed to target dog owner use with leading questions, and that it gave too much weight to survey respondents over 65, who are generally more likely to be fearful of dogs on the trails.

Oakland’s Draconian dog laws continue to ban dogs from all Oakland city parks except by City Council vote. With more than 100 parks and 1,000 acres of park space in the city park system, there are only  five acres of off-leash space. That’s why dog lovers say it’s vital to get approval for the dog park at Lake Merritt, where there are more than 12,000 apartment units nearby without backyards for dogs. The half-acre proposed dog park would create a new community gathering place in a seldom used corner of Lakeview Park at Lakeshore and MacArthur Blvd by the 580 on-ramp.

The dog park has been in the Lake Merritt Master Plan for almost a decade but still hasn’t gotten final approval from the city, and it has never received a penny of the $198 million bond issue that is funding improvements all around the Lake.

The dog park was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission in December 2010 but the next stage in the approval process was held up as opponents complained that the dog run would take away green space. Next they promoted the so-called “alternative location” at the old police stables near Fairyland. There was resistance from key people connected with Fairyland and with the wildlife at the Lake when the idea was presented at the July meeting of the Parks Commission.

Whatever happens with the Fairyland space, proponents of the original Lake Merritt dog park plan are moving ahead with efforts to get final approvals from the Planning Department and City Council.

The Lake Merritt dog park should  be on the Planning Commission agenda sometime this fall and will allow for public input from supporters and opponents. If the dog park is approved by the Commission, it will go to the City Council for a final vote. Find out more at ODOG, and Lakeview Dog, Letters of support are welcome at both sites.

Emily Rosenberg has been advocating to save off-leash trails and create dog parks since 1998. To participate in the effort contact ODOG at



Local Dog-friendly Scene

By Whitney Wilde

Santa Cruz is having a Rover renaissance… a canine comeback! After almost 40 years, the ban on dogs in Downtown Santa Cruz has been lifted and you are now welcome to visit with your pooch. My Belgian Malinois, GiGi, and I can grab a cup of fair trade organic coffee at a local cafe, enjoy al fresco dining, and browse many of the unique boutiques and antique stores together.

Look for the “Paws Welcome” sticker, letting you know which merchants welcome you with your woofer. They offer poop bags if you need one, donated by our local dog group Woofers & Walkers, to offset any financial burden to the city.

In early August, the Santa Cruz City Council approved a three-month trial period allowing dogs in Downtown from sunrise to sunset with the following guidelines:

  • Dogs must be tethered no farther than three feet from you and must be under control at all times;
  • Only one dog is allowed per leash;
  • No more than two dogs can be in the same place at one time;
  • Dogs may not be left unattended for any amount of time; and
  • Dogs must display tags for a current license and rabies vaccination.

The trial period started August 31 and, if there are no major complaints or problems, the ban will lift permanently as of November 30, 2011.

The bow wow revolution isn’t just happening Downtown. Many Santa Cruz County businesses are now rolling out the red carpet for pups and their people, and thanks to the efforts of Woofers & Walkers members, over 25 Santa Cruz County restaurants have changed their policies to welcome dogs on their patios, and a few offer dog menus.

There are now ten off-leash dog parks around Santa Cruz County. Due to budget cuts, the city stopped supplying poop bags to the parks, but Park & Rec Director Dannette Shoemaker reports that local dog owners have generously filled the dispensers with plastic bags from home.

Meder Street/University Terrace is GiGi’s favorite off-leash park because of the lovely paved trail that runs between a creek and eucalyptus grove. Want to roam the redwoods on-leash? Henry Cowell State Park has two dog-able trails and Big Basin offers a docent hike every Sunday morning led by Spock, a handsome Smooth Collie. While hiking the Old Growth Loop at Nisene-Marks, you’ll see a 1,000-year-old tree, twisted forest, fern grotto, and more.

We still have one off-leash beach, too – Mitchell’s Cove on West Cliff Drive – and most State beaches allow dogs on-leash. Ask a local about the “unofficial” off-leash beaches… nod nod, wink wink. Friends of Lighthouse Field (FOLF) is still working on getting off-leash dogs back to Lighthouse Field and Its Beach. Their recent proposal is to make a trade with State Parks: state-owned Lighthouse Field for city-owned Moore Creek. Moore Creek is larger but has lower maintenance costs.

So Santa Cruz is going to the dogs! It just goes to prove how effective dog owners can be as a consumer force in the community.

Whitney Wilde is pack leader for Woofers & Walkers, a collective of responsible dog owners who enjoy hikes and fun events with their pooches in Santa Cruz.

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