Thursday, January 13, 2011
GGNRA Hellbent On Elimination Off-Leash Recreation On Bay Area Beaches
The following article appears in today's San Francisco Chronicle.
Another prolonged fight for our rights is underway with the despots who would ban our dogs (particularly our water rescue dogs) from the beaches and waters.
Thursday, January 13, 2011 (SF Chronicle)
Federal Plan Would Ban, LeashDdogs In Many Parks
(Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer)
"Dog owners in the Bay Area will get their chance Friday to chew over a
voluminous management plan for man's best friend on Golden Gate National
Recreation Area land - a proposal that would require dogs to be leashed in
many areas where they once ran free and would ban them entirely from other
The preferred alternative outlined in the new 2,400-page document says
park officials should keep dogs out of parts of San Francisco's Crissy
Field, Ocean Beach and Fort Funston. They would be banned entirely at Muir
Beach, a decades-old hound haven in Marin County.
The exhaustive plan, which at 14.7 pounds weighs twice as much as a
Chihuahua, was deemed necessary in large part because past efforts to
restrict off-leash dogs infuriated pet owners, who say there is no way to
give a canine adequate exercise on a leash.
Protests, civil disobedience and court challenges ensued, and at one point
San Francisco supervisors threatened to take back parklands from the
federal government if off-leash rights were revoked.
Leash laws were eventually implemented on portions of Ocean Beach under an
emergency order to protect the snowy plover, a federally protected bird,
but a 2005 U.S. District Court decision prohibited controversial changes
in the recreation area's 1979 pet policy unless the park completed a
lengthy public rule-making process. Balancing needs of users
Frank Dean, the superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation
Area, said the proposal is an attempt to balance the needs of all the
users while protecting natural and historic resources.
"The status quo is not really tenable," Dean said. "It's confusing where
you can go with your dog, and some people are not comfortable with dogs.
... Our goal here is to bring some clarity to it. It will remain the only
national park where you can take your dog off-leash."
The combination dog management plan and draft environmental report
analyzes five alternatives for dog walking in 21 areas of the 75,000-acre
park, which encompasses parts of San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin
Dean said the goal of the draft plan is to come up with a policy that is
fair to everybody, but many canine fanciers have long been skeptical. They
believe the recreation area simply wants to rescind the 1979 policy, which
set aside about 1 percent of the park for people to romp free with their
furry friends. No day at the beach.
The recreation area's preferred alternative is likely to curl a few more
lips, particularly in San Francisco and Marin.
Among other things, the plan would prohibit dogs on or off-leash at East
Beach, the most popular off-leash area at Crissy Field. The wildlife
protection area and tidal marsh at Crissy Field also would be off-limits
to dogs. Off-leash dogs would be allowed on Central Beach, a long section
of beach just west of the artificial tidal inlet, and in the central
grassy portion of the Crissy Air Field, according to the proposal. Ocean
Beach, Fort Funston
On Ocean Beach, off-leash dog walking would be allowed only north of
Stairwell 21, which is closest to the Cliff House. No dogs at all would be
allowed south of that area on the beach.
Fort Funston dog walkers would be limited to unleashing their pets south
of the beach access trail and north of the main parking lot. Battery
Davis, the Sunset and Horse trails and the bluffs overlooking the beach
would be off-limits. The parking lot, sand ladder and other trails would
require dogs to be on leashes.
All off-leash areas in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area would
require dog owners to have their pets under voice control.
The proposed ban at Muir Beach is sure to upset Marin County dog owners,
who have been among the most frequent beach visitors for 40 years,
especially on cold, windy and foggy days. The most galling aspect for the
dog-owning beachgoers is bound to be the fact that many of them supported
the restoration of the adjacent Redwood Creek tidal lagoon, which is now
being used as the primary reason for banning their four-legged companions.
Dog lovers in Marin won't be getting any breaks elsewhere if the park's
preferred alternative is selected: Of the six Marin County portions of the
national parkland where dogs currently run off-leash, including numerous
trails, only two would still permit off-leash dogs. Large increase in
Rover would still be allowed unleashed on the largest part of Rodeo Beach
in the Marin headlands, but not on the narrow southern portion, or South
Rodeo Beach. Oakwood Valley, which is often crowded with dog walkers,
would still allow unrestrained pooches, but only on a fire trail. The
lower section of Oakwood Valley Trail, which is used by dog walkers to
complete a hiking loop, would prohibit all dogs. The trail up to the ridge
that connects to Alta Trail would require leashes.
Most areas in the Peninsula would continue to require leashes, but the
proposal would prohibit all dogs on Sweeney Ridge.
The dog issue is a hot topic at least in part because of a dramatic
increase in the number of people visiting the recreation area over the
past two decades. As complaints about dogs and poop increased, bird lovers
started campaigning against what they called "domesticated predators."
Some conservationists say dogs trample native vegetation and disturb many
of the 75 protected species that live in or are dependent on the
recreation area for migration.
Stephen Sayad, who successfully fought a ticket for walking his dog
off-leash and is a member of the San Francisco Dog Owners Group, said
former San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto deeded Ocean Beach, among other
areas, for use only as recreation areas. Reversion provisions that would
allow the city to reclaim the beach were included, he said, in case the
Golden Gate National Recreation Area tried to block such recreation,
presumably including dog walking.
"Rest assured that a reversion action will be brought upon the first hint
by the GGNRA of any change," Sayad wrote in a recent e-mail.
The dog management plan will undergo a 90-day public comment period
starting Jan. 14. A final decision is not expected until 2012.
Public hearings on plan
See the plan or comment beginning Friday at parkplanning.nps.gov/dogplan."