Monday, January 24, 2011
Shedding Light on M. Bruce Grosjean
A few years ago, one Bruce Grosjean wrote a very angry letter to Ocean Beach DOG. In it, he emphasized that he was a very private man, and did not want anything about him published on the website. He said, if memory serves us correctly, that he had nothing against off-leash recreation in the GGNRA, but just wanted to stay out of the public eye.
Was he telling the truth? In today's San Francisco Chronicle, he appears loudly against off leash recreation. He claims (in a letter to the Editor) that banning dogs from the GGNRA will serve "the National Park Service . . . mandate to preserve and protect our previous park resources."
Well we know he wasn't telling the truth a few years ago, but is he telling the truth now? Does he have the slightest clue about the GGNRA's unique legislative mandate for recreation-first?
Here are some facts Bruce Grosjean should ponder:
In 1973, San Francisco voters were asked to give the National Park Service (“NPS”) jurisdiction over local parks. In return, the voters were promised that recreation opportunities would not be limited. In fact, the public was assured no one would even notice the change. To address concerns from city officials and citizens over the release of this land to the federal government, certain unique restrictions were inserted into the enabling statute. In particular, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (“GGNRA”) was established for “maintenance of needed recreational open space necessary to urban environment and planning.” (16 U.S.C. Section 460bb.) Relying on this language and representations by city officials that this was merely a “technical resolution” that would not affect “recreational use by all citizens,” the people of San Francisco approved in 1973 a Charter Amendment Proposition F, which permitted the transfer of these city parks to the federal government. The use of these parks specifically for off leash recreation was further addressed during the hearings before the United States House of Representatives, and dog walking was an enumerated activity in the U.S. House Report (H.R. Rep. No. 1391 at p. 4854.)
To formalize those needs as to off leash dog walking, extensive public hearings were held, culminating in the 1979 Pet Policy. At that time, the public was assured that off leash dog walking would be respected and preserved. And for well over 20 years, the recreation needs of the community have by and large been honored, with wildlife and recreation coexisting peacefully within what is now the GGNRA. In the early 1990's, to oversee the expansion of the GGNRA with the transfer of control over the Presidio, a new influx of NPS staff arrived. That's when the trouble started....
Since 1991, the National Park Service has closed over forty acres of Fort Funston’s best, most coveted recreation space. Combined with unilateral “revocation” of off-leash dog walking at Lands End, Fort Miley, Marin Headlands, parts of Ocean Beach, the Presidio and elsewhere throughout the GGNRA, NPS staff have not only broken promise after promise with park users, interested parties and even government officials, the NPS has also violated its own regulations, U.S. Department of the Interior policies, federal law and undermined the role of the Citizens Advisory Commission (“CAC”).
Since 1992, NPS staff has justified the conversion of recreational park resources to native plant habitats under the guise that such action is the national park mission. The mission of the GGNRA, however, is embodied in statute and legislative history creating the park. Indeed, the NPS’s own regulations and management policies underscore the importance of the specific language contained in the enabling legislation establishing each national park. Each park has a specific purpose unique to the cultural and ecological setting where it is located.
In fact, courts look to the enabling statute and legislative history establishing the specific park unit to ascertain the scope of activities permitted in each park. (National Rifle Assoc. of America v. Potter (D.D.C. 1986) 628 F. Supp. 903, 911, reviewing U.S. House of Representatives Report to determine if GGNRA permitted hunting and trapping.)
NPS management policies also specifically provide that, “Congress has stated in the enabling legislation of most units of the national park system that they have their own particular purposes and objectives.” (National Park Service Management Policies, at p. 2.)
Much of the San Francisco unit of what is now the GGNRA was originally city parkland donated to the federal government after the park was established. To address concerns from city officials and citizens over the release of this land to the federal government, certain unique restrictions were inserted into the enabling statute.
In particular, the GGNRA was established for “maintenance of needed recreational open space necessary to urban environment and planning.” (16 U.S.C. Section 460bb.) Relying on this language and representations by city officials that this was merely a “technical resolution” that would not affect “recreational use by all citizens,” the people of San Francisco approved in 1973 a Charter Amendment Proposition F, which permitted the transfer of these city parks to the federal government.
Legislative history and “land use planning” events developing the general plan and natural resources plan further confirm that the NPS understood that off- leash dog walking was a “recreational” activity “necessary to urban environment.” The use of these parks specifically for off-leash recreation was addressed during the hearings before the United States House of Representatives, and dog walking was an enumerated activity in the U.S. House Report. (H.R. Rep. No. 1391 at p. 4854.)
NPS management policies further advise that,
Park managers should ascertain park-specific purposes and management direction by reading the park’s enabling legislation or proclamation and determine general management direction, not inconsistent with the enabling legislation...
Wide variations exist in the degree to which the laws and proclamations creating the individual units of the national park system prohibit or mandate specific guidance on particular management actions... (Id.)
Other NPS policies mandate the same analysis:
The purpose of a park, program or central office is usually defined in, or derived from, the unit’s enabling legislation and from other legal documents providing for its establishment.... Purpose statements represent the government’s commitment (Congress’ expectation) to the public how an area will be managed for the public benefit...
Purpose statements provide the foundation for everything that a park staff does in a park, and everything that is done by a program or central office. These purpose statements set the parameters for how a park should be managed and used, and provide the standards and rationale against which the appropriateness of decisions can be tested. In other words, purpose statements put sideboards on what activities are appropriate in the park, or for a program or central office, and define how the park’s resources should be managed and what types of visitor experiences should occur...
Purpose statements are usually presented in the form of an infinitive statement: “To protect...” or “to preserve and interpret...” and “to provide...” Purpose statements are what you would answer a congressional committee if asked “Why does your park (program or central office) exist?” (Field Guide to National Park Service Performance Management, May 1998, emphasis added.)
Why does the GGNRA exist? It is not to create fenced native plant habitats off limits to the public. As evidenced by its name, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a recreation center, surrounded by a heavily populated urban environment. And it is the GGNRA’s recreational value that was of the utmost importance to the Congress that established this great urban park. In their words, the GGNRA was to be a “new national urban recreation area which will concentrate on serving the outdoor recreation needs of the people of the metropolitan region,” and its objective was “to expand to the maximum extent possible the outdoor recreation opportunities available in this region.” (H.R. Rep. No. 1391, 92nd Cong., 2nd Session (1972).)
Contrary, therefore, to any allegations by the NPS that dog walking is a “privilege,” subject to the “discretion” of the Superintendent which can be “revoked” at any time, public use of the land for recreation generally, and off leash dog walking specifically, is an important community right, which this Commission—like the Courts—can, and should, defend. That mandate is the government’s covenant with the people.
Perhaps now Bruce Grosjean will shut up before he purports to state what is and what is not the mandate of the GGNRA.