dog-holding-gavel.jpgThe National Park Service is holding the first of four open house meetings tonight to allow the public to discuss a proposal to drastically reduce off-leash dog areas in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The proposal, released by the park service on Jan. 14, would reduce the size of off-leash areas for dogs at 21 spots in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, including Ocean Beach, Crissy Field and Fort Mason.

The park service said in the proposal that the “increased expectations for use of the park for dog recreation have resulted in controversy, litigation, and compromised visitor and employee safety, affecting visitor experience and resulting in resource degradation.”

Today’s hearing is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Tamalpais High School, located at 700 Miller Ave. in Mill Valley.

The other three meetings are scheduled for Saturday at San Francisco State University’s Seven Hills Conference Center, Monday at Fort Mason in San Francisco, and March 9 at Cabrillo Elementary School in Pacifica.

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener has expressed concern over the proposal and called for a committee hearing on the issue.

Wiener, who represents San Francisco’s District 8, said the reduction in off-leash space in the national park could lead to “a corresponding increase in use at neighborhood parks” in the city.

He said his hearing would likely be held in the next month or so before the park service’s public comment period for the proposal ends on April 14.

For more information on the park service’s proposal, visit www.nps.gov/goga/parkmgmt/dog-management.htm.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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  • sunnysunset

    link doesn’t seem to be working…

  • Jan

    Whether or not you own a dog, you should be concerned with the GGNRA’s Dog Management Plan, which severely restricts or bans dog walking on GGNRA lands. This plan is one step in a larger strategy to manage Bay Area beaches as wilderness areas rather than recreational areas.

    Consider:
     In 1975 the city of San Francisco gave beach land to the GGNRA with the provision that the lands were to be reserved “in perpetuity for recreation or park purposes”. The GGNRA promised to “notify and consult” with the SF Planning Department before making substantial changes.
     Soon after, however, garbage cans were removed, trash was not picked up, and dead marine mammals were left to rot. Paths to the beaches were not maintained, making it difficult or impossible for seniors and handicapped persons to go to the beach. These are appropriate actions for a wilderness area but not for a recreation area.
     At Fort Funston large areas were closed off, not just to dogs, but to everyone. These closures were supposedly temporary for native plant restoration, but after 10 years, the fences have never been taken down. Joey Hill, the only large remaining sand dune in San Francisco was closed off — now children cannot play on it and no one can walk on it.
     Recently fires were prohibited on cold, windy Ocean Beach. This rule was later revised to allow fires in GGNRA-built fire pits only, which are few and far between.
     Although the Bay Area population has increased and the GGNRA has increased its holdings, the use of new lands is never focused on recreational uses.
     The latest action is the Dog Management Plan, a complete ban on dogs at Ocean Beach and severe limitations in other areas of the GGNRA.

    Today dogs are being targeted even though off leash dogs are allowed on less than 1% of the land and the GGNRA’s own statistics show that less than 1/10 of 1% of dog visits result in a citation. The citation rate is much higher for people. So will the next action be to close more areas to people?

    Both recreation and preservation/restoration are valid goals for our coastal areas, and certainly a balance can be achieved between the two.

    I think all Bay Area citizens deserve to have an open, honest discussion about how we would like to see our beaches and coastal areas managed now and in the future. This is not just a discussion for people with dogs but for horse-riders, surfers, hang gliders, fisherman, runners, bird watchers, families, and anyone else who uses our beaches. For example, surfers might like more showers and better bathrooms at Ocean Beach; runners might like permission to run foot races on the beach (prohibited now because of the snowy plover); others might prefer a wilderness experience. All these ideas are not mutually exclusive.

    Unfortunately, the GGNRA has not been particularly forthcoming about their plans. When they closed considerable land at Fort Funston, they did so without consulting the SF Planning Department as they were legally obligated to do and without holding any public hearings. Three federal judges have ordered the GGNRA to consult with the public before making significant changes to park usage, but these orders have generally been ignored. The current Dog Management Plan is a step toward communication, but the GGNRA will not allow public testimony or discussion during the meetings that have been scheduled.

    The GGNRA should share with Bay Area citizens, who pay their salaries, their long-range plans and vision for the future. If they are not willing to do that, then the City of San Francisco should exercise its legal right to take back the beaches, perhaps transferring them to another federal agency that is more amenable to open communication and honest discussion.