dog-holding-gavel.jpgOpponents of a federal proposal to restrict the places within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area where dogs can go without a leash are planning a march and rally Saturday to protest the plan.

In the “Mighty Mutt Strut,” protesters will march from Ocean Beach to Sigmund Stern Grove with the message that city parks will be overburdened if off-leash dog areas in the federal parkland are cut back, rally organizer David Emanuel said.

“It’s really symbolizing what the new reality is if the national recreation area gets to ban most of the areas where people and their dogs like to walk in,” Emanuel said.

The proposal by the National Park Service would drastically reduce the size of off-leash areas for dogs at 21 sites within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field and Fort Mason.

The park service has said the changes are necessary due to visitor conflicts with dogs and the degradation of park resources by the pets.

But opponents of the plan say it would lead to overcrowding at city parks like Sigmund Stern Grove, and could hurt many small businesses such as dog-walking enterprises and pet supply stores.

Rally participants will be encouraging people to submit comments to the park service before the May 31 deadline and instructing them on how to do it. They will also be collecting signatures for a petition opposing the plan, which will be sent to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Emanuel said the group has collected nearly 10,000 signatures so far.

He said he expects several hundred people to attend Saturday’s march and rally.

“People have a lot of pent-up frustration with this entire process, and it’s getting down to crunch time,” he said.

The march is scheduled to begin at Ocean Beach near the intersection of Great Highway and Sloat Boulevard at 10:30 a.m. It will end with a rally at Stern Grove that will last until 12:30 p.m. and will include a “biscuit buffet” for dogs.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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