“Very close to being a de facto ban on dogs”: Marin County Supes Drub GGNRA’s Proposed Pet Policy

The Marin County Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved a resolution asking the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to modify its plan to dramatically restrict dogs on its federal land in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

In a letter asking her fellow supervisors to support her resolution, Supervisor Kathrin Sears said the GGNRA’s preferred Alternative F as outlined in an environmental impact statement regarding restrictions on dogs “will come very close to being a de facto ban on dogs in the GGNRA in Marin.”

Restricting dogs on GGNRA land will prompt dog owners to walk their pets on Marin County Parks and Open Space lands and in the watershed of the Marin Municipal Water District, Sears said.

Sears said there is no data supporting a virtual ban on dogs in the GGNRA, and she asked the GGNRA to seek compromises that allow dogs both on- and off-leash while still protecting the environment.

There have been public hearings on the dog issue for almost a decade, and 4,700 respondents to the draft environmental impact report opposed Alternative F by a 3-1 ratio, according to the resolution.

The GGNRA approved guidelines for a pet policy in February 1979 that allows licensed dogs off-leash and under voice control in the 18,000 acres it owns and manages.

The 1979 policy allowed leashed dogs on 24.1 miles of trails and fire roads and allowed dogs under voice control on an additional 16.1 miles if trails and fire roads.

There are 52.7 miles of trails and fire roads in the Marin County portion of the GGNRA.

The policy was reviewed in 2005, and on Jan. 15, 2011, the GGNRA released a draft environmental impact statement that included Alternative F’s dramatic restriction of dogs in all of the GGNRA including Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties and the city of San Francisco.

The dog restriction was opposed by a 3-1 margin among 4,700 respondents to the proposed restrictions.

The Marin County Department of Parks and Open Space said the restrictions to dog walking would move the displaced dog walkers to the 40,000 acres of county open space and parklands and the Marin Municipal Water District’s watershed.

The Department of Parks and Open Space asked the GGNRA to allow dogs off-leash on most beach areas and dogs on-leash when crossing sensitive habitat areas among other changes.

Under a supplemental environmental impact statement in September 2013, the GGNRA then proposed restricting dogs on leashes to 8.8 miles of trails and fire roads—a one-third reduction from the 1979 policy that is still in effect—and restricting off-leash dogs under voice control to a half-mile section of one fire road in the Marin Headlands.

The only permitted off-leash area would be at the north end of Rodeo Beach.

Sears’ resolution asks the GGNRA to manage its land as a metropolitan recreation area distinct from other national parks, wilderness areas and monuments.

It also asks the GGNRA to create continuous trail loops instead of dead end trails that are accessible to dogs, and that off-leash opportunities continue on Muir Beach.

The resolution also requests the GGNRA to continue to allow 12-foot-wide fire roads to be accessible to dogs on leash, with off-leash being preferable.

The resolution also asks the GGNRA to create continuous access to dogs on its land from Muir Beach to the Golden Gate Bridge and to accommodate access for dog owners in Tam Valley, Tennessee Valley, Marin City, Sausalito, Homestead Valley and Muir Beach.

Lastly, the resolution states the Board of Supervisors recognizes the need for restoration of sensitive habitat, but it encourages the GGNRA to plan it in more remote areas away from heavily trafficked fire roads and connecting trails.

The public comment period on the supplemental impact statement ends on Feb. 18. A final environmental impact statement is expected in mid-2015.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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