We have received many questions from readers about the recently revised and released dog management plan for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). We think it is appropriate to use this beach issue to put our paws down in the sand and take a stand. While we haven’t been able to absorb the entire scope of the document’s 1,900 pages, we want to pass along our understanding so far and let you know how you can get involved in the conversation.
Just one percent of the GGNRA’s 80,000 acres presently is open to on- or off-leash dog walking. A draft management plan, released in 2011, would have reduced by 90 percent the areas where dogs are allowed. Those include portions of Fort Funston, Ocean Beach and Crissy Field in San Francisco; Marin Headlands, Rodeo Beach and Muir Beach in Marin County; and Sweeney Ridge, Rancho Corral de Tierra and Mori Point in San Mateo County.
According to Sally Stephens, Chair of the San Francisco Dog Owners Group, despite three-to-one opposition to the plan from more than 4,700 public comments, the National Park Service made no significant changes to the original plan in drafting the final version. “If this plan goes through, it will create a dramatic impact for the people in the Bay Area who enjoy recreating with their dogs in the outdoors,” she warns.
In a recent interview on KQED radio’s Forum program with Michael Krasny, Stephens emphasized that, “Today dogs are only allowed in 1 percent of GGNRA lands. That’s 99 percent that they are not allowed in. If this proposed plan goes through, there will be 99.9 percent of GGNRA lands where people with dogs will not be allowed.”
The new plan analyzes six alternatives for dog walking in 21 locations. Off-leash areas at Fort Funston and Fort Mason would be enlarged, but, among other changes, off-leash play would be banned at Muir Beach and on East Beach, the most popular off-leash area at Crissy Field.
On the other side of the issue, Howard Levitt, director of communications for the GGNRA, says the rules are needed due to increased visitation and to protect wildlife and vegetation. The park service says its proposal aims to strike the complicated balance between the wants and needs of dog owners and those who want a dog-free experience, all the while maintaining sensitive natural assets.
DogTrekker.com encourages dog owners to take responsibility when walking their dogs in sensitive habitats, whether in local, state or national jurisdictions.
Regarding the proposed GGNRA regulations, we are saddened and very concerned about future access to our recreation area and have set up a page on DogTrekker.com with links to the issue’s history, upcoming public meetings, concerned dog-owner groups, elected officials you can contact, and more. Public comment on the revised plan is being accepted until February 18th, 2014, with a final plan expected in 2015.