Ocean Beach Off-Leash Closure
What's the Emergency?
The Closure
Hatch Report Analysis
Plover or Sanderling?
Take me Home

Thanksgiving morning 2006 dawned sunny and bright at my special place, Ocean Beach.  The cool, crisp morning air greeted me and dog Billy as we embarked upon our morning off-leash exercise. But something is different now. The GGNRA has recently declared a state of “emergency” at Ocean Beach and dogs are prohibited off-leash in order to protect the Western Snowy Plover from “disturbance”.  However, as I headed north on Ocean Beach from the Sloat Boulevard parking lot I encountered a sea of runners that literally covered almost the entire width of the beach, leaving me wondering if I could even make my way against the tide of humanity.  But wait!  These people were all running through the GGNRA designated Snowy Plover Protection Area!  How could this be??  Some 2/3 of the runners were wearing numbered tags on their chests—this had to be an organized race.  I asked the runners and they gleefully advised me this was the Fourth Annual Ocean Beach Turkey Trot.  Actually, I was happy to see so many people enjoying the beach as I do every day.  Runners told me they came from Berkeley, Marin, San Francisco, and a few were even participating with relatives visiting from out of state.  There were also a lot of young children out for the event. 

2006 Ocean Beach Turkey Trot Race Course

I went home and looked the event up on the Web.  This was indeed an event sanctioned by the GGNRA (and SFRPD) for 1000 participants.  Certainly the GGNRA recognized there would be additional participants who had not officially registered.  I and other members of Ocean Beach DOG who witnessed the race estimated 1500 participants.  The course for the race was charted directly through the Snowy Plover Protection Area. This was by design. 


How could the GGNRA not consider this event a “disturbance” to the plover?  Wouldn’t the “state of emergency” preclude the GGNRA’s approval of this race?  This merely confirms what the membership of OBDOG already knows:  the GGNRA recognizes there is no danger posed to the plover by off-leash dogs that could reasonably constitute an “emergency”.  Clearly, the GGNRA claimed an “emergency” existed at Ocean Beach in order to circumvent the Federal Court’s instructions in June of 2005.  The Federal Court advised the GGNRA they were empowered by Federal Law to protect threatened or endangered species, but they must first go through a prescribed process of notice and comment before changing use of any area in the GGNRA.  Were the GGNRA to go through a process of notice and comment to ban off-leash recreation at Ocean Beach, the process would reveal that the Endangered Species Act does not support their actions.  The process would also highlight the GGNRA’s responsibility to maintain recreational opportunities as specified in the grant deeds which transferred Ocean Beach to the National Park Service.  In short, the GGNRA, by granting permits for the Ocean Beach Turkey Trot, has acknowledged that no emergency exists at Ocean Beach at this time, and that their ban of off-leash recreation is arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.