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.