When the City of San Francisco agreed to turn over properties they owned such as Ocean Beach to the National Parks System
(Golden Gate National Recreation Area) it was with the understanding recreational opportunities would remain intact. After
all, recreation was the stated purpose of this type of new, urban parks system. Accordingly, in 1979 there was established
an official pet policy for the GGNRA. As to Ocean Beach specifically it states: "No restrictions (dogs under voice control)
except that on crowded days, in the seawall area between the Cliff House and Golden Gate Park, visitors may be asked to leash
their dogs or move south to less crowded areas". Click here to view the actual 1979 GGNRA Pet Policy.
In 1996, the National Park Service decided to change the Pet Policy in the GGNRA. There are rationales put forth for each
area, some more valid than others. In the case of Ocean Beach, the official explanation has to do with the endangered snowy
plover. However, the following appears in an official memo, and it is the primary reason this Ocean Beach Dog Owners Group
has been formed. "Fort Funston and Crissy Field are the two areas we have already designated as voice control sites, and
these are the two areas that the SPCA and dog walking public have passionately rallied around. In my opinion, all other areas
of the park that we designate as voice control are major concessions to the special interests of the dog walking community".
Click here to view the memo outlining the changes in the 1996 Pet Policy.
The same memo states the following regarding Ocean Beach: "Daphne Hatch and her research volunteers found the snowy plover
from Wawona Street north for two blocks past Lincoln Way. Daphne Hatch feels strongly that we should designate dogs be leashed
to Fulton. Click here to view the actual 1996 Daphne Hatch Report. From an enforcement point of view, it is probably best to require pets leashed the entire Ocean Beach, from Sloat to the
Cliff House. Sergeant Warren Boyer urged in his comments that the seawall portion of the beach be leashed because of the high
visitation in this area. Signs are already posted here requiring dogs leashed, but presently there is no enforcement. Hatch
believes if more of the beach is protected from running dogs, the snowy plover habitat will expand." The 1996 Pet Policy designated
all of Ocean Beach as being on-leash except for the area north of Stairwell 21. Click here to view the actual 1996 GGNRA Pet Policy.
In January 2001, the National Park Service announced they now intended to ban off-leash dog walking in the GGNRA because
the National Park Service by Regulation does not allow dogs off-leash in other units of the National Parks. The National Park
Service conveniently overlooked the fact that they have made exceptions to that rule in other areas such as the Big South
Fork National River and Recreation Area. At that (and other) locations, an exception is made to allow dogs off-leash for the
purpose of hunting small game. GGNRA is an urban park with different needs than other National Park Service properties. Why
not make an exception to meet our special needs? Precedent certainly exists for the National Park Service to allow off-leash
recreation in the GGNRA. Not to mention the fact that legally the National Park Service agreed to allow off-leash recreation
when they accepted the gift of this property from the City of San Francisco. Consequently, citizens lobbied our government
to officially make a stated exception for off-leash recreation in the GGNRA. Thousands of letters and comments were submitted
to the Department of the Interior, requesting a public process whereby NEW, SPECIAL rules could be made for off-leash recreation
in the GGNRA. The public prevailed, and we are now supposedly in the process of establishing new rules for off-leash recreation
in the GGNRA. This process is being termed "negotiated rulemaking" by the GGNRA/NPS.
OBDOG has chosen the following passages from the Negotiated Rulemaking Document to highlight here as
we find them especially telling:
...GGNRA and NPS leadership are committed to addressing this issue, in keeping with legal
mandates, due to the unacceptability of the current situation. As such, while not dismissing or overlooking the perspective
that opposes any rule allowing off-leash dog walking, the GGNRA is interested in determining through rulemaking whether there
are circumstances under which off-leash dog walking could be consistent with its mandates and with significant interests of
the public. Their preference is to involve the public in the rulemaking process. All participants
in a negotiated rulemaking process must be willing to consider in good faith the potential for designating some areas for
off-leash use, even though there is no a
Clearly, based upon the perception of Ocean Beach as put forth by GGNRA management, without an organized, vocal contingency,
the GGNRA will designate ALL of Ocean Beach as ON-LEASH. It is politically easier to designate areas such as Crissy Field
or Fort Funston as their token off-leash spots. Please take this last opportunity to speak up for off-leash recreation
at Ocean Beach, or it will be lost forever. Sign up as a member of Ocean Beach Dog Owners Group today.