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HISTORY OF OFF-LEASH DOG WALKING IN THE GGNRA (SPECIFICALLY OCEAN BEACH)

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 priori commitment being made to this outcome by GGNRA.  (page 6; paragraph 3)

  • Avoid creating a national precedent for benefiting single user groups in parks or offleash dog walking in other national parks, or creating inconsistencies with the Uniform Code of Regulations... (page 7; bullet 5)

Please click here to view the entire document outlining the negotiated rulemaking process. 

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.


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