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GGNRA Extends Public Comment Period on Dog Management Plan Until Feb. 18

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener speaks up at the “Save Off-Leash Dog Walking in the GGNRA” rally photo: courtesy scott wiener

Shortly after Scott Wiener took office as District 8 supervisor in 2010, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) began gearing up to ban off-leash dog walking on most federal lands. “I met with the GGNRA, and I spoke to Senator Mark Leno; I drafted legislation opposing the plan, and held a hearing,” Wiener said. The hearing on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, garnered input from city departments, dog advocates, and residents. Conspicuously absent: representatives from the GGNRA and environmental groups like the Sierra Club, which support tightening the rules. Wiener’s resolution passed, and the GGNRA backed off a bit, extending public comment through Jan. 11, 2014.

“I don’t begrudge their ability to make changes, but this plan goes way too far,” Wiener said. “This is an urban recreation area. They’re not taking into account where all these dogs are going to go.” Wiener pointed out that at the dog park located at 27th and Douglass streets, 100 dogs enter per hour, and that number, as well as the number of dogs at other city parks (dog parks and otherwise), would only increase if off-leash access to GGNRA land were greatly restricted.

On Dec. 2, 2013, Wiener and his supporters got a big boost when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) wrote a letter urging the GGNRA to extend the public comment period on the dog management plan for another month to Feb. 17, 2014. In the letter addressed to GGNRA General Superintendent Frank Dean, Representative Pelosi wrote, “Our city is named for Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. While Park Service regulations may ban off-leash dog walking in National Parks, there is a long history of off-leash recreation in San Francisco, which began before the transfer of land from the City and County of San Francisco to the National Park Service. It is essential the National Park Service fully consider the wide-ranging consequences of the new rules, including the impact on San Francisco parks, and carefully review the concerns of San Franciscans as expressed by our elected Board of Supervisors.”

The GGNRA listened and granted the extension, stating on their website that “due to continued concern from some stakeholders, the comment period has been extended a second time,” until Tuesday, Feb. 18. You can submit comments online at parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=55416 (all comments must be entered before 11 p.m. Pacific Time).

The current GGNRA plan would require dogs to be on leash in most areas, only allowing dogs to run free in limited parts of Crissy Field, Fort Mason, Ocean Beach, and Fort Funston. The rules would be even stricter outside of the city. In Marin County, for example, dogs would be allowed to run free in only one of the six areas where they presently have unleashed access. The GGNRA says the harsh restrictions are necessary because of complaints from bird watchers and other visitors who don’t like dealing with dogs.

In 2011 when the original proposal was released, it prompted nearly 5,000 comments, most of which were critical and opposed the restrictions. In April of that year, the Board of Supervisors went on record opposing the plan. A new draft released in September 2013 didn’t fare much better, drawing continued opposition from residents and the Board of Supervisors as well as Representative Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo).

Sign an online petition opposing the GGNRA Dog Management Plan, and find contact information for congressional representatives here: www.crissyfielddog.org/news.html

Mail your comments about the GGNRA Dog management Plan to: Frank Dean, Superintendent, GGNRA, Building 201, Fort Mason Center, 
San Francisco CA 94123-0022

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E-mail: susan@marinatimes.com