First published by Supervisor Wiener in the San Francisco Chronicle on 11/2/15
Dog lovers have long enjoyed walking their dogs off leash on lands managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including Crissy Field and Ocean Beach, as well as properties in two other counties. While the federal recreation area does a lot of incredible work stewarding these important lands, its proposed dog plan goes too far.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is not a national park and is specifically defined by Congress as an urban recreation area — an area to provide recreation, including dog-walking. A tiny percentage of its lands currently allows dogs.
The federal government is attempting to move forward a plan to further restrict dog access on these lands, despite opposition from Bay Area residents, the boards of supervisors in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough. This is the second plan released over the past decade and a half. In both, the preferred alternative is to reduce the already-limited dog access that residents now enjoy. The first plan was tossed out by the courts.
Between 200,000 and 250,000 dogs live with their guardians in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco SPCA. Where will these dogs go if the recreation area’s preferred plan goes through? Our city parks.
Our city parks are already strained and stressed with maintenance issues. This shift will crowd our municipal dog play areas and create more conflicts among the park-goers on both ends of the leash, neighbors and park visitors.
Two resolutions I authored put San Francisco on record as opposed to the plan as initially proposed, with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voting unanimously to oppose. The mayor wrote a letter opposing the plan as well. The San Mateo and Marin boards of supervisors also voted unanimously to oppose the plan. In short, 22 out of the 22 elected representatives of some 2 million residents oppose the dog plan as currently drafted, yet the Golden Gate National Recreation Area persists in moving forward.
Thousands of substantive public comments opposing the plan have been submitted as well, yet the recreation area management largely has dismissed them. When the recreation area releases its updated rule for dog management in early November, it is anticipated that the proposal still be as restrictive as what was proposed in the draft version of the plan that drew opposition from the public and elected officials. What’s the point of having a community process if no real input is taken?
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a civic treasure. The agency owes it to our residents to craft an official dog management proposal that takes into account how people use these lands and that meets the needs of our communities.