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New dog rules proposed for GGNRA including Baker Beach, Sutro Heights Park, Ocean Beach, and Lands End; Comment period ends May 25

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The National Park Service (NPS) is nearing the tail end of a 15 year process to define, review and implement new rules about where and how dogs can access the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The GGNRA includes several recreation areas within San Francisco including Baker Beach, Ocean Beach and Sutro Heights Park.

The proposed changes (RIN 1024-AE16) are in response to the overall increase in the number of dogs that visit the GGNRA, as well as to protect “threatened, endangered, or special-status species”. From the NPS website:

    Since 1979, the San Francisco Bay Area population and overall use of GGNRA lands have increased, as have the number of dog walkers in the park based on park staff observation, partly due to the recent growth of the commercial dog walking industry. At the same time, the number of dog-related conflicts between park users with and without dogs has risen, including dog bites and attacks, as has the concern about the effect of uncontrolled dog behaviors on park visitor experiences. Resource concerns have also increased since 1979 as park staff gained greater knowledge of park resources and as a result of the listing of several species with habitat in areas used by dog walkers as threatened, endangered, or special-status species. The NPS has also identified other native plant and animal species that require protection under the NPS’s broader conservation mandate.

The debate over these changes, which further restricts the opportunities for dogs to be off-leash, has been going on since 2002 when the National Park Service first made notice of their intention to put a formal dog management plan in place. Since then, there have been numerous and feisty public meetings, thousands of public comments, and plenty of opinions from both sides of the dog fence.

The proposed rules would result in a re-mapping of each recreation area to define where dogs can go, and if they are allowed, whether dogs have to be on a leash or if they can be off-leash (a.k.a “voice and sign control areas”).

Under the new rules, only five areas in the GGNRA would include off-leash zones: Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field, Fort Mason, and Rodeo Beach in Marin.

footprintsThe GGRNA defines voice and sight control as the following: “Voice and sight control means a dog that is within direct eyesight of the dog walker and that the dog walker is able to both immediately recall directly to his or her side, without regard to circumstances or distractions, and attach a leash to the dog’s collar. The dog walker must demonstrate this ability when requested to do so by an authorized person.”

And to get into the nitty gritty, a leash is defined as “a chain, rope, cord, or strap not longer than 6 feet in length with a clip or snap for rapid attachment to a choke chain, collar, or harness, all the parts of which are of sufficient strength to hold the weight of the dog and are suitable for walking the dog and controlling it.”

In addition, all dogs must “have identification tags affixed to their collar that confirm proof of current rabies vaccinations and their owner’s name, address, and phone number”, and any dogs under 4 months old (e.g. puppies) must be on-leash at all times. Dogs in heat are not allowed anywhere in the GGNRA.

Changes are also proposed for commercial dog walkers, or anyone who wants to walk more than three dogs at a time. There will be a maximum of four to six dogs allowed in GGNRA areas in San Francisco and Marin, group walkers will be required to apply and pay for a NPS permit, and group dog walking would only be permitted Monday through Friday from 8am until 5pm in selected areas of the GGNRA.

SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES TO GGNRA AREAS NEAR THE RICHMOND DISTRICT

Below is a brief summary of how the GGNRA areas near the Richmond District (or where we assume Richmond District dog owners would most frequently visit) would be affected with regards to dog walking. There are 11 other GGRNA areas affected that we don’t mention in this article.

Some maps are included in this article, but you can also view the proposed maps for each affected GGNRA park on the NPS website.

    Baker Beach: Off-leash walking would no longer be allowed at Baker Beach. A dog must be on-leash at all times and could only be walked in the southern portion of the beach and on some trails adjoining the beach. The northern end of the beach would be off-limits to dogs.

    Land Ends & Fort Miley: Dogs would still be allowed but must be on a leash at all times. No off-leash walking is allowed.

    Sutro Heights Park: Off-leash walking would be prohibited in Sutro Heights Park. The entire park would still be open to dogs but they must be on-leash at all times.

    Ocean Beach: Dogs would still be allowed off leash at the northern end of the beach stretching from Stairwell 21 (roughly across from the Beach Chalet soccer fields) to the base of the cliff below the Cliff House. Note that when you’re ON the stairwells themselves, your dog has to be on-leash. Dogs would also be allowed on-leash on the promenade walkway starting from Lincoln Way & Great Highway north to the Cliff House. Dogs would not be allowed on any other portions of Ocean Beach until south of Sloat Boulevard.

    Crissy Field: Dogs would still be allowed off-leash but only on the “Central Beach” area and the central portion of the airfield grassy area. Dogs are allowed in other areas of Crissy Field but they must be on-leash.

    Fort Funston: Parts of Fort Funston would still be available for off-leash walking including the upper area near the Chip Trail, and the lower beach spanning from the Funston Beach Trail south to the area below where the hang gliders take off. The northern end of the Coastal Trail would require that dogs be on-leash.

    Marin Headlands: The Headlands are already pretty unfriendly to dog walking and the new restrictions will provide only a few trails where on-leash walking is allowed.

    Rodeo Beach: All of the beach itself would be open for off-leash walking with the exception of the northern end of the lagoon which is only open when the lagoon/ocean surface water is not connected. As for nearby trails, only the circular trail above Rodeo Beach (Coastal Trail to Old Bunker Road to Fort Cronkhite Trail) would be open to dogs and they must be on-leash at all times.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU VIOLATE THE RULES

At a public meeting on Tuesday night at the County Fair Building, we inquired about what the consequences would be if a dog is found to be in violation of the rules.

An example of a violation would be walking a dog off-leash in an on-leash area, walking a dog in an area that is off-limits to dogs, leaving a dog unattended, not having proper identification or proof of rabies vaccination on the dog, or more seriously, having an uncontrolled dog in a GGNRA area.

An uncontrolled dog is one that engages in behavior “that results in uninvited or unwanted physical contact with a person or another animal”.

“Short of actual physical contact, the definition of uncontrolled dog also includes threatening behavior by dogs towards people or other animals such as snarling, growling, snapping, chasing, charging, repeated barking at, howling, or uninvited taking or attempting to take food. Such behavior would violate the proposed rule.”

Enforcement of the rule would be left to law enforcement on site in the GGNRA parks, including park rangers. If a dog is found to be violating the rules, the owner of the dog is subject to a $125 fine according to Mike Savage, the National Park Service lead on the new dog management plan.

That is the current fine for violations and Savage says that the Department of Justice could consider an additional schedule of fines. But a change is not anticipated with the implementation of the new rules.

The NPS would also invest in new signage for all the GGNRA areas so it is clearer to visitors and especially dog owners where canines are welcome on or off-leash, and where they are not.

This has been one of the biggest challenges to enforcing current dog restrictions in the GGNRA according to NPS Superintendent Chris Lehnertz, who took questions from meeting attendees on Tuesday night.

Lehnertz said the NPS would implement an extensive education campaign at GGNRA parks and on the NPS website around the new rules, especially in the early months after the changes take effect.

crissy

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD ENDS MAY 25

To make a comment on the proposed dog management rules, visit this website or send a letter to: Superintendent, GGNRA, Dog Management Proposed Rule, Building 201 Fort Mason, San Francisco, California, 94123 before May 25, 9pm Pacific. The NPS provides a helpful guide called “Tips For Submitting Effective Comments” to help you craft a comment that “is more likely to have an impact on regulatory decision making”.

One very important tip: “A single, well-supported comment may carry more weight than a thousand form letters.” So if you’ve been given a pat statement from an organization to copy and paste into a comment, think twice and perhaps spend some time crafting a more meaningful response to the proposed changes.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors weighed in with their opinion on March 14 when the board voted 10-1 in favor of a resolution by Supervisor Katy Tang opposing the new dog management rules proposed by the NPS.

The sole nay vote? Our own District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar. According to KRON4, Mar said he chose not to oppose the new dog management rules because “he felt the resolution did not give sufficient weight to the need to protect endangered species and critical habitat within the GGNRA”.

“I don’t think this is a resolution that supports this shared balance, it’s more on the pro-dog owner side,” Mar said, adding “My goal is working with the National Park Service.”

TIMING FOR PROPOSED RULE CHANGES

An environmental impact statement is due in Summer 2016 and if all is then approved, the changes would go into effect in Winter 2017 (view timeline).

Once the new rules are in place, the GGNRA will implement a Monitoring-Based Management Program to “gauge compliance with NPS regulations and ensure continued protection of park resources, visitors, and staff.”

They will monitor and record noncompliance with the new rules including “behavior that meets the definition of an uncontrolled dog or an unattended dog, dog walking in prohibited areas, and off-leash dog walking in areas where leashes are required.”

Depending on compliance levels, the GGNRA can leave the rules as they are or take primary or secondary management actions to prevent unacceptable impacts. Such steps could include further restrictions on areas that are accessible to dogs.

Sarah B.

Below are some of the proposed maps of the GGNRA parks near the Richmond District (view all 22 maps in PDF format here). Refer to the legend for each map. Note that if an area of a map is unmarked, it means that it is off-limits to dogs.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach

Baker Beach

Baker Beach

Sutro Heights Park

Sutro Heights Park

Lands End and Fort Miley

Lands End and Fort Miley

Crissy Field

Crissy Field

27 Comments

  1. “Tail end,” hehehe…

    As someone who has been harassed, multiple times, by off-leash dogs in places they already shouldn’t be, I support these changes 100%. I’m sorry if *you* can control your dog, because your fellow dog owners have ruined it for you. My kids & I should be able to enjoy a day at the park without someone’s dog jumping on us.

  2. Please note that nothing is changing for Sutro Park — it is already an on-leash only area. And there are still plenty of areas open for off-leash dogs, without bothering those of us who choose to walk our dogs on leash.

  3. Don’t get me started…… I’m a dog owner. We will have to agree to disagree on why my dog cannot be off-leash.

    I’ll just walk her on city streets off-leash. Seriously, she is that well behaved and I walk her this way anyway. It’s a drag we cannot enjoy the views at Land End. It’s stupid that a piece of string between her and me makes it legal when she will be walking 6′ away from me anyway without one.

  4. I think that commercial dog walking is not an appropriate use of national park land. Why should they get to run their business on public land to the detriment of park visitors?

  5. @valerie.
    Please keep your kids away from me in stores, restaurants, etc. they are obnoxious and should be kept on leash, or in an attic until the age of 21. I’m sure your kids are fine, but I’ve been harassed many times by other kids, so you should pay the price.

  6. Thanks DIZ. And a dog on a leash can jump on anyone as well. I don’t like kids– that’s why I have a dog. Don’t get me started.

  7. “proof of current rabies vaccinations” there hasnt been a case of rabies in SF in 65 years. what a stupid rule, but im happy to abide by it because its easy to do.

    AS for restricting offleash areas, this is a travesty and one I will fight tooth and nail with all my resources, political and financially. Dogs are members of our families, just like kids, and they deserve a place to play. There are thousands of dogs at fort funston every day, and Im not sure what all those dogs are suppossed to do for exercise if half the beach is being taken away. if this is passed, i will still have my dog off-leash every I go and just pay the fine. It sucks, but not sure why GGNRA wants to treat dogs and dog owners this way. as far as Eric Mar goes, this further confirms how worthless he is. cant wait to get rid of him. may of us chose D1 and the western side of the city due to its proximity to GGP, presidio and the beach partially because very DOG FRIENDLY.

  8. off leash fans – can you give me a few bullet points to include in my feedback? Overall I’m a fan of not further restricting off leash areas, as the NPS seems to not understand that this is a Recreation Area, not a National Park! Yes, I’m a fan of well behaved dogs & owners, and all dog owners picking up their dogs poo….. but they are just going to far. Also, is Eric Mar gearing up to run for some sort of NPS job next? He’s so out of touch with the people he’s supposed to be serving now.

  9. This issue has been going on for years. There have been literally a decades worth of opportunities for people to get involved on this issue. If you did not, then with respect go suck a lemon. We all had ample opportunity to influence this issue.

    I like dogs. I just do not like dogs in The City. Well, let me modify that comment. I don’t like the fact that a large number of people who own dogs in The City don’t seem to care about people who do not share their love for them.

    Keep you dog on a leash. An may the fates help you if you of your dogs jumps on my while on a leash or not.

  10. What about cats? My neighbor is a little strange and he takes his cat for a walk; are they allowed? Just curious.

  11. JD do you feel the same way about kids? Dogs are a part of our families and they deserve the same respect. I dont share the same love for many things as my neighbors but i certainly respect their right to love them. IF a dog coming up to you to be petted bothers you that much, you are really a horrible person. they are just looking for love. an agressive dog is a different story, but in my 20 yrs in SF, ive only run across one truly aggressive dog. I also dont like people who stink on the bus, or people who talk too much, but I accept it BECAUSE i live in a city. I would do the same for dogs, even if i wasnt a dog lover.

  12. I am a dog owner. I have had three different off leash dogs attack my dog. I get that other dog owners feel infringed upon and are defensive about their pets. I also consider my dog a member of my family. But the truth is that dogs are animals and there are things that can set them off. Unlike misbehaving children, they are capable of doing harm to others, or at the least, disturbing others in ways that not everyone should have to deal with.

    I do think that some of the restrictions go a bit far. I see no reason to restrict on leash dog walking on Baker beach, for example. But restricting off leash areas makes sense.

    Please, dog owners who are upset by this, stop acting like this is some sort of civil right. Its not. If your dog is so well behaved, attach some sewing thread to his/her collar and call it a leash. Otherwise, calm down and advocate for some reasonable amendments to the changes so that everyone doesn’t think dog owners are psychotic anti-socials who don’t play well with others. I mean, what do you expect people to think of your dogs when you are unable to control yourself?

  13. These changes don’t seem like they’ll do much. Seems like a better strategy would be to put up good signage that clearly shows where dogs are allowed off leash, and then enforce the current rules. By continuing to remove off leash areas, and then not enforce the rules, the GGNRA is just going to cause more problems. The worst mix is usually leashed dogs, and unleashed dogs. Many pups are more aggressive when they’re on leash and charged by unleashed dogs. It’s akin to lowering the speed limit 20 mph, and then never handing out speeding tickets. You’ll end up with a dangerous mix of unabashed speeders causing havoc for everyone else.

    Anyone who’s walked their pup around Mountain Lake has probably experienced this. Dogs are technically supposed to be leashed there, but it’s basically a free for all. I’ve encountered many (more than 10) aggressive dogs that have lunged, bit, barked, and tackled my leashed dog while walking on the path. If you’re looking for a reason these rules are going into effect, that’s why.

    I should also mention that I’ve never once had an issue with a professional dog walker. Those folks are legit!

  14. Well as much as I hate to incur the flames of the dog libertarians I have to say, I’m in favor of these rules. Though I have a huge number of friends who have well behaved dogs and support plenty of on and off leash opportunities for dog owners, it’s that, maybe, 1 % of owners who can’t manage their dogs that make these rules necessary in my view. There has to be at least a few places where people can go to avoid the threat of being attacked by off leash dogs; I’ve been accosted twice, bitten once by off leash dogs in the Presidio. San Francisco now seems like the de facto largest off leash dog park in the world (non SF visitors that I’ve talked to are amazed at where they encounter off leas dogs). And it sounds like the slightest mention of any rules for dogs is going to set off a few people to unleash there dogs on whomever they please. Oh well, may you live in interesting times… BTW an interesting movie (and actually off leash friendly as it’s from a dog’s perspective) that everyone should go see is White God.

  15. Glad about these rules. GGNRA is meant for a variety of recreational uses and having one be so dominant isn’t ideal.

  16. No one is taking away the off-leash rights of anyone or anycanine, it’s called “sharing spaces.” Now, people who don’t want to deal with off-leash dogs (who follow their noses and instincts, for the most part) know where to go to avoid them, if they so choose.

    It’s about CHOICE. Some people are afraid of and/or allergic to dogs – I can’t imagine any reasonable dog owner who would object to giving those people a choice. Oh, and dogs don’t pay mortgages and rent. Humans do.

    I go to child-free spaces for the same reason.

  17. I comment on things going on in the neighborhood. I have lived in the same few block area since graduating UC. I have been involved in the neighborhood in many ways, most of the time in a very low profile way.

    When I comment on this site, I try to comment on the THING being talked about and I do not comment on people, their motivations, or their character unless they are a public person like someone running for a government position or already in one.

    However, when someone states publicly that “…you are really a horrible person…” I feel that I must make a comment in return.

    Such a comment can be considered Libel. I would admonish the writer to be more careful in their writing. Character assassination (Defamation) is not a nice thing to do to someone because they disagree with you.

    I am going to let that comment go as written in a state of passion…this time.

    I would also remind Sarah that one of the unpleasant duties of running a blog or forum is to monitor the site for such postings and have a private word with people who make those kinds of statements.

  18. The GGNRA is totally off bounds… Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this is not about habitat but about politics. The wishful thinking among GGNRA staff about this urban recreation area being a ‘national park’ biosphere, or the environmental park service staff (born in the Midwest mostly) believing this is a critical habitat, or the cat-loving, dog-hating NIMBY’s bringing classic passive-aggressive tendencies into an otherwise enlightened discussion. The fact is that dogs are not more destructive, more dangerous, or more fearsome than the coyote population increases (in general) in these same areas. Moreover, raccoons, feral cats, coyotes, and crows are at least as dangerous if not more to threatened habitats than dogs, off-leash or not. For some reason crows are deemed innocuous whereas dogs off leash are a peril to Snowy Plovers? And of course no one seems to admit that the safest Snowy White Plover habitat is not natural at all – the roof of Sports Basement! The GGNRA lost me when the last known specimen of Franciscan Manzanita (legally extinct) was found in the middle of the Doyle Drive construction zone… Since it was legally extinct they simply “moved” it without stopping the highway construction! Habitat protection my ass!

  19. Walter – Are you referring to the cows in West Marin? The GGNRA only even happened because they were able to strike a deal with the farmers in Marin. So they don’t really have a choice with regard to the cows. You should get your history straight (or at least a little straighter – not saying mine is perfect) before you go flinging accusations about. It’s a fairly uncontroversial fact that GGNRA wants to encourage biodiversity – the plover being given as one example. You can’t have plovers with labradors running all over the place. Period. I think sometimes in San Francisco, peoples’ cynicism about institutions gets a little bit of the best of them; you really have to work hard to figure out a way in which this is all about politics, and not about habitat, as you claim. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the easiest.

    This is an issue that has needed addressing for decades, and it has accelerated in recent years, with the dog replacing the child as members #3 and 4 in many households. In any case, this is really more of an issue to take up with your local federal government. I get the impression that San Franciscans think they have more say in this than they really do – the GGNRA is a *national* treasure/asset/park/space, not a local one. It’s not ours to decide anymore than it is someone in Paducah. We should be glad to have the GGNRA at all, and should share it with people who do not want to experience it as a dog run. Nature is hard to come by in these parts.

  20. there are an estimated 120,000 dogs in San Francisco. Virtually 99% of the city is already unavailable to dogs for off-leash activities. Where do people propose thatn 120,000 dogs get exercise? Its not so easy for a lab or border collie to be on leash and still get exercise and care they deserve. IF we are banning dogs from these areas, Im not sure why we are not banning people and racoons and coyotes, and other non-native animals. For the life of me, I will never undrestand why it bothers people for dogs to be able to run off-leash. 99.9% of dogs in fort funston could care less about the people there and dont jump on people. they are running, playing in the water, or playing with each other. and ocassionally they roll on dead seals. I can promise you thats a horrendous smell but its not hurting the environment. Can someone show me an enviromental report showing how dogs have lowered the population of the snowy plover? GGNRA is not a national park. it is recreactional? dogs are recreation for 100k+ people in this city. I personally don’t like the fisherman on the beach as they limit ability to walk close to water, but i would never asked for them to be banned. There are many things that bother me, but a little love and tolerance for the love of other people and animals would go a long way. in the eyes of nature and the laws of the planet, Dogs have the same rights as people. we are all happy that we have the GGNRA, but the change is happening against dogs and dog owners and we have a right to complain about the changes. if there was a change banning another group of recreationists,, then they would ahve the right to complain as well. There is a also a large group of people whose livelihood is dogwalking and this will make their jobs more difficult as well.

  21. It’s more of a national park than it is a local dog run, if you want to look at it that way. It’s not not a national park, it’s just a national park with slightly different use. This is an area people are flying across country, and from other countries to see and experience. It’s not all about the locals, all the time.

  22. Stuart – you do have plovers with Labradors running around! Locals created the GGNRA – in fact the Kent family donated a vast tract and lobbied for it’s creation. Local pols such as Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi have extended the parks boundaries over the years for the use and enjoyment of locals (not making this up). All of the former military bases became part of the GGNRA not to protect species but to prevent high-density real estate development. Most species were not even cataloged until long after the GGNRA began its stewardship. That’s not a bad thing, it’s good. The changing mission of the GGNRA is a political dynamic, not a scientific necessity. Off-leash dogs were in fact codified in the agreement that shifted land management from the County of SF to the GGNRA in San Francisco. The GGNRA is reneging on some of these and circumscribing others based upon the intentions of its present leadership, unsubstantiated ecological claims, and pure hubris. You appear to be more strident than informed.

  23. GGNRA includes “recreation area” for a reason. These areas are intended to be used by the residents and locals. They need to stop “pretending” to be a National Park and start acting as the GG National RECREATION Area.

  24. I was recently in Tokyo at the Mandarin Oriental (nice place). I was running on treadmill on the 32nd floor overlooking tokyo tower (beautiful treadmil view). the treadmill had one of those programs where you could pick your location to run in and run along as if you were in that location. Fort Funston was actually one of the choices, and of course I picked it. Even the virtual trail was full of dogs, and it made me feel right at home being on the treadmill and completely forgot about the tokyo skyline, as was placed back in Funston with all the wonderful dogs. When I got off, the gym attendant told me that was his very favorite program because it was so relaxing to be running with all the smiling and running dogs. I don’t think people come from all voer the world specifically for Funston and much of GGNRA is pretty much already off limits to dogs. But I did find out that there is a treadmill rpogram all over the world that people love and think SF is such a wonderful place because it has happy dogs running along on its beaches. For Funston is local. 99% of visitors are local and 99% of visitors love the dogs. The loud grumpy 1% is voicing their opposition to dogs (whsoe warm furry smiles do nothing to warrant it) and the federal govt, who does not know SF culture, much less Funston, is backing out of a deal with SF to create new laws that 99% of people don’t want. We are so lucky to have these treasures that we can all enjoy, and having dogs doesnt make another person enjoy less. It just hurts the complainer class, which is becoming all too often in SF from newcomers not understanding or loving our culture. Someone who is new to Funston should not be driving new rules after 50 yrs of status quo, especially when the plover is increasing (and so are pests like coyotes and racoons that GGNRA is doing nothing about). If you are really going to bans dogs from cerain areas, extend it to all non-native mammals, including HUMANS. Humans are much more to blame for extinction of wildlife than our kindest gentlest friend, the dog

  25. Those who are focusing on the difference between National Park and National Recreation Area would better communicate their points (whether in support of or against this plan) if they realized that to the Federal government there is zero regulatory difference. The name of the place does not change 99% of the Federal laws. Legally speaking, GGNRA is held to many of the same standards as Yosemite. You might disagree with that, but it is a fact, codified into law in 16 & 54 USC and 36 CFR.

    As to considering dogs family, I know there are strong emotions regarding that, but do keep in mind that some people are trying to protect their own dogs from the off leash dogs of others. This isn’t just about dogs vs kids/birds/plants. This is also about dogs vs dogs, and trying to reduce all negative interactions.

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