Federal officials release comments on plan to restrict dogs in Bay Area park lands

dog at Ocean Beach

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area wants new rules to govern dogs at Ocean Beach and Fort Funston. Photo: Flickr user dglassme

The National Park Service has published the comments it received regarding its proposed plan to regulate off-leash dogs in Bay Area parks.

In a 4,118-page electronic document, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area compiled 4,713 comments about its proposal. The GGNRA’s proposed Dog Management Plan would explicitly permit dogs to run without leashes in a number of locations, including Ocean Beach and Fort Funston, but would restrict or ban them from other parts of the federal GGNRA park system.

“It was all forms of correspondence,” said Howard Levitt, the GGNRA’s director of communications, about the sources of the comments. “It includes the snail mail we received” as well as comments submitted through the GGNRA website, written comments submitted at meetings and other sources.

“We will read each and every comment,” Levitt said.

The Park Service and a consultant hired by the NPS are analyzing the comments, and the GGNRA is scheduled to publish a summary of the comments later this year. Officials also may modify the plan, in part based on the comments received on the original proposal.

The GGNRA is an arm of the National Park Service. It encompasses Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, the Sutro Baths ruins Lands End and Sutro Heights Park, as well as park lands in other counties in the western Bay Area. The dog-management plan would not change off-leash policies enacted by cities and counties.

The comments on the GGNRA Dog Management Plan are available online (PDF, 10.8 MB). The comments are also available for public review at the GGNRA’s Fort Mason offices. Call Shirwin Smith at (415) 561-4947 for an appointment.


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  1. It is not a coincidence but a premeditated decision to allow dogs off leash on Ocean Beach only where the parking lots are and not in the miles of sand in between. Beachgoers getting out of their cars with beach gear and small toddlers are likely to do so at Fulton Street and Sloat rather than crossing the Great Highway in between these parking lots.

    Then when you mix off leash dogs in this congested area you are going to get a hugh uptick in complaints and reports of nuisance making by dogs deserved or not. The next step is to ban dogs and logically so. Am I the only one who sees this “progression” thinking by the GGNRA?Fight your tickets (i got one) by holding true to the 1979 pet policy, be mad as heck and make your voice heard..

    Above all never accept dogs are not important. They save lives, lead the blind, protect our ports, give solace to children and old folks with terminal diseases etc. The next time someone tells you dogs are ‘less than’.. ask them when the last time a Western Snowy Plover protected our Borders and allowed a Blind Person to lead a normal life.

    The Snowy Plover is a perfect foil to this abhorrent rulemaking. A lovely creature, to be sure, but not impacted by our noble dogs in the least.

  2. I live on the Great Hwy, so my motivations are more specific to OB, than Crissy Field or other parts of the GGNRA.
    However, my loathe for the proposed greater restrictions spans the entire system.

    I believe there is at least one very good legal challenge to the new regulations. There is an arbitrary clause that requires 100% of enforcement, but provides no baseline or established number on which to verify 100%.
    It is a technicality, but one that a dog friendly Park Police Captain pointed out to me at the “open house.”

    That said, I believe that dogs do far less damage to the park system than people do.

    Ignoring the fact that the Western Snowy Plover doesn’t actually nest on OB, as it nests in estuarine environments ( see the Audobon link- http://birds.audubon.org/species/snoplo ) … it does feed in the tideline… Also ignoring the fact that the recent seawall in front of the sewer plant encroached upon most of the protected bank swallows chosen bluff nesting area… Also ignoring that the revetment has altered natural littoral sand transport… And ignoring the annual sand dune relocation, where the dunes are scoured for six months by winds, followed by a crude bulldozer & dump truck elevation scraping and dumping along the bluffs… And ignoring the man made sand tunnels, dangerous trails and foothold scars in the North Ft. Funston bluffs… And ignoring the numerous scary-to-all birds kites, kiteboards, kiteskates & sleds. And ignoring the volumes of people who use the beach as a place to litter, drink, burn, firework and grafitti… And ignoring the garbage, oil spill (c.2007), flight path and highway proximity…. Ignoring all those things people should be reminded of the words from the new Superintendent Frank Dean, “I will not have dogs running loose in my park.”]

    This is nothing more than a personal power trip and it’s bunk!

  3. The amount of money GGNRA has spent on the draft EIS could have been so much better used to provide bathrooms for *people* at Ft. Funston. At present there are three Port-a-potties on the North side of the parking lot. This past week they were all, each and every one of them, paperless and overflowing, in desperate need of cleaning. People were turning away in disgust. There are no bathrooms at all on the south side, by the ranger station. There are none in the visitor center.

    If NPS makes such poor encomic decisions, while crying “poor mouth” / “no financial resources”, how can we trust them to make good decisions regarding public use?

    After all, dogs don’t need bathrooms!

  4. I’m posting this comment on behalf of reader Jan Scott, who sent it by email and asked me to post it online:

    “I was glad to see Tom Prete’s article regarding the official release of comments regarding the GGNRA’s dog management plan. However, saying that dogs will be allowed offleash at Ocean Beach and Fort Funston is a little misleading.Ocean Beach will allow dogs offleash only north of Stairwell 21, and they will be banned entirely elsewhere on the beach. The area open to offleash dogs at Fort Funston will be drastically reduced.

    Because many people are still now aware of the impact the GGNRA plan will have on them and will not take the time to read the details, I think it is important that you continue to present a clear picture of the plan.

    Jan Scott
    Outer Sunset District”

  5. Article is a bit deceiving regarding the Dog Plan’s impact on Ocean Beach. It says it would allow dogs to run off-leash on Ocean Beach – this is true just for the very northern area by the Cliff House. It would ban dogs entirely from the rest of Ocean Beach. Thats a big stretch of beach. I wouldn’t even be allowed to walk to the beach with my dog on leash to watch the sunset. They are really impacting many people’s lives in a serious way and for no demonstrable benefit to the snowy plover, which does not nest on Ocean Beach.

    • Karen, thanks for your comment. Without getting into the question of whether dogs should or shouldn’t be allowed without leashes on the beach, I don’t think there’s anything deceptive about the article. The fact is that the GGNRA decided as a practice some years ago to ignore most off-leash dogs. As a matter of policy, however, the GGNRA and NPS don’t specifically allow them. You’re absolutely right that what the GGNRA calls the “preferred alternative” in the proposal would ban dogs on most of the beach. But what it also would do is explicitly state that it’s OK for dogs to be off-leash in the northern part of the beach you mention (as well as a number of other places in the GGNRA system). That’s a policy — and a protection for off-leash use, however limited — that isn’t in place now.

      • Don’t think so. They have been enforcing the leash rule on the rest of the beach all this time. Not sure where you are getting your info.

        • That’s the darnedest kind of enforcement I ever saw.

          • I know of people who have gotten tickets – thats all. If you are wanting a police state – just wait.

        • I’ve been jogging on the beach every few days for … what? 10 years now? and i can count on the fingers of one hand the number people I’ve seen stopped by the beach patrol for off leash dogs.

          I for one welcome a dog-free ocean beach. Maybe I can finally take my children out there without having to worry about giant off leash dogs.

      • Tom,

        What you are saying here about “practice” versus “policy” is wrong and a common misconception about the legal status of off-leash dog walking in GGNRA, aided in part by erroneous information put out there by the Park Service.

        The NPS adopted a Pet Policy in 1979 as a result of extensive community meetings, which allowed off-leash dog walking in 1% of the GGNRA. The Pet Policy has been the legal, operative policy, upheld as such twice in U.S. Court.

        In 2001 the Park Service, without any public process, declared the Pet Policy void and began ticketing people for walking dogs off-leash in the areas designated as legally off-leash in the 1979 Pet Policy. Three people challenged their tickets and won when a U.S. Magistrate ruled that the 1979 Pet Policy was and is the legal and operative policy. The NPS appealed the decision and lost the appeal in U.S. District Court.

        For more information and links to the court rulings:

        It IS a matter of policy, not just a “practice” of ignoring off-leash dogs.

  6. What a shame, GGNRA is spending millions to ban dogs when they pose no threat to the environment or safety at recreational areas designed for, well, recreation. The battle was won when GGNRA was created precluding any further development of the land. Meanwhile, the country almost defaulted on its debt, services that help people in need are being gutted and Calif State Parks are being closed. But GGNRA has the green light to spend millions on a dog management plan that has no measurable outcomes. This is the wrong fight and a capitulation by environmental groups (many to which I belong) to truly save the planet. Shame on the taxpayers for allowing GGNRA to methodically push its agenda that achieves absolutely nothing.

    • I so agree. You said it well. I too, belonged and supported many environmental groups. I do not anymore. they are going off in wrong directions or going too far. I do my part, I personally clean my beach every time I walk my dogs there, I remind others not to let their dogs into protected areas, and I will clean up after other people’s dogs if need be. I have been walking my dogs for over 20 years in these areas and I know dogs are not the issue the GGNRA is trying to make them out to be.

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