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Golden Gate National Recreation Area dog walking rules rile owners

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(Evan DuCharme/Special to The S.F. Examiner)

A revised version released Friday of a federal dog management plan for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has canine advocates feeling like they got the short end of the stick – again.

In this revision of a January 2011 plan, the National Park Service grants seven locations for dogs to run leash-less while also adding leash requirements to other areas. Overall, the accommodations pale in comparison to the requests made in the 4,700-some comments submitted and access remains restrictive, dog advocates say.

“There has been a light revision but it's not been for the positive,” said Martha Walters, chairwoman of the Crissy Field Dog Group. “They didn't incorporate about 95 percent of our comments. We're extremely disappointed, and the park service has not been operating in good faith.”

Rules at Crissy Field are some of the more contentious of the six alternatives for dog walking in the new version of the plan, which is a dozen years in the making. As in the 2011 plan, dogs would be banned from East Beach, the most popular off-leash section. In exchange, they would be allowed to run free on the east part of the airfield and middle of the beach.

Fort Funston and Fort Mason, other areas of particular interest, also got some off-leash rights. Muir Beach in Marin County, another popular place in the recreation area's 21 dog walking locations, would accommodate dogs on leashes instead of prohibiting them completely.

Among the locations restricted more in the revised plan is Oakwood Valley in Marin, where dogs would only be allowed on leash, whereas the 2011 version allowed them off-leash.

Park service officials have yet to receive new comments from canine advocates, as the document is extremely extensive, said Howard Levitt, director of communications and partnerships.

The plan “provides a very, very appropriate range of user experiences, and we hope the public agrees with us,” said Levitt, adding that “we feel really good about our alternative because it was informed and shaped by the comments we received in the earlier plan.”

A public comment period extends through Dec. 4, at which point park service officials will evaluate feedback, make adjustments, and prepare a final plan and rules for implementation in late 2014 or early 2015. Public meetings are scheduled for Nov. 2 at Fort Mason Center, Nov. 4 at Farrallone View Elementary School and Nov. 6 at Tamalpais High School.

Walters said her group and members of Eco-Dog, a coalition of Bay Area nonprofit organizations who advocate for responsible dog guardianship, have hired environmental consultants and attorneys to plead their case.

“They [GGNRA officials] have not proved there has been a significant environmental impact anywhere in GGNRA,” Walters said. “We're taking this very seriously, and we just hope the park service would too.”

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