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

Dog owners disappointed with final GGNRA access rules, plan to sue

A final proposal from the National Park Service released today for dog management rules in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was met with disappointment from dog owners who have been pushing to maintain access to on- and off-leash areas.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement adds new on- and off-leash areas in San Mateo County in response to public comments, but still cuts 90 percent of the areas where dog owners are currently allowed to walk their dogs off of a leash, according to Andrea Buffa, a member of the group Save Our Recreation.

“I’m sure the park service wants to make this sound like a compromise but the impact that it’s going to have on people who get their exercise outdoors by walking their dogs is going to be severe,” Buffa said. Buffa said it appeared likely that her group will need to sue the park service to challenge the rules in court once they are finalized.

The agency and dog owners have been battling for years over proposed restrictions on dog walking within the 80,000-acre national recreation area, which spans Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties and includes popular dog walking areas such as Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field, Muir Beach and Rancho Corral de Tierra.

The park service has said the plan includes 22 locations for dog walking within the GGNRA, including six where off-leash dogs are allowed. The areas include nearly one-third of the mileage on the park’s beaches and more than one-third of the mileage on trails, according to the park service.

The proposed rules also allow groups of up to 4-6 dogs to be walked with a permit. Park service officials have said the rules are needed to protect environmental resources and wildlife and provide a safe experience for park users.

“The Dog Management Plan seeks to balance recreation and preservation at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, increase visitor safety by providing space for all types of recreational users, and protect park resources for future generations,” said Jim Milestone, acting general superintendent.

“We will proudly remain the most dog-friendly park in the National Park Service and the only one to offer off-leash dog recreation,” Milestone said.

The move to restrict dogs has been met with opposition not only from dog owners but from elected officials in the affected counties at both the local and national level.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, who has advocated for more access in San Mateo County, said she was pleased to see an off-leash area added at Rancho Corral de Tierra and on-leash areas at Mori Point and Milagra Ridge, but was still disappointed that most of the GGNRA remained inaccessible to dogs and their owners.

“I appreciate the Park Service’s compromise, but it does not go far enough to address the full scope of what dog walkers reasonably requested,” Speier said. “However, after 14 years of gridlock, I am relieved to see some movement in the right direction.”

Park service officials said that in addition to the new areas in San Mateo County, they added or expanded on-leash areas at Muir Beach, Crissy Field and Baker Beach and expanded the off-leash area at Crissy Field in response to public comment.

However, Buffa noted that in Marin County, for example, the only off-leash area is at the remote Rodeo Beach, and accessible trail areas have been cut from 24 miles to 8.

The National Park Service will publish a record of decision in January and release a final rule later in 2017. An effective date has not yet been set.Bay Area NewsdogsGolden Gate National Recreation Area

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