The proposed National Park Service dog management rule is an opportunity for all San Francisco residents who use the incredible resources of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to come together and help support a system that can provide for the recreational needs of all San Franciscans and visitors to our city. As supervisor for the district that includes Lands End and Ocean Beach and as a conservationist, we understand the need for a rule balancing the needs of all stakeholders. We believe we can have a working partnership between city residents and the NPS that will serve everyone in our community.
The GGNRA is one of the 410 units of the national park system. The first paragraph of the federal legislation that authorized the GGNRA says it is preserved for all the following reasons: to provide for public use and enjoyment of its outstanding natural, historic, scenic and recreational values and to provide for recreational and educational opportunities.
It states the GGNRA is to be managed to protect the park from development and uses that would destroy the scenic beauty and natural character of the area. By NPS policy, nature comes first in all national parks, and recreation has to fit into what allows the natural resources to flourish. Yet even with these considerations, the GGNRA is the most recreation-friendly park in the entire national park system.
The GGNRA has 17.5 million visitors a year, many of whom come from all over the United States and around the world. They view an iconic landscape that Congress conserved to prevent the building of apartment houses and shopping malls on its outstanding scenery. Yes, most of the park’s most frequent visitors live nearby, and some of those visitors have dogs. But recreation with dogs is only one kind of recreation this park provides. It also includes visitors without dogs, who come for sight-seeing, walking, hiking, running, bird watching, bicycling, horse-back riding, photography and more. The park also conserves its natural resources for the education of students and for Parks Conservancy programs. The proposed rule allows kids and their families to enjoy the beach without fear of being knocked over by an unruly dog.
Because of a long history of dog walking on trails and beaches before there was a GGNRA, the park’s administrators in 1979 tried to preserve some of those opportunities. However, large increases in the number of dogs require more regulation. Loss of wildlife in heavily used areas, increased knowledge of the endangered species in the GGNRA, destruction of the dunes at Fort Funston, conflicts between visitors and dogs — including dog bites and between leashed and unleashed dogs — and rescues of unleashed animals in various situations are some examples of what has led to this tightly crafted rule, in addition to preservation of the park’s natural resources.
The special rule under consideration would make the GGNRA the only park in the national park system to officially permit dogs. People here will have 22 spacious places to play with and exercise their dogs, including seven places where they can be unleashed. In all other NPS units, dogs must be on 6-foot leashes near the cars that brought them or else confined. Visitors have the right to enjoy parts of the park free of dogs.
We want residents to comment on elements of the proposed dog management rule. They may express their support for the rule and/or their specific concerns to the superintendent: GGNRA, Dog Management Proposed Rule, Building 201 Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA, 94123 by mail. You can also use the comment form online by May 25 at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NPS-2016-0002 (regular email won’t work).
Eric Mar is a San Francisco supervisor. Amy Meyer is a local parks activist.