Dog Owners Bring Down GGNRA Restrictions

National Park Service abandoned longtime plans after dog owners filed a transparency lawsuit.

A dog runs free at Ocean Beach (Photo Courtesy of Nuala Sawyer)

Not all heroes wear capes, but some hold leashes — at least, in the eyes of Bay Area dogs.

Dog owners, of all people, successfully challenged the National Park Service (NPS) over its more than decade-long effort to restrict dog access in the Bay Area with a Freedom of Information lawsuit in April 2016. After the lawsuit uncovered problems in the decision-making process, NPS announced Thursday it was dropping its plans, Bay City News reports.

The Golden Gate National Recreational Area (GGNRA) — which includes Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field and Muir Beach — nearly adopted new rules that advocates say would have reduced off-leash areas by about 90 percent on top of reducing on-leash areas. The plan included 22 spots to walk dogs with six of them being off-leash.

NPS tried for restrictions in 2002, but a court decision in 2005 ruled officials must undergo an environmental review and lengthy rulemaking process.

The lawsuit, Save Our Recreation member Andrea Buffa says, exposed documents showing a biased decision-making process and private email use by five park officials to collaborate with groups who wanted the rules adopted.

An independent review concluded that, while inappropriate, the emails didn’t affect the planning process. Nonetheless, NPS decided not to continue with the plans.

“We’ve been telling the park service that dog walking is part of the way of life in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Buffa says. “They were finally forced to listen.”

Elected officials of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin County were never quite on board with the plans. In September, Rep. Jackie Speier won approval in the House of Representatives for a budget amendment to prevent NPS from restricting access for dogs in GGRNA.

Rules from 1979 remain law of the land, but defaults to on-leash requirements for areas added to GGRNA since the rules were passed.

 

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