“G – G – N – R – A, let our dogs out to play!” shouted more than a dozen protesters outside the at Miller Ave. and Camino Alto Wednesday evening at a gathering to oppose the National Park Service’s within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).
In a decidedly more staid setting, those restrictions were on display in a massive, colorful presentation just a few hundred yards away, inside Ruby Scott Gym at . The event was the park service’s first of on its draft dog management plan, drawing a few hundred people throughout a four-hour period.
The agency chose to structure the event as an informal workshop as opposed to a traditional public hearing on regulatory changes. It did so to be more inclusive, according to spokesperson Alexandra Picavet.
The presentation focused on all 21 areas of the recreation area in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, describing the range of policy options for each and outlining a specific policy the park service is recommending.
In some cases, for places like Muir and South Rodeo beaches, dogs would be banned, while on Homestead Hill and on the Oakwood Valley Trail off Tennessee Valley Road they mostly would be required to be on leash.
But while the event’s structure kept any public vitriol in check inside the gym, there wasn’t a lot of support for the plan to be found among attendees, most of whom were dog owners.
Robert Leeper, a 44-year-old landscape designer and Baton Rouge native who moved to Tam Valley a year ago, recently started a Facebook page called Dogs of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to give voice to dog owners during the dog management plan’s public comment period, which ends April 14.
“We exist, and we’re a very large user group of the GGNRA,” said Leeper, who owns two chocolate labrador retrievers. “We want good dog behavior, but we’re not on board with being unilaterally excluded from federally funded park land.”
Many dog owners like Leeper that the agency come up with a way to restrict dog owners who are unable to maintain voice command of their dogs without penalizing those dog owners who are able to do so.
Mill Valley resident Fred Schein, one of the leading forces behind the creation of the off-leash dog run at nearly 15 years ago, said the park service should focus on adding some areas for off-leash dogs as it imposes restrictions in other areas.
“I have not seen any evidence that the park service has recognized dog owners as major users of this public land,” Schein said. “We are a massive group of people, and they should be looking for ways to modify this plan to add some dog areas while taking others away.”
As dozens of conversations took place inside the gym and attendees scribbled comments on large sheets of paper, the protesters outside braved the rain but received plenty of horn-honking support from passing cars.
Sausalito resident Jane Woodman and fellow dog owner Sonja Hanson of Marin Unleashed said they’d met with GGNRA Superintendent Frank Dean a few months ago and were told that they would be pleasantly surprised by the draft dog management plan when it was unveiled Jan. 14.
“Surprised – yes,” Woodman said.
“Pleasantly – no,” Hanson replied.
Woodman said she was most troubled by the plan’s “compliance management strategy,” which calls for further tightening of the restrictions in a given area if it is determined that less than 75 percent of dog walkers are complying with the new rules over a one-year period.
For instance, if the agency determined that more than 25 percent of dog walkers along Oakwood Valley Trail were letting their dogs off leash beyond the “restricted off-leash area,” then dogs would then be required to be on leash on all trails in the area.
“It’s a poison pill,” Woodman said.
Dog owners will have several more chances to voice their concerns about the draft plan. The public comment period closes April 14, and agency officials encourage people to submit comments here.
Draft Dog Management Plan Open Houses:
March 5: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., San Francisco State University, Seven Hills Conference Center, State Drive, S.F.
March 7: 4 to 8 p.m., Fort Mason Center, Building D, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, S.F.
March 9: 4 to 8 p.m. at Cabrillo School, 601 Crespi Drive, Pacifica.