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Off-Leash Recreation is Being Threatened
Lola at Crissy Field, GGNRA
Lola at Crissy Field, GGNRA

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is proposing a roughly 90 percent reduction in its off-leash space. And we have only until May 25 to comment on this draconian proposal.

The GGNRA oversees more than 80,000 acres of the Northern California coastline, and of this, dogs have only been allowed on approximately 1 percent. Their proposed new Dog Management Plan will reduce that smidgen by 90 percent, which is a significant hit.

Although a unit of the Dept. of the Interior’s National Park Service, GGNRA is in a decidedly different category than the more traditional parks such as Yellowstone or Yosemite. From its inception in 1972, it has been charged with balancing habitat protection with recreational activities that predated its creation: “To provide for the maintenance of needed recreational open space.” Foremost among those activities was (and is) off-leash dog-walking. One of the groundbreaking 1970s “parks for the people,” GGNRA serves a densely populated metropolitan area and is an invaluable resource for locals and visitors alike, providing access to outdoor recreation for millions of people each year.

For many of us, especially women and seniors, off-leash recreation with our dogs is our only form of exercise. We don’t kayak, bike, run or cross-train. What we do—from time immemorial, it seems—is simply walk with our unfettered dogs, enjoying the regenerative benefits of spending time outside. We also acknowledge that a balance needs to be met with respect to other park users and the natural resources that we all value.

But we believe that an acceptable balance was not adequately taken into consideration during GGNRA’s rule-making deliberations. Rather, opinions and desires expressed by special-interest groups such as the Sierra Club and Audubon Society and prominent donors held greater sway than those of local elected officials and the many thousands of off-leash advocates (and other park users) they represent. And because this is thought to be a precedent setting judgment, it can (and will) be used against off-leash activity is other areas throughout the country.

During two recent public meetings held by the GGNRA and chaired by park superintendent, Christine Lernertz, in response to questions about how they regard the opposition from the vast majority of residents, local elected officials and humane organizations, Lernertz brushed those questions off and referred to GGNRA's “national” status, meaning they are a park for the whole nation. (She did though reference their concern about tourists from other countries, and what would they feel about seeing dogs on beaches.) So if indeed the GGNRA is a national resource for all of us, they need to hear from all of us from both inside and outside the area.

Your comments are needed now and due before May 25:

What do I say in my comment?

·    See talking points and sample comments here, or here or see the one below.

·    Consider making the point, in your own words. If you are outside the Bay Area, tell them where you are located and how important the issue of off leash recreation is to you, especially in public land owned by the federal government. Your voice matters too.

How do I submit my comment?

  1. Go to https://www.regulations.gov, type 1024-AE16 in the search box, and press Enter.
  2. Click the Comment Now! box on the results page.
  3. Click the Commenter's Checklist link to view a PDF with commenting guidelines and tips.
  4. Enter your comment and other required information in the form provided.

General Sample Comment Letter

“I am writing to voice my opposition to the highly restrictive proposed rule for dog management at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). It was established by Congress as a national recreation are—not a national park. Banning dog walking recreation from nearly all of the GGNRA is a violation of public trust and the unit’s enabling legislation.

These significant restrictions to dog walking are being proposed without any evidence that dog walking is causing actual impacts to GGNRA’s natural resources or visitor experience.

I am especially opposed to the provision that would give GGNRA’s superintendent a blank check to ban dogs without any sort of public input process and before any impacts from dogs occur.

I strongly urge the National Park Service to rethink its proposed rule for dog walking at GGNRA. Please take into account the input and concerns of the thousands of people in this country that are opposing this plan.”

Also see:

http://www.saveourrecreation.com/resources/

http://www.saveoffleash.com/

https://youtu.be/ZUe1fdoo_Ek

 

 

 

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Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.

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