The latest concerns were addressed at a full-house public forum convened by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, Thursday at the Stern Grove Clubhouse. A revision of a January 2011 plan, the proposal entails changing many GGNRA locations that currently allow off-leash dog walking to leash-only areas. Of the seven sites that would allow canines to roam untethered and on voice command, six are in San Francisco — two at Fort Funston, two at Crissy Field, one at Fort Mason and one at Ocean Beach. The last would be in Marin County.
Speier has opposed the plan’s recommendation to keep San Mateo County — her largest constituency — free of off-leash dog areas. “I have a problem with that,” she said to applause. “This is grossly irresponsible. You can’t possibly have no off-leash areas in San Mateo when you have them in San Francisco. That is unacceptable. We’ve got to have a meeting of the minds here that extends beyond just, ‘No.’”
GGNRA General Superintendent Frank Dean acknowledged Speier’s and supporters’ concerns but said: “We need to look at this holistically.”
While dog walking has been very popular in the history of the park, the number of users has doubled in the last 20 years and that has created conflict among dog owners, families, hikers and other users, Dean said. The proposal looks to address changes since a pet policy was set in 1979.
“We focused on the most popular areas and tried to retain those,” Dean said. “Yes, there will be downsizing. But we aren’t banning dogs. We are creating a special regulation to allow dogs off-leash.”
However, Crissy Field Dog Group chairwoman Martha Walters took issue with the latest version of the plan, saying it “proposes too many restrictions with too little analysis and factual basis.”
“These proposed restrictions, in turn, will likely increase user conflict because of the limited remaining space for dog recreation,” Walters said, adding that her group supports the existing use of land supporting off-leash activity.
Speier suggested a recreation advisory committee be formed with stakeholders, including the Crissy Field Dog Group, Golden Gate Audubon Society and National Parks Conservation Association.
She believes officials can “form a plan that is comprehensive, respectful and conducive for all recreation interests in the region that respects the park as well as the interests of the taxpayers.”
Public comment can be made at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/dogplan through Feb. 18 and will be considered in a final dog-management plan anticipated by summer 2015.