Reclamation of Ocean Beach scrapped 

A city commission has abandoned the idea of reclaiming sections of Ocean Beach that were handed over to the National Park Service more than 30 years ago even as off-leash dog advocates worry the federal agency will end up forcing them to leash their dogs.

Many off-leash dog advocates had hoped that The City’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare would stand up for their fight to reclaim Ocean Beach, which is now under the control of the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Tempers flared when the GGNRA issued an emergency prohibition of off-leashed dogs between July 1 and May 1 on parts of Ocean Beach and Crissy Field, claiming that the dogs disturbed the threatened western snowy plover, which lives in the area.

(Courtesy photo/California State Parks) At the center of the Ocean Beach controversy is the tiny Snowy Plover, a bird that has lived on California beaches for thousands of years but now faces possible extinction due to disturbance of their habitat by humans and dogs, according to national and state parks services. The Plover is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

A group of off-leash dog advocates issued a number of complaints about the prohibition, prompting the commission to consider legislation that would urge The City to bring back under city control sections of Ocean Beach and Crissy Field that were handed over to the GGNRA in 1975.

The commission voted last month to kill the legislation, however. The decision disappointed some off-dog leash advocates who were hoping the legislation would at least pressure GGNRA to be more accommodating to off-leashed dogs.

"The commission could have helped," said Steve Sayad, a lawyer with the Ocean Beach Dog Owners Group. Sayad also said that there really was no "emergency," making the prohibition a violation of law.

The GGNRA is currently in the second year of a two-year court ordered negotiation process with interested parties to come up with dog walking rules for Ocean Beach and other GGNRA land.

The chairman of the commission, Richard Schulke, said that it wasn’t the right time to approve such legislation. "I can’t think it’s fair to ask the city to sue to take back the park before the negotiation rule-making is done," Schulke said. He added, "I still believe that the National Parks Service will do a lot better job looking out for all the animals at the park."

A draft of the rules for dog walking at Ocean Beach and other GGNRA land is expected to come out sometime in 2008, according to GGNRA spokeswoman Chris Powell.

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