Pro-dog protester. Photo: Amanda Stupi
Last night in Mill Valley, it was pretty clear that some interested parties think management of Golden Gate National Recreation Area has gone to the dogs, and not in a good way.

At the first of four public meetings set up by the GGNRA, dog owners howled their dismay over the agency’s draft Dog Management Plan, which will prohibit off-leash dog walking in some areas that currently allow it.

The purpose of the plan, GGNRA says, is to “promote the preservation and protection of natural and cultural resources and natural processes” and “provide a variety of visitor experiences, improve visitor and employee safety, and reduce user conflicts.”

Dog owners are not on board. From the Chronicle report on yesterday’s meeting:

Dog lovers unleashed their frustration Wednesday as hundreds of people crowded into the first open house to discuss the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s voluminous management plan for man’s best friend.

About two dozen protesters, trailing 10 or more collared companions, waved picket signs outside the meeting while many inside complained about a proposal by the recreation area to close four of six locations in Marin County where pet owners are now allowed to let their dogs off-leash.

And from the Marin Independent Journal:

I do think the preferred alternative is almost Draconian,” said Margaret Harding of Mill Valley, who suggested a permit system for good dog walkers to allow pets off leash. Such a system exists in Boulder, Colo. “This plan doesn’t acknowledge that it is a national recreation area that is unique. As they reduce the areas where we can walk dogs, it will put enormous pressure on the places you can.”

Said Marabeth Grahame of Mill Valley: “It’s our culture; people should be able to get outside, and we get outside with our dogs.”

KQED News intern Becky Palmstrom today spoke with both a professional dogwalker who attended last night’s meeting and with a GGNRA spokesman.

Angela Gardner is a representative of the San Francisco Professional Dogwalkers Association, and a firm opponent of the proposal. Howard Levitt is the GGNRA’s Director of Communications and Partnership. Listening to the clips in order will give you an idea of just how far apart the GGNRA and some dogwalkers are on this:

Howard Levitt: Reasons for the planAngela Gardner: The city’s going to be overrunAngela Gardner: We have just one percent; they want to ban dogs altogetherHoward Levitt: Plan presumes people will follow rules, but non-compliance may cause tightening of restrictionsHoward Levitt: We were able to identify areas where dogs can be off-leashAngela Gardner: Dogs would be confined to smaller areasAngela Gardner: “We’re in a densely populated urban areas, we’re not in the middle of Yellowstone park”Angela Gardner: No evidence dogs cause environmental harmHoward Levitt: Meetings designed to facilitate comments from publicHoward: Levitt: Meeting was a “wonderful dialogue”Angela Gardner: There’s no way to publicly comment orally, so have to stage ralliesHoward Levitt: We’ll consider the comments very carefullyLevitt said the final plan will be released some time late this year. Then the process of making rules to fit the plan will begin. The final policy will not be in place for a good two years.

The final three public open-house meetings are at the following times and places:

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 A, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, S.F.

March 9: 4 to 8 p.m. at Cabrillo School, 601 Crespi Drive, Pacifica.

  • Jan Scott

    Howard Levitt is a smooth communicator, but it is too bad he wasn’t more honest in this interview. In fact, the GGNRA tried to change the rules back in 2001 by rescinding the 1979 Pet Policy which had been successful for 20 years. 1,500 people showed up at the hearing voicing objections; the GGNRA is now prohibiting any public speaking to avoid a repeat of such a dramatic show of disapproval. At the conclusion of the 2001 hearing, they said nothing, but changed the rules anyway. They were sued and the court determined that the GGNRA must provide public noticed of significant regulations; GGNRA appealed and lost. This is the reason for the Dog Management Plan today, and the reason that those of us who know the history do not trust them.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor