Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution written by Supervisor Scott Wiener opposing a plan for new dog rules by the National Park Service that would limit off leash canines at Ocean Beach and Fort Funston. The current resolution is similar to one, also written by Wiener, that the board passed in 2011. "We have a direct interest," says Wiener, "even if we have no formal powers."
How can a resolution passed by the city's elected representatives have no formal powers?
Because it's not city land, that's why. Back in the 1970s, Wiener explains to us, the National Parks Service, a federal agency, began taking over land in San Francisco and Marin counties, ultimately ending up with over 80,002 acres, including Ocean Beach and Fort Funston, as well as Fort Mason, Lands End, the Presidio, and the Sutro area. Those areas are managed by an agency known as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, not San Francisco city government.
Much of the conflict may trace back to a philosophical disagreement about the purpose of National Park land. Is it set aside so that it may be preserved in a relatively pristine state or ought it to be available for recreation? For his part, Wiener sees the current debate as "separate" from the larger questions. "This was designated when we gave the land to the feds to be a recreational area. It was never intended to be Yosemite or Death Valley. The Park Service is trying to fit a square peg in a round hole."
The conflict has been heated lately. According to the Chronicle, the Park Service did not attened a hearing that Wiener had called to disucss the resolution before it passed, claiming that it "saw no productive purpose" in attending. After all, the resolution already was titled "Opposing Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Draft Dog Walking Access Policy." A spokesperson for the Sierra Club blasted Wiener too, claiming that the supervisor was trying to "gain points with a minority of extremist dog owners."
For its part, Park Service documents argue that new dog rules are needed because "under current conditions, park resources and values could be compromised to the extent that, without action, these resources and values in some areas of the park might not be available for enjoyment by future generations. Additionally, a dog management policy inconsistent with NPS regulations and increased public expectations for use of the park for dog recreation have resulted in controversy, litigation, and compromised visitor and employee safety, affecting visitor experience and resulting in resource degradation."
The Park Service has been pushing for a change in the rules since at least 2002. Currently, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is due in 2015.