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GGNRA Off-Leash Dog Law Critics to March on Saturday

Opponents say proposal to restrict where dogs can go without a leash will unfairly burden nearby parks.

Opponents of a  to restrict the places within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area where dogs can go without a leash, including , are planning a march and rally Saturday in San Francisco to protest the plan.

In the "Mighty Mutt Strut," protesters will march from Ocean Beach to Sigmund Stern Grove with the message that city parks will be overburdened if off-leash dog areas in the federal parkland are cut back, rally organizer David Emanuel said.

"It's really symbolizing what the new reality is if the national recreation area gets to ban most of the areas where people and their dogs like to walk in," Emanuel said.

The proposal by the National Park Service would drastically reduce the size of off-leash areas for dogs at 21 sites within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The 2,400-page draft plan, first issued Jan. 14, covers 21 specific areas within GGNRA, including a number of popular trails in and around Mill Valley. For each area, the agency has outlined six possible policies and recommended one of them, ranging in severity from banning dogs completely in some areas to restricting the areas where dogs can be off leash in others.

For the Oakwood Valley area off the south side of Tennessee Valley Road, for instance, there would be restricted off-leash access along the Oakwood Valley Fire Road. But dogs would be banned from parts of Oakwood Valley Trail, which connects with the Alta Trail and Orchard and Pacheco fire roads near Marin City, and would need to be on a leash on the parts of the trail where dogs are permitted.

The park service has said the changes are necessary due to visitor conflicts with dogs and the degradation of park resources by the pets. But opponents of the plan say it would lead to overcrowding at city parks like Sigmund Stern Grove, and could hurt many small businesses such as dog-walking enterprises and pet supply stores.

Rally participants will be encouraging people to submit comments to the park service before the May 31 deadline and instructing them on how to do it. They will also be collecting signatures for a petition opposing the plan, which will be sent to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Emanuel said the group has collected nearly 10,000 signatures so far. He said he expects several hundred people to attend Saturday's march and rally.

"People have a lot of pent-up frustration with this entire process, and it's getting down to crunch time," he said.

The march is scheduled to begin at Ocean Beach near the intersection of Great Highway and Sloat Boulevard at 10:30 a.m. It will end with a rally at Stern Grove that will last until 12:30 p.m. and will include a "biscuit buffet" for dogs.

--Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Sarah Sweet May 21, 2011 at 05:49 AM
As a professional animal care person who has dog clients, it is imperative that residents of Marin and San Francisco become involved and have their voices heard to preserve the freedom of being able to responsibly walk their dogs off leash. It's up to the professional dog walkers and dog owners alike, to serve as a watch dog for the preservation of these fire trails and GGNRA areas. Professional dog walker alliances like Pet Patrol in Marin, take their service for Dog clients, and our industry seriously, and maintain trails that they walk every day, by picking up bags of feces left behind by irresponsible people, who give dog owners & dog walkers a bad name. From the other perspective, of the GGNRA park service, the habitats and land must be preserved for it's wildlife. Restricting these areas isn't the solution. I believe that everyone watching out for the disrespectful and irresponsible people who leave waste & trash behind, is the best solution. Best of luck to all of the animal lovers, both professionals and pet owners in keeping our off leash trails. Sarah Sweet PREEN Specialized Parrot Care, Education, Rescue
Kathleen Schaefer May 21, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Why are we even considering sacrificing the beauty and the biological diversity of our national parks for generations to come? I support the proposal and I wish it were stronger. Kathy Schaefer
ted edwards May 21, 2011 at 04:03 PM
Kathy, the crux of the whole movement against the ban is that it does nothing for the biological diversity of the 21 recreation areas where dogs are allowed in certain areas. Dogs do NOT threaten the survival of a single protected species in GGNRA. If people are unconformable around dogs, that's a fair issue to address -- the GGNRA has failed to enforce simple measures would help here. But banning dogs affects many, many people and if you support it at be clear and fair in your arguments. Ted Edwards

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