A long and contentious fight between local dog owners and the National Park Service over a proposed new set of rules regarding on- and off-leash areas for dog walking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has ended today as the NPS has officially ended their effort to impose the rules. As Bay City News reports, the NPS issued a statement Thursday in which they essentially caved to legal threats brought by angry Bay Area dog owners who last year filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that unveiled what they say was inappropriate collusion between government officials and environmental groups pushing for the new rules a mini local scandal that was nicknamed Woofieleaks.
"We can do better and in the interest of upholding the highest standard of transparency and trust with our Bay Area neighbors, we have determined that it is no longer appropriate to continue with the current dog management rulemaking process at Golden Gate National Recreation Area," said NPS acting director Michael Reynolds in a statement.
The NPS previously put implementation of their finalized new rules, which had already been subject to a lengthy environmental review process, on hold in January just days after the Woofieleaks revelations. Among the details uncovered in the FOIA request were emails from private email accounts of government workers to outside groups that suggested collaboration on an "anti-dog" agenda, according to a coalition of dog owners. At the time, pro-dog activist Andrea Buffa, a member of the group Save our Recreation, said that all those on her side of the fight "always suspected the whole process from the beginning to the end was rigged," following a decade of contentious meetings and public input over the rules.
Under the new rules, which covered parts of Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties including popular dog-walking areas like Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, Crissy Field, and Muir Beach, there would be a total of six off-leash areas and 22 designated dog-walking areas total, but advocates said that they would lose about 90 percent of the dog-friendly territory they currently had.
And in San Francisco, where the common wisdom has been that there are more dogs than children, sweeping changes like these were not going to happen without a drawn-out fight. And drawn out it would be, lasting more than ten years, and culminating with this meek mea culpa from a new acting NPS director who had no skin in this game.
Says Buffa to Bay City News, "This is a huge victory for the people of the Bay Area. It's literally been more than a decade that we've been telling the park service that dog walking is part of the way of life in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's a really important form of recreation for us. They were finally forced to listen."
Previously: National Park Service Places Controversial New Dog Management Rules On Hold