You are hereThe Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA)

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA)

People have walked with their dogs off-leash on the coastal lands of the San Francisco Bay Area for centuries. The Ohlone people, who lived in the area before Spanish settlers, had dogs. There are written records of people walking with dogs off-leash in the 1800s. Today, we love to hike the trails at Fort Funston with our dogs, play fetch on Ocean Beach, or share a swim at Crissy Field.
Indeed the GGNRA was created in 1972 to “provide for the maintenance of needed recreational open space” for the people of the Bay Area. Congress stated that the purpose of the creation was to “assure the preservation of open space … to provide public access along the waterfront, and to expand to the maximum extent possible the outdoor recreation opportunities available to the region.”
As intended, the GGNRA quickly became everyone’s backyard, a place to enjoy being outdoors while hiking, biking, riding a horse, kayaking, surfing, or walking with your dog.
The land was not pristine wilderness. Much of the land had previously been controlled by the military, which built dozens of concrete bunkers and missile silos, and planted significant amounts of iceplant to stabilize the underlying sand dunes.
In 1979, after an extensive public process, the GGNRA created a Pet Policy that allowed dogs to be walked off-leash (under voice control) on less than 1% of its land, including: Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field, Baker Beach, Lands End, Fort Mason, and Fort Miley in San Francisco; and Rodeo Beach, Muir Beach, and various trails in Marin. People with dogs often refer to these areas as “heaven on earth.”
In recent years, however, there have been repeated attempts to overturn the 1979 Pet Policy and to kick people with dogs out of the GGNRA. These attempts coincided with a shift by some within the GGNRA away from recreation and toward native plant restoration, with a resulting restriction of access for all people (with and without dogs) to land where they had been walking for decades. Click here for more information on the 1979 Pet Policy and the history of attempts to restrict off-leash access in the GGNRA.
Indeed, the GGNRA recently tried to change its name from Golden Gate National Recreation Area to Golden Gate National Parks. The move was widely viewed as an attempt to get around the recreational mandate contained in the legislation that created the GGNRA, and to bolster the views of those who want to replace recreation with restoration. People with dogs, along with other GGNRA recreational user groups, rose up in protest and the attempt was abandoned.
Off-leash access remains at risk in the GGNRA. In January 2011, the GGNRA will release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a new proposed Dog Management Plan that will replace the 1979 Pet Policy. Click here for more information on the Draft EIS for a Dog Management Plan The community of people with dogs has long been at the forefront of the fight to retain recreational access to land in the GGNRA. And we will continue to fight to keep the Bay Area’s “backyard” open to all.
Links to other websites with information on Dogs and the GGNRA:
Ocean Beach DOG
This website has a treasure trove of information and documents about dogs and the GGNRA.
Fort Funston Dog Walkers
Contains a lot of information about the fight and court case over closures of land to all park users at Fort Funston.
Crissy Field DOG
This site has an educational video for visitors to the GGNRA with dogs.
This site from a coalition of Bay Area nonprofits advocates for responsible dog guardianship, and the co-existence of off-leash recreation with other recreational uses and the protection of natural resources.
Fort Funston Forum/GGNRA Watch Dog
This site is not updated but is a priceless archive of information about the closures at Fort Funston and the struggle to maintain off-leash recreation in the GGNRA in 2000-2001.

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