Groups fighting Golden Gate National Recreation Area dog restrictions sue to force park service to release data

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A legal battle is now going on between dog owners and the National Park Service.

Several dog owner groups filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday. They are trying to force the park service to release certain data.

The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed Tuesday by Save Our Recreation and several dog owner groups alleges that the park service has been “slow walking” its response to the groups’ request for data until after the public comment period has closed on proposed changes to rules on dog walking in the GGNRA.

That data would reveal the impact of dog walking at parks. The lawsuit claims the park service has been slow to release the information until after public comment has closed.

The recreation area, which spans Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties, includes a number of popular dog walking areas including Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field, Muir Beach and Rancho Corral de Tierra.

The proposed restrictions would designate 22 locations for dog walking within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, seven of which would allow off-leash dogs. Park officials have described the plan as
“dog-friendly,” and said it is intended to balance the needs of different park users, protect natural and cultural resources including wildlife, and increase public safety.

Dog owner groups have said that only about 1 percent of the GGNRA is currently available to dogs. The proposal would further reduce overall dog access by about 46 percent, and off-leash access by around 90 percent, according to Sally Stephens with the San Francisco Dog Owners Group.

“The real issue in all this is the loss of off-leash,” Stephens said.

“Many of the areas that are currently off-leash will go from off-leash to no dogs at all.”

The lawsuit filed this week is intended to force the park service to hand over the data on which it is basing its proposal, including the number of dog walkers using GGNRA parks and evidence of their impacts, before the public comment period on the proposed rule changes ends on May 25, according to attorney Chris Carr.

The groups first filed a Freedom of Information request in July of last year, but the agency has repeatedly put them off and failed to meet deadlines, the lawsuit alleges.

“We need those documents to be able to participate meaningfully in the public comment for the dog rule,” Carr said.

The proposed rules have drawn criticism from dog owners and even San Francisco city officials who said the restrictions mean more dogs in already crowded parks.

A spokesperson for the National Park Service said the agency could not comment on pending legal action.

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