A Short Leash

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Around 30 years ago on a summer's day, I first ran at Crissy Field. Heading west towards the Golden Gate Bridge with my dog at my side, along the water's edge, the foghorns moaned and the foggy air blew against my chilled face and bare legs. As a young adult from Ohio, the sheer beauty and size of the Golden Gate and the relief from heat and humidity mesmerized me. I couldn't believe that such a place existed, and the freedom I felt.

Since then -- and several generations of dogs later -- some things have changed and some haven't. The Golden Gate Bridge is still here along with the dogs on the beach. But Crissy Field got a wonderful facelift, and I now walk instead of run along the beach or promenade with my dogs off leash because of my arthritic left knee. And now there is a loud howl for restricting, even eliminating, dogs from Crissy Field and other areas in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties in Golden Gate National Recreation Area lands.

Some think you can't protect the wonderful natural resources within this urban treasure and have responsible off leash dog recreation in the same places. But these two park uses are not mutually exclusive. Numerous studies have shown that people and their dogs benefit from daily exercise. And it is true that there are more dogs than kids in San Francisco, so dispersion is a real benefit to all. Let's be pragmatic and manage both the protection of natural resources and the people/dog issue sensibly.

The GGNRA will be releasing an environmental impact statement soon that will lead to new dog-walking management rules at places like Crissy Field, Muir Beach, Fort Funston and Mori Point. These rules will determine for years to come where you and your dog can go within the GGNRA, what you can do and how you can do it. The Park Service needs to hear some good-natured barking from responsible dog owners, so we all see some good-natured tail wagging in the future.

With a Perspective, I'm Martha Walters.