Here's a transcript of the off-leash issue discussion under Non-Agenda Items at the GGNRA Advisory Commission Tuesday night, April 24, 2001.
Transcribed by Vicki Tiernan
GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL RECREATION
POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE
Meeting of April 24, 2001
Public comment on non-agenda issues:
RICHARD BARTKE, CHAIR:
We have some people who signed up to speak on non-agenda items and since there are only a few – I hope there are only a few – maybe we can take them out of order so that they don’t have to sit here any longer than they have to. Michael? Where’s Michael [Feinstein, Staff Liaison]? Do we have more?
Asking to speak on the Advisory Commission’s website, John Keating.
Good evening. My name is John Keating and as you know, I’ve sat through almost all of these long meetings over the last year. I want to firstly commend you all on your public service. I think the park we have is a blessing and I think its management is really, really important and must be done well.
You may associate me with the dog walking groups. I’ve been trying to assist them in getting access to the public input process. But tonight I speak solely on my own behalf. I come here rather earnestly because I want to warn you of what I’m seeing out at the park, what I’m seeing in the dog group meetings I go to, what I’m hearing from Washington, and in that context I want to tell you folks that I’ve been a long-time activitist in many of the environmental groups that we would think would favor the kind of changes the park wants to make with regard to dog walking. And the ones I haven’t been an activist in, I’ve been a member.
I go down to the areas of San Mateo that you wish to have included. I talk to the people who go down there to get away from having to look at the fences that have been put up across the open space in San Francisco. I’ve talked to people on the beaches, and I’m really seeing a problem here. Basically the problem I see is that there are large numbers of people who really care about that issue, who believe a deal was cut on January 23 such that the issue of whether to rescind the dog policy, the pet policy, would be studied, and that there would be no action taken until that studying process had occurred. And they gave up their right to speak that night or thought they were postponing it for purposes of working with the Park Service to have it fairly studied. The perception out there on the beaches is that Park Service has broken that deal, and that’s the reality of what people think. You may not agree that the Park Service has broken the deal, but that’s the reality of what people have thought. It appears to many people that there was a policy that passed muster under the law for 20 years, and that all of a sudden it became expedient for the Park Service to have a new interpretation, that suddenly the law should be interpreted differently such that this policy was no good now and must be invalidated. The Park Service finally had public hearings on it and the public hearings stopped despite the thousand people standing outside in the rain wanting to speak and the many in the room wanting to speak, it stopped based on the concept that it would be studied. Now the Park Service, having achieved stopping the public input process, they said “Gee, the policy is now null” and my perception is that they see you folks as giving them the political cover of a rubber stamp, that indeed it is null and void. You do not need to agree with the Park Service if they want to do that. You don’t have to take any action, and that was the deal.
Now, I want to tell you one thing about all this. Obviously I believe that changes would be bad public policy. Obviously I’m sure you’re aware, I believe, that the means that the Park Service has used to get to those changes have been illegal and I believe immoral, but more importantly, and why I come to you tonight, is I think they are foolish, and I’ll tell you why. Because you had a whole bunch of environmental, park-loving people who are members of these dog groups, who believed that they were having an opportunity to talk with you. And it’s a basic principle of organizational theory that if you cut off the process by which the moderate groups can work with you and their ability to have fair public input, that many of the people in those groups go outside the groups. So I’m going to give you my prediction of what’s going to happen if you carry on with this process of going along with the Park Service in saying that there never needs to be any more discussion of this, and that the policy that you had before now is null, three things are going to happen, I think.
You’re going to radicalize the groups. The groups that you’re dealing with it probably will become more radicalized. You’ll radicalize the community. Second, there may be individuals who go outside those groups; the groups, as I said, are basically filled up with environmentalists who want to work with the park system. Many people are frustrated because they don’t believe the groups should work with you anymore because of what they perceive to be bad faith in the Park Service. Those people I predict will leave the dog groups, and the moderate dog groups will not be what you have to deal with. Then the Park Service is going to have to deal with individuals going out there. I note that you had in excess of 1000 people at a demonstration in San Francisco and no violence, no property damage. I challenge you to find other demonstrations that have people who are acting as mellow like that when they feel their rights are being trampled on.
Okay, that’s the second prediction. I’ll get to the third real quick. The second prediction was that people will go outside the groups and act as individuals. The third prediction is that people will form new groups, radical groups, and that frankly it’s foolish to allow that happen because of the political position you are in, when you are seeking funding for the GGNRA. Now 3000 people signed a petition in three days. What if a thousand people a day would start contacting Washington? That’s what they’re talking about on the beach. They’re saying that if the city doesn’t take back the property, they’re going to call Washington and tell them to pull your funding. We don’t want that to happen; we want to work with you.
Secondly, the expansion into San Mateo County. It’s doubtful to me that that would enjoy the same comfort level. The possibility that the new administration will have higher agency review of our park….I think that’s very likely if you have a lot of people who have…
So, I do hope you will keep this in mind and wish to solve…
Thank you. I didn’t know that you were going to talk about the dog issue because you signed up for something else, but there are four people who have signed up to speak about the, three other people who signed up to speak about that.
Just to put this into context, you will recall that at our November meeting that some of you were at, we were talking about the policy as it was called, but actually what it was was the commission’s advice to the superintendent in 1978, which somehow got labeled the 1979 dog policy. It never was legally adopted by the park and we are told that it could not have been because it never was legal and was always unenforceable. And at the November meeting of this commission we determined that we could simply withdraw that advice to the park because it had never been legal. Members of the audience asked us to not do that because it wasn’t on the agenda, which we acknowledged and we put it on our January agenda. At that time again it was announced that the so-called policy was never a policy of the park, was never legal, and it was simply a matter of housekeeping for the commission to withdraw that advice which it had given in 1978.
I asked the folks who were there to talk about what should we do about that, given that fact, and most of the folks who spoke did talk to us about what should be done about it, and there seemed to be a consensus that certain things ought to be done in the future and based upon what we thought was a consensus, the commission adopted a resolution giving further advice to the Park Service, first that the Park Service meet with the various stakeholders, secondly that they see if there was support in the community for setting aside some areas where dogs could be allowed off-leash, and to then move through the federal process of changing the rules as they applied to this park. And next, to contact other land-owning agencies to see if they could loosen up their rules having to do with off-leash dogs. As you know, state parks for example do not allow off-leash dogs at all and charge a $2 fee if you bring a dog on a leash or in a cage.
We asked that all this be completed if possible within 120 days and that the level of enforcement not change during that 120 days. The superintendent at the conclusion spoke and said that he would try very hard to do those things within the 120 days, but he was not allowed by law to ignore the Code of Federal Regulations, and he made it very clear that he still would have to do some enforcement.
That concluded the commission’s business on that issue, except for our general oversight role, which we always have, and in the oversight which we have so far it appears that the park is ahead of schedule on all of those points. They have met with a number of stakeholder groups. They have met with the other land agencies. In fact, Senator Jackie Speier, who was represented that night, has introduced a bill, and I think the hearing might have even been today, asking that a committee be formed to study whether state parks would be willing to change their rules. I’m a little disappointed in the strength of that bill, but that’s what she did in response to our challenge to her that evening.
And the acting superintendent has informed me that what they call the rule making process has been begun and they’ve gotten the clearance from the regional office and back from the Park Service all the way up to the director. As you may know we don’t even have a director right now. The former director resigned January 1 and no new director of the National Park Service has yet been nominated, so we’re a little bit directorless. However, the Service has cleared the Golden Gate to begin that process, which begins with a notice, and then a survey, and then it goes on and on. You can imagine what the federal rules are like. It’s been predicted that the whole thing might take a couple of years.
But anyway, that brings us to where we are today. There was one unfortunate thing that happened and it wasn’t the fault of any of the people who were there on January 23 on either side of the table, that one newspaper, and it happened to be the Chronicle, didn’t get the story right and said that the commission would revisit the issue in 120 days. We never said that, that was not part of our motion. We wrote to the Chronicle and asked them to change it and as of today they have not yet changed it. Other newspapers got it a little bit more accurate. But anyway, there was, and we understand there has been and is a perception that this commission is going to revisit that issue, and we’re not going to, never intended to, and never said we would; it certainly wasn’t part of the action, and the only thing where we ever mentioned the 120 days was, we asked the Park Service to begin their process within 120 days, and they said that, the superintendent said that he would try to do that, and in fact he has tried to do that. And so we’re still within the 120 days and he seems to have done most of the things that we’ve asked him to do or at least he hasn’t completely done them, but he’s got them started.
So that’s my personal view of it at any rate. Doug, you have a comment?
Yeah, clarification. What you just said made it sound like we’re not, we, this commission is not going to have any more involvement in this issue, and I would assume that since this is a subject that the public is keenly interested in and that we generally are the venue through which the public gets to process their opinions to the Park Service, that once the Park Service has some sort of policy that they’re thinking about formalizing, that they’ll do that through one of our meetings. If that doesn’t happen…
I’m convinced that it would happen. If the rule making process gets to that point, I’m pretty sure our commission will be vitally involved and probably will be going to post the public hearings on that. But in the meantime it’s not on any of the agendas that we have. We’re just using our oversight role, which we always have and probably will reserve for ourselves.
AMY MEYER, VICE-CHAIR:
The only thing I would add to what you said, Rich, was I understood from neighbors who watched some TV broadcasting of what was said on the night of January 23, the TV stations picked up that we said that the 1978 rule could no longer be enforced and that that was the end of that subject and regulations take precedence over that kind of commission rule, and so that was ruled out and everything else we’ve said is so, and then it wasn’t only the Chronicle, it was a popular newspaper that reaches almost every home in San Francisco, The Independent, and they also did not publish the letter we sent in to try to correct this impression, and we have not been able to correct this impression, but we’re going to revisit this, as Doug has said, when the subject is right, but at this time we …..
I have a question because it’s come up in my community also. My understanding was that the park had promised that there would be no change in enforcement, that the rangers would continue to exercise discretion as they had been before, and what that boiled down to on the ground was where dogs had been formerly OK off-leash, they would continue to be OK off-leash, except in circumstances where they were chasing wildlife, or biting other dogs, or so forth; in other words, the pattern of enforcement would essentially, well, not essentially, would stay the same.
So, number one, I would .... [acting superintendent] for confirmation that that’s true.
Well, let me interject here. It’s very clear that that’s what we asked the park to do, but you know, we’re advisory and the superintendent responded, and I’m going to need some help here because I’m not sure exactly how he said it, but it stuck in my mind that he was saying that he would do what he could, but he could not ignore the fact that this was a federal regulation and that there is a federal judge now involved and that he was going to have to enforce. How exactly he said that, I don’t remember exactly the, do you remember how he said it? Anybody have those minutes here?
…I vaguely recall that there was something about that the park had discretion on enforcement and, that’s about all I can remember…
I think what Rich is saying is accurate… I actually wasn’t there… meeting, but I know that a federal judge is involved. There are greater burdens on us to enforce the regulations that have always been in place. It’s been analogous, or it’s been described as analogous to, you know, speeding on a highway. There are speed limits posted and you, you know, people may exceed them, and if you’re reckless about it you will surely get caught. But there is the ability to also, you know, cite a car for simply speeding. And now that we do have a federal judge involved, we will have to step up our education about what the rules and regulations are. I don’t think we’re in a position to be ever-present, the rangers can’t be everywhere, the park police can’t be everywhere. So we will still be looking for … situations first.
Actually somebody handed me the transcript – it’s a verbatim transcript that I’m reading from. Brian O’Neill said, “Clearly from the park point of view I’m very supportive of moving forward in the spirit of tracking on those three issues. We have to make it clear that in 120 days we’ll see where we’re at and we’ll have to deploy what we call discretionary authority. There’s no such thing as not citing egregious situations. I think you all will agree that there are certain situations out there that need to be dealt with on the spot. Under no circumstances are we going to give up that right and obligation that we have to the public that uses the park. So we will continue to use that discretionary authority and we will do it in a very responsible way.”
Okay, he actually made a much longer statement, but that seems to be the paragraph that’s most at issue here.
I just want to make one comment, that … movement from the meeting we had on January 23rd. At that time I didn’t think there was any way of getting around the CFR as stated, the regulations that were there. And this entire procedure of Notice of Proposed Rule Making is totally new and opens up an avenue that in fact there may be a change in the offing. And the thing that happens when that goes forward is that we’re part of a national park system and there are implications for other locations, and so I think that’s why it has to go through that process. But at the January meeting I didn’t think that there was a vehicle, other than legislation, to change the process. So I think that actually within the 120 days much can happen that is of significance to start that process.
Yeah, I’ve been told that it’s not only a new process but that this park has never done it before and that it has rarely if ever been done in the National Park Service, and that this park had to go to other federal agencies to borrow format as to how to do it. This park did try to do it on this very issue, which is off-leash dogs, some years back and was denied the right to do that by the higher ups, so there is no experience locally and we haven’t done this before, so it’s all really new.
I would agree. I think we are making some substantial progress…..asking the department to proceed with the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making, and we’re drafting … of that notice now. We understand that the process will take time; it might take a couple years, and that we’re not in a position to guarantee that there’ll be a specific outcome from that process, only that in that process, the whole intention is that divergent points of view get heard and that to the extent that’s possible, points of view get balanced, values get balanced, and in the meantime the regulations really are that the dogs need to be on leash, and this is where Brian’s comments about our responsible enforcement combined with education come in.
Even if this is a new process, it probably would be useful in … terms of communicating to the public as to what we understand the process to be… because I think it’s easier then to work with that than to have a total unknown, and I guess that’s what the summits that are coming together are supposed to be dealing with, what the process is, and to the extent that we know it I think to communicate it to the public would be very useful.
Let’s do that, but I would like to hear from the three people who signed up because they’ve been waiting. There’s Lisa Vittori, followed by Vicki Tiernan. Do you want to come up and speak to us, and the third one is Michael Goldstein.
My name is Lisa Vittori. I come as a friend of the parks. I’ve worked with the park in many capacities for the last ten years and I believe in the natural resource mission of the park and support its conservation and restoration goals completely. I emphasize goals because the Park Service’s methods have increasingly concerned me for the last five years.
As an employee of the park I traveled up and down the coast from Point Reyes to San Mateo County, and I’d continually encounter people, both individually and as communities, who have betrayed by the park in one way or another. I have to say that I’m experiencing that at this moment.
My understanding at the January 23rd meeting was that we agreed to hold off for 120 days – whoops, I left it back there [her transcript from 1/23 meeting], but I specifically asked you, Chairman Bartke, if we could, if you would hold off on enforcement, and you said that you would, and also citations and signage. [Lisa is handed the transcript.] Thank you. And… your four points.
So I feel like I’ve just listened to a lot of dissembling and it scares me. As a friend I’m going to speak to you frankly as I would any friend who acts destructively and betrays the community trust. I’m here tonight to specifically challenge your behavior since the January 23rd meeting. At that meeting my understanding, and the understanding of the thousand people or two thousand people, whatever you think there were, at that meeting was that you agreed to enter into a dialog with the many stakeholders who use and care about the park. When you say that you want to protect the park and its users – we’re it’s users. We go there. A thousand people, the demonstration that John Keating talked about last Saturday, was, we had two days’ notice, two days, and a thousand people showed up for that. And it was a peaceful demonstration. But again, a thousand people were mobilized in two days. Those are your potential allies who have become, increasingly are becoming your enemies.
Since January 23rd , when you said to me at the meeting, when I asked for clarification, you would hold off on the signs, citations, and so forth, until they come back with a plan, and I remember you asking Superintendent O’Neill for his comments, and that was a masterful display of dissembling. And I’ve worked with Brian quite a bit and I know that he’s really capable of that. So, what I heard in that was nothing. There was no language that said that he was going to do or not do anything.
Okay, your behavior since the 23rd has violated the spirit of trust and collaboration that we expected from you. Mr. Weideman has been, I’m sorry, Wideman [phonetic] or Weedeman?
Okay, thank you, [Mr. Weideman] has been quoted numerous times in the paper with inaccurate and misleading information.
And the papers have stated that on-leash signs are going up on GGNRA lands and that leash signs have been installed at Fort Funston and dog area signs, dog access signs at Ocean Beach have been taken down.
The amount of staffing, and as a friend of the park I’m going to say this to you, the amount of staff and volunteer time spent on suppressing information, working against potential allies, and responding to the dog owners’ lawsuit has been enormous. If you had spent a quarter of that time working with dog owners, you would have not only a huge volunteer work force, but you would also have many many friends, and quite frankly at a time when there is a Republican administration coming into Washington, you know, that doesn’t have an environmental-like sound to it. This is not a time to alienate your environmental friends in the San Francisco area. Not that I expect that any of them will be sympathetic to, you know, San Francisco, but…
And… I worked under Sharon Farrell at that time and she skipped a lot of the staff meetings she had with our staff because she had to go to Fort Funston and deal with the dog owners’ lawsuit. I know Sharon’s capable of doing a lot of great collaborative work and this was a complete waste of her professional time in my opinion.
I’m just going to close with something; I’m really disappointed in you, I can’t say this enough. You know, there are so many people who want to work with you and I spent the last five years watching people suppress and suppress and suppress dog-friendly and dog-able information. And one thing specifically is that five years ago or four years ago we did a trail study at Milagra Creek in which we studied the behavior of off-leash dogs, and there were people who did that study that agreed with off-leash dogs and disagreed with off-leash dogs, so there were all ranges studying the information, and then we never presented it to Nancy Horner because we were told even at that time that the Park Service wouldn’t listen to it.
So it’s not at Brian O’Neill’s level, it’s not your level, it’s been the systemic policy of the park and so the park ends up losing people like me and other people who are dog-friendly. Even Sharon Farrell, you know, look at how many people you’ve lost in the last six months because of the dog lawsuit – Mary Petrelli, Sharon Farrell, Terry Thomas; whether they agree or don’t agree, they’re tired. They’re tired people. Pete Halloran left, the native plant expert.
Just as an aside, the word on the street before that meeting was that the fix was in. The leash policy was a done deal. Even at 10:30 that evening I talked to Amy Meyer (and I’m wrapping up now). I talked to Amy Meyer in the hallway. She talked to me as if I were a Park Service volunteer, which I was, which I am. And she talked to me confidentially with a couple of other people, not knowing that I also represented dog people. And she said, and I’m going to quote this, she said “I’m tempted to go home now. I don’t know why they’re bothering. We’ve already made our decision.” Yeah, I remember it because I told a bunch of other people; because it was so blatant. And then I …. Chairman Bartke made this astounding and welcome suggestion that we take a 120-day break and sort this out. You know, my understanding is that in 120 days we were going to look at this again.
And as Aaron Peskin said, when you were talking to the San Francisco supervisors you asked Aaron Peskin in particular, well why don’t we put up the signs or do something like that, do enforcement or something and he said “Because it’s a bad way to start a dialog.” You know, we’ve been engaging in this dialog … in good faith, hoping we would find some resolution and as he said, now, “It’s a bad way to start a dialog.”
You know, we’re park users. We’re legitimate park users. And I can tell you that the studies from Milagra show many ways in which you can work with off-leash dogs because off-leash dogs fit into Milagra really nicely and I’m sure they fit into other areas as well.
Anyhow, I’m sorry that you have to listen to this, but I have to sit through these meetings too and it wastes my time enormously. Thank you.
Thank you. Vicki Tiernan.
My name is Vicki Tiernan and I was one of the people shut out from speaking at the January meeting, and I wanted to make the point that if I had known what was in store -- with the signs being posted at Funston, a new sign south of Sloat that appears to extend the plover nesting area and the area that’s off limits to off-leash dogs – I would not have waived my right to speak at that meeting. The signs are causing immense distrust on the beach and on the street among dog owners, and dog owners are a significant segment of the citizens that you represent. And thank you, Mr. Nadeau, for saying that you are a forum for us. I would like you to be a forum for us, but I don’t always feel comfortable about that; quite frankly I don’t always feel welcome here. I feel intimidated, and I shouldn’t feel that way; I’m a middle-aged woman who just wants to enjoy the parks responsibly with my dog. I should feel welcome here; my views should be welcomed.
I would not have waived my right to speak at the January meeting had I known that the signs were going to go up, and there are many, many people who feel the way I do, that the Park Service is accomplishing by fiat what they could not accomplish through open public process, fair public process.
It’s my understanding that in the Marin bicyclists’ case, while they were going through a similar process to get a section 7, there were no signs posted while the issue was being resolved, and it was my understanding at the January meeting that there would be no changes and that there would be no signs posted.
As far as citing egregious circumstances, there are already laws on the books that would cover those circumstances. If someone is creating a disturbance, then you can cite them for that, anywhere. You don’t have to have signs posted about dogs on leash to cite people who are causing problems. For instance, I was out at Fort Funston once and I saw some kids on their bicycles going into the closed area. They can be cited for going into the closed area. It’s not just dog owners.
What I want to say is, I want to echo what Mr. Keating said and what Ms. Vittori said: we are, dog owners are environmentalists. You have a huge resource here. We’re willing to work; we will write letters to the Department of Interior for funding if we get any indication that you’re willing to work with us and include us. The promotional materials for Crissy Field – thousands of dollars have clearly been spent on that, and not a single dog pictured in any of this material.
You’re alienating a big segment of the population and it’s a segment of the population that really, really cares about the parks.
Thank you very much for listening.
My name is Michael Goldstein. I’m not representing any group, but I’ve been spending a lot of my time over the last year, two months, publishing a website that I named www.fortfunstonforum.com, in the idea that we could get together various points of view on these issues, and come to a meeting of the minds. I ended up re-naming that website: www.ggnrawatchdog.com -- and I think that speaks volumes about what I’ve experienced, mostly in this room, and over in the Presidio. We’re always being locked out of the process; we were locked out, we were fenced out, geographically, at Fort Funston, and we’ve been locked out of the process.
I would like to speak about an endangered species in the GGNRA: and that’s citizens. Your role here is to represent the citizens, and I don’t want you to forget that, because I think some of you have. But I don’t think all of you have, and those are the ones that I’m speaking to.
There was something that was put up on your website -- which I monitor and link to all the time on my site – a few days ago; that is, a letter from Amy Meyer and Rich Bartke. I would like to know if it was approved by this commission, and when, and where, and whether that met your disclosure requirements, because that letter re-wrote history, and that’s a lot of what I’ve heard here tonight.
And I’d like to know whether you did rescind your 1979 Pet Policy. It’s just a “Yes” or a “No”. You can spin it all you want, but I want to know: “Yes” or “No” because, you were told, and there was an editorial in the Chronicle the day of your meeting, and there were a thousand people, and there were almost all of the supervisors, and you have to say, that’s unprecedented.
You were told that if you rescinded that policy, which is what has happened, effectively, I guess, by the signs that have gone up – don’t try to spin it, because it’s not working! You may not see the people out there, but I do, and there’s a lot of anger out there, and what we told you, what our supervisors told you, was that we would take Fort Funston back.
We’ve looked at the deed, we’ve looked at the documents, there was a commitment, a legal commitment, it was promised to the voters when it was voted on – that Fort Funston, and the other city parks, would continue with the ongoing recreation.
And this is the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This [pointing to a Golden Gate National Parks poster on the wall] is a lie: “Golden Gate National Parks”. I went to the website of the National Park Service about three hours ago, before I came here. There are 384 national parks, and if you click down through them, there’s one called the “Golden Gate National Recreation Area” – and I would like you to start calling it that, because you’re spreading a lie out there on buses all over town, and banners, and you’re in a partnership with an organization, the Golden Gate National Parks Association, which you have given a concession for a monopoly on such things as the Alcatraz tapes, and books, which, if you go to the visitor center in the Presidio, tell kids and adults all the activities that are available in “Golden Gate National Parks” – which also says: ‘don’t confuse with Golden Gate Park’, although it is the group that has created that confusion – if you look in the activities book, you will see 23 units of the GGNRA, and you will see a list of 18 activities, in a table. There is not one mention of dogs anywhere there – on or off leash, and that is simply a lie, because dog users and dog walkers are the predominant user group in the GGNRA, and stop trying to hide that fact.
I have a personal interest in wanting to know what happened to the names of the hundreds of people that were standing outside in the rain, because, not only was I one of them, I was the person that was collecting those signatures, to speak to you, people who wanted to be heard, and I tried to get those names in, to the Park Police -- who were barring doors to a way-too-small meeting room on a controversial issue – and they wouldn’t let me! And I pointed to your staff liaison, Michael Feinstein, through the window, and said, ‘I need to get these to him, would you please get them to him, these are people that want to speak, this needs to get to them’ – and they denied that! And it was only because Supervisor Leland Yee happened to be coming out, and his aide, that I was able to get those names in. And we were told then that those names were made part of the public record, more than once. And I want to know where those names are and I want you to hear from those people, because the issue is not dead, it is not going away, and the only way that it will go away is for all of us to go away and take our park with us.
So, it’s a silent spring here. You don’t have a lot of people out there. Democracy is noisy and unpleasant and sometimes people seem rude in their decorum. But they’re here, trying to speak to you. When you bar them out of the room with police, when you hide from them, you create anger and you’re continuing to do that, and I again would like to know who authorized that letter, does it speak for the commission as a whole, because I’ve talked to a lot of people who have just had it up to here.
These signs that have gone up are unacceptable.
Whatever process is going to be going on, there is still in effect a pet policy from 1979: I’m putting it on my website, it's been authorized, I’ve seen the documents, it’s beeen approved, it’s been through all the different procedures that go into effect in a federal agency, and you can’t deny that. That is the operative policy, and that’s what’s going on. And if you’re going to put signs there that says “pets on leash,” that is against your own policy, and if you don’t have the guts to stand up, in your oversight role, to the Park Service on this issue, then you’re going to lose Fort Funston.
Thank you very much.
What is happening where the rubber meets the road? In other words, if the CHP is out there giving tickets, everyone understands that they’re not going to give a ticket when you’re going 56 in a 55-mile-per-hour zone. There is a priority of discretion, and my understanding from that meeting in January was that the discretion re enforcement was going to be focused on areas where previously we had the policy that allowed dogs off leash. So that in effect there would be no change in enforcement after that meeting versus before that meeting. Is that, I’m putting you on the spot, but I have questions from my constituents, so to speak, and they’re saying, “The signs are up. What does this mean?” And I’ve been telling them, “Well, it’s something that the park had to do,” but as far was what actually happens on the ground, are you going to get a ticket for walking your dog on your beach off leash when it’s not disturbing the birds and it’s not biting a person. Are you going to get a ticket for that? I’ve been telling my folks, well, the chances of you getting a ticket for that are about the same as your chances of getting a ticket from the CHP going 56. Is that accurate?
I think we’re putting the staff in a position where they can’t even answer because, you know, there is a federal rule; it was not adopted here in this park, it was adopted by the feds. And despite what the speakers tonight have said, it is a federal rule. The policy, the Code of Federal Regulations, the park has, as they promised to do, begun the process to discuss whether that rule ought to be changed as to this park. But until it’s changed, it’s the law. And so if you asked a Highway Patrolman, “Are you going to cite somebody for going 56 when it’s 55,” his proper answer has to be “yes,” even though you and I know that the real answer is “no,” and I…
…. answer is “yes.” And as you’re saying, that the chances are you are likely not to be cited, but…
DOUG NADEAU :
Okay, I’d just like to make a couple of comments and then I think we can end this. I’m still not clear why the park posted signs. [several comments of “thank you” from the audience] It seems to me that we, and let’s not do it tonight because we may not have that information, but I’d like to know, it seems like that was a huge slap in the face and a demonstration of betrayal to the dog walking community. And I still don’t understand why they did it. Someone briefly told me, “Well we had to do it because someone told us we had to do it,” but, if I were Brian I wouldn’t have done it.
The second thing is that it doesn’t sound to me, based on what we’ve heard tonight (I will assume these people are representative of more than just themselves) that the process that we’re going through, which I felt, based on what I know about it, is good, and you’re going to be involved in that process [gesturing to dog owners in audience], I think if they’re not, then we ought to change it. I felt and I guess I would just like to close by saying it sounds to me like the park needs to explain what process they’re going through to the community and assure them that people in this community are going to be involved in it. And it won’t be just dog walkers, it will be people who don’t want dogs off-leash, I mean I think we made that clear at our last meeting. And it doesn’t seem to me like we’ve gotten that across to people.
RICHARD BARTKE [to acting superintendent]:
... do you want to address the process that you’ve gone through so far and what the process will…
Well, I didn’t really think I was asking for that tonight, but I…
Well I’m asking her if she can answer it tonight and if she can, let’s do it.
The process that we’re going to be undertaking is called rule making, and there are a couple different ways, there’s rule making, there’s negotiated rule making, there’s a couple of different avenues for how it’s specifically done. One of the first things that happens is like an assessment to determine whether there’s even a basis for negotiating the rule making, there’s some ground on which the parties can come together and have some potential to get to a positive place. So before, we are not yet in a position to spell out exactly what the steps are that are involved. The very first step is to put out the notice that we’re engaged in a process, and then we’ll, through that, begin determining who and how and what kinds of public meetings will be happening, how they’ll be facilitated. It isn’t something that, I think it’s been said, that we or any park has a lot of experience with, but we are, we have been contacting some of the organizations that have worked with the public agencies that have done a similar process, and we’re hoping to learn from how this has been approached in other places that have had very difficult issues to work through. And I think one thing we can say is that we don’t know exactly what the specific outcome will be, and to say that we do would be to pre-judge where it will come to. I think what we can expect is that we will continue drafting what the process is, what the notice is, and then ….
I apologize for interrupting, but I don’t think we want to know all that bureaucratic stuff.
What we want to know is, have these people been met with and if not, when are they going to be met with? We understood from Brian that he had a whole list of the groups that he was meeting with. Some of them he already met with two, three, four times.
[two or three people talking at once, then Rich Weideman steps up to the microphone]
I can answer that a little bit. Within the dog community we’ve been meeting on a regular basis with Crissy Field, Fort Funston, SFDOG, SPCA, and those organizations. We’ve been in touch with the National Parks and Conservation Association over the phone, the Native Plant Society, the Audubon Society, etc. We haven’t held formal stakeholder meetings because we don’t have the process yet. Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making is a step before rule making. It’s never been done in the national park system that we can find. We found parks like …. National Seashore that’s doing negotiated rule making; Cape Cod has done negotiated rule making. We did rule making for the mountain bikes….up in Marin. But Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making, we have not found one single national park in the system that has done that. So we’re trying to find out what the process is. Unfortunately our examples tend to be regulatory agencies like the EPA, …. Congress, comes up a lot.
What Advanced Notice does is it allows you to test the waters without making a commitment to go to rule making; whether it be negotiated rule making or where the agency writes a rule, posts it, and solicits comment. So we’re literally researching, probably between, on the Public Affairs staff, three and four people a day are putting in two to three hours trying to find out what this is, what the process of public involvement is, and we’re looking to hire a full-time staff person to do this over the next few months, and we’re looking at having to bring on probably some sort of a consensus analysis group to help us see what kind of consensus there is out in the community. We’ve been getting very conflicting messages on the dog issue in general; whether to do it, whether not to do it, how many letters have come in, how many phone calls have come in, faxes, and anything else, and we’ve also been informing the congressional delegation and meeting with interested Board of Supervisors.
So we’re doing stuff that was asked for during the 120 days, but we haven’t had stakeholder meetings because honestly we don’t understand the process yet. We don’t want to start down the road holding stakeholder meetings if they’re not going to lead to anything. So we have to really educate ourselves on the process before we move forward.
Well, you raise a lot of questions. Susan?
I’d like first of all to say that we have many very interested parties very eager to move forward in some meaningful way. Perhaps one of the most useful first steps is to be as clear as possible in our communication with the stakeholders about what is going on. So, I just encourage as much communication as we can.
Our most recent update was March, I think the last one was March 23 or something like that, the 29th on the website. We don’t have any more information since then because we’re still researching it, and..
Sometimes it's good to know that.
I think it would be helpful if we could have the transcript, the portion where you mentioned this 120 days, and Brian’s response. There’s different, as you say, perceptions out there, of what action or what was said. Then similarly I’d just like to … to Doug on the signs….it had to be followed, but it was like a red flag during this 120-day period; those two comments.
Okay I’ve not seen the transcript until tonight, but I have found the place where I began my proposal on how to deal with it, and it’s consistent with what I said earlier and what the letter to the editor was, but it goes on quite a ways and then after long discussion I think it took us, what, 40 minutes just to frame a motion; although I found where it starts I haven’t gone all the way through it, but let’s move on down. Michael?
Well to me is one … point, as I understand it. Now I want to be sure that I understand this correctly, if anybody can assist me on this, that up until January the, first of all, this is a park that does not exist in and of itself, it is part of a system, it is part of a national system that is subject to national regulation, and your nods are appreciated that that is understood. Up until now, the efforts to address this situation, this specific issue, in this park have been met …. by the denial to engage in the rule making process, as I understand it, and that since the January meeting that now has turned to approval to begin this process; that doesn’t mean that the process ends in success, that doesn’t mean, as I understand it, that we’d even get through the process, but without that approval to start that process, we were at a stalemate, which is where we’ve been for 20 years. As I understand it, we are now off that stalemate. We have an avenue, a new avenue to pursue that has the opportunity to reach a settlement, which will work for this park. That’s my understanding and I think that that’s a very, if I’m correct in that, I believe that that is a very significant change. Do I understand it?
You are correct in that. We have the approval to begin a process of rule making. One of the first formal steps will be to put out a notice, and this is a step further than we were a few months back.
One quick comment. I’d like to second Doug’s suggestion that we get some information as to why the signs went up, official information, and I suggest that that be released to the papers too. There needs to be an understanding of why there was a staff decision to put the signs up at that time, and it’s fair that everyone should know what…
Excuse me. We’ve been hearing the vague explanation that “Washington told us to do it.” Could we have documentation…
Wait a minute. We’re discussing what you’ve already told us. Gordon?
Yeah, I feel the same way about the sign issue. The emphasis on discussing this has been on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making and the bureaucratic steps and I think that’s important, but in the meantime there are what I consider common good sense and neighborly actions that need to be taken in this situation so that when you have an expectation that you have a user group that’s extremely sensitized to an issue and you have the possibility of a sign going up that you think, reasonably expect might be upsetting to them, that some effort is made to reach out before the signs go up and just talk about it, explain it a little bit so that even though it’s not necessarily part of the Advanced Notice of Rule Making and it’s not bureaucratic, we have a situation here that’s highly sensitized, highly explosive, and it just seems good practice to just try to calm things down and reach out before these things happen.
I promise this is my last comment on this issue. I know this is a new process. I’m disappointed to hear that it’s maybe as dragged out as it’s going to be, and the park has gone through, the park over the years has a tremendous amount of experience in dealing with controversial issues. The mountain bicycle issue I think they dealt with in a very professional way and designed their own process to do it, and I think it ended up in a very satisfactory manner.
I hope that if this is a two-year process, I hope we don’t sit around on our hands for six months and not talk to people. I don’t care what they tell us the process is, I don’t know why we can’t start meeting with people and talking about how we’re going to resolve this issue. I think we can start that right now, and once the formal process is defined, people are going to tell us, “yeah, well you’re way ahead, you’ve already met with people.” I just, maybe I’m wrong, but just a bit of advice.
Yes, I keep reading about it and I have to talk about it. I wasn’t at the January 23 meeting, so I can have a totally different view as to what’s going on. But what I hear with one ear is that the park is willing to perhaps approach some rule making, and therefore the advanced notice first and maybe they can change the rules, they are taking a bold step to reach out to see if there’s a way to have some accommodation. On the other hand, signs go up, it’s going to take two years maybe, in the meantime we’re going to enforce the law. And the two things don’t seem to equate. I got the impression that things were all right last year and the year before and they could go on that way for another year or so and that actually doing nothing different than what was being done was just fine. And I think putting up the signs was a terrible, terrible public relations error [applause]. I’m not sure if some lawyer said, “Gee, you better do this,” but I would generally have cautioned, I guess, taking a different view.
I would suggest taking the signs down, quite frankly, and just a very clear statement, we’re going to continue with what we’ve been doing. If there’s inappropriate dog activity it will be cited. But that we’ll continue to march and that you are in a position, I think a bold one for this park, to be in this Advanced Notice of Rule Making, which no other park has done, and I think this time frame has to be collapsed. I think two years is, I can’t imagine, I mean you can do an EIS in less than two years, I can’t imagine that this should take that long. Either find a way to compress that time so that there is a result at least to complete the advanced notice. So I would urge, I think like any good administrator, you’re able to go with either answer and therefore you’re preserving both options, but in preserving both options, and I want to say you, the park; it is worrying people that you’re changing what they thought was going to happen, and it’s fouling, I think, the discussion that might place.
I think we ought to just go back to the way things were a year or two ago, continue to enforce the law the way you would have done, and move up the rule making.
Just a minor point on the rule making. …. says that it has to take two years. We’ve gotten a couple of examples from other processes…… from the other agencies that have been involved. I don’t think there’s anything that says that it has to be two years. There’s great advantage to trying to do it as fast as it can be done.
My two-cents-worth. I too agree with what Redmond said and what Doug said. I think the signs ……. people have to understand that this park is …. trying to change things. This is not Golden Gate’s position; it’s the national position, which Golden Gate has had to follow. Brian O’Neill has gone and gotten permission to start something else, but I think that, I suggest that you people who are out there, don’t blame us commissioners. We’re … representatives. We’re not the park. We give advice to the park, but they don’t need to take it. However, we’re used to being the buffer, so if you want to go ahead and lambast the commission, go ahead. [laughter] I would have to say on a personal basis, I’m also a dog walker and I understand what you’re talking about. Let’s get on with it.
Okay, speaking for myself I’m both proud and sad at what I’ve heard tonight. I’m proud of the fact that the Park Service has started the meetings and proud of the fact that they started the rule making process, but I’m also, as others, I would like some definitive answer about why the signs up the way they did when they did. Secondly, it saddens me that when we’re already down 38 employees from where we were 20 years ago, that we may have to hire an employee to get us through this, and the whole bureaucratic thing may take up to two years.
And finally, I think when people say that they’re being shut out of the process, you invite them in and you don’t wait for the rule making to start; you start now. You look at your calendar and say, “I can see you tomorrow, I can see you Friday” or whatever. Anyhow, that’s just me talking.
Anyway, we’ll now go on with the rest of our agenda. We’ve got a lot of business to do. Thank you very much for coming.
ACTING SUPERINTENDENT [giving Superintendent’s Report]
Report on RFP for Fort Baker conference center.
Report on return of bank swallows to Fort Funston:
Just a very quick announcement: the bank swallows, a state-listed threatened species, have returned to Fort Funston, where they nest in the cliffs above the beach. And these migratory birds, who winter as far south as Chile, are the smallest swallows found in North America. The Fort Funston colony is one of two colonies remaining along … coastal bluff. Park staff and volunteers are monitoring the burrows.
Transcribed by Vicki Tiernan