PRESS RELEASE RE: CONTROVERSY AT FORT FUNSTON
For immediate release
San Francisco, California
March 2, 2000
Fort Funston is a popular coastal bluff area in southwest San Francisco which provides unique special access to seniors and the disabled, as well as a wide variety of recreational uses to thousands of park visitors. The varied recreational uses (dog-walking, hiking, horseback riding, ocean-viewing, hang gliding, kite and model airplane flying, bird-watching and natural vegetation restoration) have coexisted cooperatively in a remarkable symbiosis under the supervision of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The presence of the doting dog owners, elderly, and disabled creates a friendly and safe place much like a children's playground where strangers are comfortable in greeting each other and engaging in conversation freely.
Sadly, the GGNRA is now putting at risk this fabulously successful experiment in social cooperation by unilaterally restricting the two most popular uses of the park. GGNRA has shut down the most popular trail which provides disabled and senior access and is in the process of fencing off a popular dog-running area.
When this former municipal property was transferred to GGNRA control, it was pursuant to express promises that the traditional recreational uses would be allowed. Park users are concerned that GGNRA shut down the areas in question without the required public input and as part of a campaign to eliminate the historical uses of the park, in favor of an effort to turn this popular urban park into to a restricted-use, natural area.
More specifically, three large areas of the park are being closed: (1) The Sunset Trail which parallels the ocean on the bluffs and is highly used by elderly and disabled individuals, (2) approximately two acres that border the ocean, and (3) approximately four acres, which also border the ocean. This is in addition to large closures in prior years. No formal notice has been given to park users of these closures, no public hearings have been conducted, nor was an Aadministrative determination@ prepared by GGNRA (the federal requirements of an administrative determination, notice, and hearing will be referred to as Aregulatory requirements@).
Under the Federal Regulations governing park closures, regulatory requirements must be satisfied if there is a Asignificant alteration in the public use pattern@ due to the closure or if the closure is Ahighly controversial.@ Regulatory requirements are not required if the closure is due to an Aemergency.@
The Sunset Trail, including all surrounding land, was closed allegedly due to erosion under a portion of the trail. Park users are sensitive to the emergency nature of this closure, but question whether this entire closure is commensurate with the emergency, and whether less-restrictive measures are available. They also seek alternative passageways for the elderly and disabled.
As to the closure of the two acres bordering the ocean, GGNRA claims that this is necessary to protect bank swallows, which are a protected species. Park users acknowledge that there may be an Aemergency@ component to this closure, but question the extent of the closure.
Park users, however, are not willing to concede an emergency for the remaining four acres. This land is some of the most heavily used by park visitors, especially dog-walkers. This area is being closed permanently so that the GGNRA may plant native plants. GGNRA cites certain groups who support this closure, but appears unwilling to thoughtfully consider the views of the majority of the park users. Park users believe this closure is a significant alteration in the public use pattern of the land and is highly controversial. Federal regulatory requirements, therefore, must be followed.
Park users have tried to negotiate with GGNRA, and are offering specifically not to file a lawsuit or request a Temporary Restraining Order if GGNRA will stop installing a fence around the four acres and agree to follow the Federal regulations regarding notices and hearings. GGNRA has stated that they will not stop the fencing project, and have threatened that, if park users pursue legal action, they will revoke longstanding off-leash privileges for dogs.
Attorneys working with park users are attempting to negotiate with GGNRA. If GGNRA is unwilling to negotiate, a lawsuit may be the only recourse.
It appears that GGNRA has been working with some interest groups to the exclusion of disfavored groups. Park users are requesting comments from any organization that is interested in these recent closures. Interested parties are invited to meet with the Fort Funston Dogwalkers at 9:30 a.m, Saturday, March 4, at Fort Funston to share their views and assist in negotiations with GGNRA.
For more information, contact Lydia Boesch at 841-1060, 841-0437 (fax), or Lydiaowen@aol.com
The San Francisco Examiner covered this story on its front page on March 1, 2000
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