[ from Tuesday, March 14, 2000 ]
Hi! My name is Michael Goldstein, and welcome to my brand-new web publication, Fort Funston Forum. I have a cool seven-year old Australian Shepherd named Rudy. We love to walk at Fort Funston. Our favorite walk goes down through a little glen and sand dunes to the northern beach area near Ocean Beach. Well, we can't take that walk anymore. Recently and quite unexpectedly (to myself and the hundreds of others who use this area regularly to exercise with their dogs) the National Park Service put up two eyesore fences across the hills and dunes. We are told that this is to protect a colony of bank swallows that is expected to arrive soon from South America and set up nests in some burrows half-way up the steep cliffs. Supposedly, people and dogs could scare them off from staying there and raising their chicks. In order to avoid that unproven possibility, a large area of several acres back from the cliffs to the road is about to be off limits to everyone for the roughly five months a year during which the bank swallows are in residence.
There are two issues that have upset people: the process and the outcome. The outcome is a decision that is questionable because it really is not known exactly what factors affect the birds' behavior. If there is science behind these decisions, I'd like to see it. In fact, I would like to publish it here on this website. In a brief search through the web the other day, I found a study reporting that adjoining land use is not a threat to the birds. (see study link .)
Bank Swallows soon to nest in burrows on cliffs at north end of Fort Funston Beach (taken March 11, 2000.)
You can see from the photo (above) that the nest burrows (the holes in the middle of the photo, which go back about a yard to where the eggs will hatch) are quite a ways from the top and bottom of the cliffs. In short, a lot of folks aren't convinced that this closure is at all needed. It ruins the landscape's rugged, open feel, as the area is being cordoned off into more and more fenced subdivisions. And it stops its use for recreation. After all, Fort Funston is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. If it was intended as another national park, it would have been named one. This is an urban area and an essential resource for the many responsible dog lovers whose use of it relieves many city parks of overcrowding. That doesn't mean to ignore the habitat of other species, just to strive for a consensus on a balance of all users. Fort Funston is remarkable in that it manages to attract not only hundreds of dogs with their people every day, but also hikers, hang-gliders, bicyclists, and others. Everybody gets along just great and there's room for all.
As bad as this closure is, what's worse had been the process through which it happened. The park service is required to announce closures and hold hearings for input, particularly in closures that are going to be controversial. Clearly, the agency knew full well that there would be a lot of upset people, and it seems to me that they deliberately acted quickly so as to avoid the process of justifying their actions and discussing them with citizens. As soon as the fence started going up, and this while the popular Sunset Trail had just been closed with no posted explanation or reason of duration, a groundswell of opposition erupted among dog owners. About 150 of them showed up at a meeting (which the park service declined to attend) and discussed what to do. Two things were decided: 1) as a protest, we would post photos along the budding fence of the many dogs and people who were being fenced out; and 2) the Fort Funston Dogwalkers group would file a complaint and temporary restraining order against the National Park Service to force the agency to abide by its own regulations as to due process.
I'm a bird-lover, too. I'm excited that the swallows are almost here, and curious to see them. If I was convinced that this closure was essential for their breeding success, I would miss that lovely dune walk with Rudy, but accept its loss. However, the combination of the uncertainty about its need and a secretive and illegal process makes me want to find out more about this issue. Further, I hope that similar problems can be avoided in the future.
I'm not interested in antagonizing the dedicated rangers and volunteers who work hard to keep the area safe and maintained. The Web gives us a great place to look at the future of Fort Funston. There are many documents and images from various parties which I will happily post here, as well as e-mail messages from anyone about this issue. Check this site frequently during the next few weeks for lots more facts and opinions from all sides.
To kick off the site, I've photographed 150 snapshots which were affixed to the fenceposts on Saturday, March 4, 2000. I can't contact everyone who had a photo on the fence, so I will announce here that anyone who would like their photo(s) removed from this site please e-mail me! ( email@example.com ) And if you would like to either add photos or add text to go with your photos here, just let me know. (Please tell me the "_____.jpg" number at the end of the URL shown at the top of your photo's page.)
I hope this site will be useful in providing a reference archive, announcement board, and a forum for all interested people to research and discuss the future of the incomparable Fort Funston! Please visit again soon for up-to-date news and opinions. What do you think of the site? Any suggestions or complaints? e-mail me!
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Fort Funston Forum is an independent publication. The opinions expressed are those of the editor and identified writers, and are specifically not presented here as the opinions of any other person or organization involved with current issues at Fort Funston. ***** Michael B. Goldstein, Editor