Off-Leash History - we still need your help

Early 1970’s – The Golden Gate National Recreation (GGNRA) area was created from land in San Francisco, Marin County and San Mateo Counties to create an urban recreational park.  Land continues to be added to the GGNRA - most recently in San Mateo County.

Late 1970’s – active recreational users in the GGNRA became concerned when Federal regulations prevented traditional park activities. Dog owners lobbied the park to relax off-leash rules in a few areas. In response, the GGNRA Citizen’s Advisory Committee held extensive hearings which resulted in the 1979 Pet Policy. The Pet Policy outlined off-leash rules and defined specific off-leash areas in San Francisco and Marin Counties.

1983 – Congress mandated that all types of National Parks must abide by the same standard regulations and created the option of “special rules” for exceptions.   Special rules were created in the GGNRA to allow bicycle riding on trails and hang gliding at Fort Funston.

The local Park Superintendent requested a special rule for off-leash activity, but there is no record of a reply from Washington.  The GGNRA continued to abide by the Pet Policy until 2001.

1990’s – The Park Service began selectively closing coastal areas – in some cases the closures only applied to off-leash activity, in some cases the areas were fenced off and no activity was permitted. These closures include the coastal bluffs at Fort Funston, Ocean Beach from Stairwell 21 to Sloat Blvd, West Beach at Crissy Field, Land’s End, etc. 

2000 – The Park Service closed 12 acres at Fort Funston. The dog-community revolted and filed a lawsuit to prevent the closure.  A federal judge ruled that the Park Service is required to issue a public notice and allow comment before making this highly controversial change.  The Park Service issued a notice, collected comments, and ended up permanently closing an even larger area than originally planned.

2001 – The Park Service began enforcing the leash law in all areas of the park.  In response to a huge public outcry, the Park Service began the long process of creating a special rule (See “1983” notes above).  This process will take years and require many “notice and comment” periods as each milestone is reached.  The Park Service planned to continue enforcing the leash law, but . . .

2004/2005 – 3 people fought their leash citations and ended up before the same judge who ruled that the 2000 closure was illegal – he ruled again that the Park Service cannot make a highly controversial change without public notice and comment,  and he dismissed their citations.

2006/20?? - The Park Service is doing impact studies on various off leash/ on leash options in most of the traditional off-leash areas with the goal of creating a special rule (See "1983" notes above) to outline the areas & rules by which this activity will be legal in the GGNRA.  We expect to get the first draft sometime in 2009 at which time we need massive public review & comment. This is critical – please give us your contact information so we can reach out to you for your comments and support. (Send your contact information to