For decades a curious phenomenon has existed on 4,262 acres of San Francisco Peninsula private land known as the Rancho Corral de Tierra. This land has been unfenced, unpatrolled, unmaintained and open to the public. The curious element is that the public consists of hikers, mountain bikers, dog walkers and equestrians who all get along! Even the previous owners, the private Peninsula Open Space Trust had allowed total public access. One particular tract of the Rancho located adjacent to the northern border of Montara has had heavy traffic from off leash dogs and equestrians. The norm is for the dog walkers to leash their dogs up and have a pleasant chat with the rider as the rider passes. Dogs that are left unleashed are almost never an issue and in the rare instances dogs do cause a problem the community self-regulates the owners.
All this is about to change. The GGNRA has acquired the Rancho and has released its draft dog management plan. The GGNRA’s preferred alternative for the Rancho (which is considered “New Lands”), is a total ban on dogs, leashed or unleashed. This has enraged locals who walk their dogs daily on the property. The GGNRA has missed a (pardon the expression) “golden” opportunity to understand how the Rancho’s multi users have kept it in pristine condition and lived harmoniously. This is a situation that is well worth preserving as much as possible, especially in the densely populated SF Bay Area.
To be fair, the transition of the Rancho from a local haven to a national park will bring more people with more dogs and therefore require some regulations. However, the GGNRA has provided no data to support a total ban on dogs in the Rancho. Moreover, except for one meeting at the elementary school which borders the Rancho, the GGNRA has not engaged the locals in the discussion. They certainly have not attempted to work out a compromise which takes into account the heavy local usage by dog walkers and the apparent lack of negative impact of that usage.
In contrast to the situation with the dog walkers, the GGNRA engaged in deep and fruitful discussions with the local equestrian community. The Rancho is home to 4 boarding stables and all will continue to operate when the GGNRA formally takes control. Also the vast majority of trails will remain open to horses. The draft dog management plan is open for public comment until April 14, 2011. It is not too late for the GGNRA and the dog walkers to sit down and work out their differences.