Monday, December 28, 2009

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) vs Golden Gate National Parks (GGNP) - a Distinction with a Difference

The Great Lance's post regarding a "Riptide mistake" has compelled me to post this article for the purpose of clarification. My thanks to Lance for pointing out the discrepancy and providing me this opportunity. 

The above "Big Year" images can be found on two of former CBD staff attorney Brent Plater’s multitude of promotional web sites. The image on the left announces the 2008 Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) Big Year project. The image on the right announces the 2010 Golden Gate National Parks (GGNP) Big Year project. The two differ in many more ways than in the respective age of the projects. Plater’s newly crafted moniker for the GGNRA, i.e., GGNP, by design completely omits the term “recreation” in a very calculated, nefarious way. Please allow me to explain further…

One might be able to explain the difference in names as a simple oversight if one wasn’t aware of the history of the GGNRA and an already failed attempt at an "end run” name change in 2008 by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi via House Bill HR 6305 (see The name change supported by the National Park Service (parent agency to the GGNRA) and by various environmental groups including the CBD, the Audubon Society, the California Native Plant Society, the Sierra Club, etc., would have arguably changed the legislative mandate of the park from “recreation” to “conservation”. This is a very important distinction. Recreation being a part of their name (and therefore their legislative mandate) has always been a thorn in the side of the GGNRA/NPS who would rather build habitat restorations than provide diverse recreational opportunities for the public. Philosophically, the GGNRA/NPS is much more into stand-behind-the-ropes-and-look-only museums than ball fields, golf courses, dog parks, equestrian trails, fire rings, bike trails, etc. What is further most despicable is that the NPS promised the cities who deeded over their properties for inclusion into the GGNRA that they would preserve historical recreational use and promote additional recreational opportunities for this urban population. 

HR 6305 was an attempt to pave the way for not only the name change, but for a stated purpose change. Once designated as a ‘National Park’, versus a “Recreation Area”, the Park Service would then be able to manage the area as they would any other National Park, such as Yosemite, with a conservation trumps all else mandate.

Pelosi’s HR 6305 was strategically crafted with the majority of the language dealing with innocuous issues in the Presidio. The name change was buried deep in the language of the bill, so as to be camouflaged. It was only after inadvertently discovering an upcoming Congressional vote on HR 6305 through a Google alert that one of the S.F. dog walkers brought this to the attention of the community. It was then that thousands of Pelosi’s constituents voiced their disapproval of the Bill, causing Pelosi to yank the Bill from Congressional consideration - at that time.

History of the GGNRA:
Congress established the GGNRA on October 27, 1972 "to preserve for public use and enjoyment certain areas of Marin and San Francisco Counties, California possessing outstanding natural, historic, scenic, and recreational values.” (16 USC 460bb.) In addition to this generic statement of purpose appearing in most national park statutes, Congress included two "specific provisions" unique to the GGNRA:

First, the park was established "to provide for the maintenance of needed recreational open space necessary to urban environment and planning." The only other park with this requirement was the Cuyahoga National Recreation Area, established after the GGNRA. This statute however, does not contain the additional requirement "recreational open space necessary for urban environment and planning"…

Second, the GGNRA statute imposes a unique limitation on NPS's discretionary power for "management of the recreation area": the "Secretary of Interior..shall utilize the resources in a manner which will provide for recreation and educational opportunities consistent with sound principles of land use planning and management."

So there you have it. Maybury and Riptide had it right with respect to the GGNRA. And as for Plater, for now his fantasy name and purpose change to GGNP remains just that – fantasy. For how long it remains that is up to you.

Note - the GGNRA manages close to 60% of the open space in Pacifica.

posted by: Rocky Golub

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