I wanted to thank Ms. Thorp for sharing her feelings regarding the issue of dogs in State Parks [Jan. 27 issue, “Doggedly enjoying the beach.”] The perspective I would like to share comes from 25 years of experience in State Parks and a lifelong association with various family pets including the two whippets that currently reside at our residence.
For the record I feel that we are very responsive to the needs of our park visitors. California State Parks provides the only public beaches in the area that are open to leashed dogs. Contrary to Ms. Thorp’s letter we are not increasing our restrictions on dogs. Currently dogs are allowed at Leo Carrillo State Beach (with the exception of the sandy beach and tide pool area between Tower 1 and Tower 3), Staircase Beach, County Line Beach, Sycamore Cove, Thornhill Broome Beach and Mugu Beach. Actually, Point Dume Preserve and the Pocket Beaches are the only local state holdings that prohibit dogs. The impression that State Parks is becoming more restrictive is not accurate. Since 1989 we have opened many beaches that had previously been closed to dogs. On a statewide basis we continue to provide more opportunities for leashed dogs. State Parks in Big Sur and Santa Cruz that were previously off limits to dogs are now open. Another positive response to dog owners was the director’s action to eliminate the dog day use fee at the beginning of this year.
The designation of public land as a State Park implies that all natural features are protected. Consequently, we have tried to establish reasonable regulations and policies to protect our natural resources while respecting the rights of our visitors to have a quality recreational experience. Our State Parks are special places. The limits we have established are prudent actions that insure the protection of park visitors, wildlife and other natural features.
Dogs have a significant impact on park resources and the experiences of other park visitors. There is no correlation between individual rights and conscious disregard for the law. I have witnessed the depredation of sea lions at Point Dume, listened to concerned mothers scream when their child was approached by an aggressive unleashed dog and watched as a child’s meticulous sandcastle construction was ruined by a wayward canine. I have had peaceful walks with my own dogs aborted by the threats of other unleashed dogs. Based on these and many other complaints, our staff has made a strong effort to seek compliance regarding our existing regulations. These regulations have been in effect for many years. In an effort to get the word out my staff circulated a press release to over 50 media contacts in December explaining our current regulations regarding dogs and announcing the abolition of day use fees associated with dogs.
I agree that dog owners need a special place where their dogs can run off leash. State Parks are not the appropriate alternative. Realizing this, many cities have taken the initiative and established dog parks (“bark parks”), perhaps the time is right for Malibu to follow suit.
Hayden W Sohm, Malibu sector superintendent
California State Parks