GGNRA names new leader, drops dog rule change

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday November 1, 2017
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The National Park Service has named Laura E. Joss as superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the sprawling park that includes open spaces in San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin counties. Joss, currently regional director for the agency's Pacific West Region, will assume the post this month.

This is the third time during Joss's 27-year career with the park service that she has been named the superintendent of one of its sites. She also oversaw Arches National Park in Utah and the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and Hampton National Historic Site in Maryland.

"I am thrilled to be returning to a park, especially one known for creating innovative partnerships and being so strongly tied to the community. I look forward to working with staff, volunteers, and partners in the days ahead," stated Joss.

She is married to San Francisco native Skip Meehan, who also works for the Park Service. The couple met while working at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is on the border of Arizona and Utah, and have two daughters, Lindsay and Elizabeth, as well as two miniature Australian Shepherds.

Joss succeeds as superintendent of the GGNRA Christine S. Lehnertz, a lesbian, who was reassigned in August 2016 to oversee the Grand Canyon due to the early retirement of the former jobholder following reports of rampant sexual harassment among its staff. She also beat out a gay applicant for the job, Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Craig Kenkel, who had earlier this year served as the GGNRA's acting superintendent.

The news of Joss' hiring came a week after the park service announced it was dropping plans to restrict dog access, both on-leash and off, throughout the GGNRA sites. The long-planned, and highly controversial, rule change had been put on hold in January by park staff in light of documents Bay Area dog and recreation groups had obtained from GGNRA officials that questioned their handling of the rule-planning process.

An independent review team deemed it inappropriate for the employees to have used their personal email accounts to conduct official business but concluded their doing so did not influence the outcome of the dog access planning and rulemaking process. Nonetheless, the park service decided to junk the proposed changes in the rules.

"We can do better and in the interest of upholding the highest standard of transparency and trust with our Bay Area neighbors, we have determined that it is no longer appropriate to continue with the current dog management rulemaking process at Golden Gate National Recreation Area," stated NPS acting Director Michael Reynolds.

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who decried reducing dog access at the federal parks while a city supervisor, applauded the agency's decision.

"I'm incredibly happy that the federal government has stopped these severe dog restrictions from going into place in so many parks in San Francisco," stated Wiener. "Limiting access in these parks would have been bad for dogs and their owners, and would have pushed them into our already overcrowded city parks."