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San Francisco cancels, uncancels massive dog cleanup

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It’s a dirty job

A border collie in a San Francisco park. Photo by Nancy Wong

In one of the weirdest cases of SF City Hall red tape entangling good intentions, a group of hundreds of dog owners were nearly denied permission to scoop poop in SF parks during a massive cleanup effort planned for Saturday.

The San Francisco Dog Owners Group (SFDOG), a non-profit “designed to educate the people of San Francisco about dogs and their place in our culture,” has a cleaning crusade set for 13 SF locations, an event that almost didn’t happen after SF Rec & Park caught wind of it.

According to SFDOG spokesperson David Emanuel, “Dog owners and guardians will ‘scoop de doo’ across the city” from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, covering Alamo Square, Crissy Field, Dolores Park, Eureka Valley, Fort Funston, Golden Gate Park, Lafayette Park, Ocean Beach, the Palace of Fine Arts, Rincon Hill, Stern Grove, the Upper Noe Recreation Center, and West Portal.

Emanuel says they’re expecting about 200 volunteers, “armed with gloves and scoopers” in an event aimed at beautifying the city and helping educate about the importance of, well, cleaning up after canine companionship.

Oddly enough, the city almost denied SFDOG their day. In March, volunteers complained to Curbed SF that SF Recreation & Park rejected permission for anyone to clean all but four parks.

“In some instances they are trying to redirect the pick-up effort to weeding and gardening activities,” said Emanuel.

Why would the city say no to the simple act of scooping poop? A Rec & Park spokesperson told Curbed SF via email that the city is happy if volunteers want to clean up, but they’re strangely particular about where it happens:

Volunteers are vital to keeping our parks clean, safe and beautiful; last year we had over 200,000 hours of volunteer work in the parks—a value of over $7.5 million to the city. All volunteer work is coordinated with our staff to ensure that projects are appropriate and benefit the park as a whole.

Because large volunteer parties require the supervision of our staff members, it is not unusual for us to ask volunteers to work at sites where their help is most needed.

The city wanted to funnel the work into just Alta Plaza Park, Duboce Park, Lafayette Park and Stern Grove, leaving SFDOG feeling a bit rough about the whole thing at the time.

Through persistence, the volunteers eventually convinced City Hall to unleash them citywide.

“They even issued a no-cost permit that allows us to advertise the event,” added Emanuel, provided that volunteers promised “to stop making a stink of their initial reluctance for the poop pick up.”