DUNEDIN — City officials drove home an amended ordinance designed to provide golf carts better access to more parts of the community, especially to downtown through major roadway crossings, but limited vehicle access into Highlander Park.

To legally operate a golf cart through Dunedin a person will be required to register their cart in two ways, through the city and state.

The local registration process shall include the payment of an annual fee in the amount of $10. A golf cart inspection to verify roadway worthiness, and the presence of required equipment, may be established as a condition of registration and operation of a golf cart on city-designated streets.

According to the revised ordinance, decals reflecting a valid registration must be visibly affixed to each registered golf cart on the rear driver's side.

Just like with any motor vehicle, the driver must have the cart’s registration in their possession all times that it is operated on city streets. However, no registration is required for golf carts that are not operated on city streets, such as along privately maintained roads in subdivisions.

According to the ordinance, all golf carts operated on designated city streets, or in designated areas on public lands, must be equipped with efficient brakes, reliable steering, a horn, safe tires, a rearview mirror, amber reflectorized warning devices in the front and reflectorized red warning devices in the rear.

All golf carts operated between sunset and sunrise, on designated city streets or in designated areas on public lands, must also be properly equipped with headlights, brake lights, turn signals and a windshield, the ordinance adds.

Many golf cart users lobbied the city to provide more access to downtown and an ability to cross state and local highways; the revised ordinance addresses many of their concerns.

During a City Commission meeting July 11, Greg Rice, planning and zoning director, explained access to areas such as downtown will be provided through a series of state and county road crossings, while golf carts will still not be permitted on roadways where the speed limit is higher than 35 mph.

Rice explained county traffic operations approved crossings at San Christopher Drive, Falcon Drive, Amberlea Drive North and Michigan Boulevard.

He added the city is working to provide a future crossing at Spanish Trails, which will require installation of a rapid flasher beacon system that will be budgeted for next year.

In addition, the Florida Department of Transportation approved golf cart crossings at Bass Boulevard and Main Street at State Road 580 or Skinner Boulevard, as well as along U.S. Alt. 19 at Monroe Street and Palm Boulevard, with the city putting in a permit request for a crossing at San Jose Drive.

“In order to discourage illegal crossings of high volume on high speed roadways, only Dunedin residents living in areas of legal operation will be eligible for golf cart registration,” Rice said.

The legal way for anyone not living in one of those areas to use their carts is to get it registered as a low-speed vehicle, with a license tag. It requires a new windshield, a lighted license plate holder and title. Low speed vehicles can then travel on any road that has a 35 mph speed limit and cross any road, Rice said.

“We have people crossing Union Street from Clearwater. Number one they should not even have a golf cart, because Clearwater hasn’t even approved that; and they are crossing Union, which is not a designated way to cross. It’s all designed for safety. If they want to do that they should get their cart turned into a low speed vehicle,” Rice advised.

Under the revised ordinance, only licensed drivers can operate a golf cart and all children 16 years of age or under are required to wear lap seat belts.

The planning director explained the amended ordinance adds an Eastside golf cart zone to the city’s expanded north and south designated golf cart zones.

A San Jose crossing will be added to the northside zone, while the Jackson Street crossing at Alt. 19 has been eliminated. The Jackson Street crossing is no longer necessary, with the Bass Street crossing coming online at Skinner Boulevard, Rice told commissioners.

Crossings at San Christopher Drive, Falcon Drive, Amberlea Drive North, Michigan Boulevard and Palm Boulevard remain viable alternatives.

Access is provided in the southern zone by a small section of Patricia Avenue from Lexington Avenue to Beltrees Street.

City officials are trying to minimize areas where golf carts are allowed on Patricia Avenue, which averages 10,000 cars a day.

“We want to get people on and off these roads as quickly as possible, because it’s not fun, “ Rice said.

Another crossing between James Street and Knollwood Drive will create access to downtown, he explained. A short stretch on Virginia between Lakehaven to Pinewood Drive lets carts cross Pinewood and Knollwood to downtown.

In the East zone, golf car crossings will be permitted along County Road 1.

The city plans strict enforcement. Unregistered and illegally parked golf carts maybe subject to booting or towing by the city or sheriff.

“Without registration by the city or license tags we have no way to know who owns the vehicle,” Rice said.

All persons operating a golf cart on designated city streets, or in designated areas of public lands, must have a valid driver’s license. It’s illegal to operate a golf cart with a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

Vince Gizzi, parks and recreation director, reminded commissioners golf carts are already not allowed in parks, except in designated areas or if permission is granted by the city.

Gizzi noted that Highlander Park was a particular concern.

“Highlander is a very heavily used park with heavily used activity areas. With the increase of golf carts going through the park, we have a concern for safety of our users. Most golf carts are coming off the Patricia Bridge, through the bicycle trail and into the park, so we do have some concerns.”

To alleviate some of the pressure, recreation officials plan to install bollards on the trail north of Idlewild Drive Bridge to only allow for pedestrian and bicycle access into Highlander Park, Gizzi explained.

“We want to designate golf cart access along the shell path on the outskirts of the south portion of Highlander Park, along Cedar Creek, with access to Harvard Drive and Ed Eckert Drive parking areas near ball fields,” he explained.

The city will improve the golf cart path in the Cedar Creek area with shell, bollards and signs.

“The main concern is keeping the golf carts out of the heavily used activity areas,” Gizzi said.

Golf cart users and residents commenting at the meeting spoke in favor of the city adopting the amended ordinance and providing golf cart crossings.

If passed on second reading, scheduled July 25, the amended ordinance with new golf cart crossings, will take effect in September. The Dunedin Beacon went to press before the meeting that evening.