New year brings golf cart access to campus

Buses roll out of the South Complex after the last bell, passing the completed golf cart parking lot.

Erin Schilling, Staff Writer

Junior Drew Dohany rides the bus faithfully almost every day. As the buses pulled out of the loop after the 3:45 bell on one of the final days of first semester, he noticed the construction on the long-awaited golf cart parking lot, complete with white-lined parking spaces, was completed. The new lot is located adjacent to the cheerleaders’ new practice facility, which is across Panther Path from the softball field near the Hwy. 74 entrance to the South Campus.

Dohany said he is pretty excited about the lot. “I’ll take my golf cart every day,” said Dohany, “no matter the weather.”

The parking lot will hold 250 golf carts, according to Assistant Principal Allen Leonard. Students will access the lot from the Redwine Road entrance to Panther Path. They will cross over at Peeples Elementary and follow a new 1,000-foot path that will lead them to the golf cart parking lot. To ensure maximum safety for golf cart riders, the crosswalk at Peeples will be reconstructed into a raised crosswalk so cars will have to slow down, according to the Fayette County Board of Education, which approved the golf cart path plans.

The plan also calls for two more raised crosswalks. One is placed at the entrance of the golf cart parking lot in front of the bus loop, and the other is located in front of the student lot. This crossing connects a 900-foot path beside the cheer facility and practice field to the back service road. Fifty more parallel parking spaces have been added to the service road for golf carts, according to the FCBOE plan.

I’ll take my golf cart everyday, no matter the weather.”

— Drew Dohany

Leonard said the administrators hope students will have golf cart access at some point in the spring semester. “Students will not be able to drive [golf] carts until the construction of the parking lot is complete and the rules and parking decals are created,” Leonard said. Yearly parking passes for the lot will cost the same as car parking passes, which is currently $60.

Golf cart accessibility will be open to high school students only. By law, golf cart drivers must be at least 15 years old with a valid learner’s permit to operate the vehicle alone.

Construction of the parking lot and the extended paths on campus were completed before the semester break. During the break, the raised crosswalks in front of the student parking lot connecting the back service road and the paths toward the golf cart parking lot were completed. The crossing in front of the bus loop is also finished, but the crosswalk on Panther Path is still under construction.

This idea of a golf cart lot on campus has been thrown around since the construction of the South Complex in 1997, but perhaps it was the Fayette County Board of Commissioner’s summer internship program that finally expedited the process.

Starr’s Mill junior Tessa Strickland and Whitewater junior Khalil Coleman, who interned with the board, were assigned a task: research possible routes for a golf cart system on campus that would be safe and cost-effective.  The two mapped out routes that extended the paths to the South Complex, creating safer ways for golf carts to drive onto campus without interacting with motor vehicles. Strickland and Coleman then presented their findings to the commissioners and again to the FCBOE earlier this school year. “Everyone was fond of the idea when we presented it,” Strickland said.

The interns used McIntosh’s success with its golf cart lot to support one at the Mill. McIntosh was the first golf-cart accessible high school in Fayette County.  According to Daniel Lakly, assistant principal and safety coordinator at McIntosh, MHS has 600 golf cart spaces. The cost of a golf cart parking permit for the school year is $40, and with the seniors, juniors, and sophomores purchasing parking passes, they usually sell out, he said. He said only one golf-cart accident has occurred that he knows about, and it happened last year. McIntosh also has a parking lot attendant and crossing guards at the golf cart exits to supervise dismissal in the afternoon, Lakly said.

FCBOE is paying for the addition of the parking lot and the new paths on the school’s campus. The changes on campus are separate from the new paths being proposed outside the campus, which will be overseen by the commissioners.

According to Fayette County Public Works Director Phil Mallon, a new cart path will be constructed on the west side Redwine Road with an accompanying raised crosswalk. The costs are still undetermined but an estimate is expected later this month. This path will extend from the Foreston Place subdivision to the Redwine and Panther Path intersection. The police officer who directs traffic in the mornings will also oversee the golf cart crossings, making it safer for students to drive to school.

Fayette County Commissioner Chairman Steve Brown agrees with the summer interns to extend the golf-cart paths on and off the South Complex. Erin Schilling 

During the interns’ presentation this past fall, Fayette County Commissioner Chairman Steve Brown supported the option of extending the paths around the South Complex.

According to Brown, this path has the potential to be finished by late spring or early summer. However, Dohany and his fellow Starr’s Mill students will be granted golf cart access sometime this semester once the construction and parking permits are completed, Leonard said.

Leonard sent out an email to students and their parents via Infinite Campus asking them to take a survey to gauge student interest in driving golf carts to school for the 2015-16 school year.

Out of the 242 responses, about 70 percent were from freshmen and sophomores. Fifty-four percent said they would drive a golf cart instead of a car, 39 percent said they would drive a golf cart until they could drive a car, and 7 percent were opposed to the idea of driving golf carts. Opposition to the plan was minimal, according to the survey results. The commissioners said they’ve also received emails from Fayette residents voicing their support for the extension of the paths during a meeting at the end of last semester.

Junior Pamela Jew is one of the few who oppose the decision. “In order to get your permit, you don’t have to pass a set driving test,” Jew said. “We’ll have novice drivers driving to school, which will lead to the possibility of accidents with other students.”

According to Leonard, safety concerns had been the biggest drawback to getting approval for a golf cart lot. Before the current plan was adopted by all parties involved, Leonard said the Starr’s Mill administration opposed bringing golf carts to school because the campus’ layout, unlike McIntosh’s, “pretty much mandates that golf carts and cars intermingle.”

The addition of the golf cart-only parking lot and raised crosswalks have changed his views. “The plan for the on-campus paths and parking lot create a much safer situation for golf carts on campus than the current situation,” Leonard said. Even though golf carts have not been allowed on campus, some students occasionally attempt to drive their carts to school, creating potentially dangerous situations.