Golf carts are way to stand out

Published 2:01 pm Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I understand that the Ironton City Council for the past several weeks has been considering the passage of an ordinance that would allow golf cart traffic on the city streets.

I was one of the people in town who thought that the golf cart idea might be one worth considering. To this point I have been mildly in favor of the passing of this ordinance as our councilmen have been discussing it. My opinion of approving street legal golf carts on Ironton city streets has now morphed from “mildly in favor” to “strongly in favor” of the city giving this golf cart idea a try.

Last week, I spent the week in Saint Simons, Ga. The town of Saint Simons approved street legal golf carts a few years ago, so I was able to observe firsthand how the golf carts impact traffic and are received by a community similar in size to Ironton.

I became very intrigued by the way that the street legal golf carts are working at Saint Simons. I did some research on the same, actually visited a golf cart shop and researched the history of street legal golf carts.

Here is some of what my research revealed:

> About half of the states in the U.S. presently allow cities in their state to legalize golf carts on city streets.

> Ohio is one of those states that allow cities to approve street legal golf carts.

> In Ohio, several northern cities and one southern Ohio community have in the past few years legalized golf cart traffic. Some of those are: Canal Winchester, Kelly’s Island, Cleveland, Tipp City and Gallipolis. The golf cart traffic has helped these communities market themselves as a place to visit and bring in tourism dollars.

> Street legal means that the cart must have turn signals, head lights, tail lights and brake lights as well as a horn.

> A few communities also require or recommend a slow moving vehicle triangle emblem on the rear of the cart and/or a flashing strobe or flag on each cart.

> Many communities with an older population (like Ironton) enjoy golf cart traffic because the golf carts move slowly, are quiet and are easier to get in and out of than automobiles.

> Golf cart traffic helps reduce parking issues in congested downtowns with little parking.

In giving this golf cart idea more consideration while at Saint Simons last week here are some of my thoughts specific to how this would impact the city of Ironton:

> It is no secret that Ironton has a very limited budget for marketing so the city needs to do things that don’t cost much but that help Ironton set itself apart from the other communities. The golf cart ordinance should be inexpensive and help better define Ironton.

> Ironton needs to capitalize on its demographics, geography and topography. Ironton is a small river town that is one half mile wide and about three miles long with most streets having a speed limit of 25 mph and a few with a 35 mph speed limit. (Per the State of Ohio golf carts are not allowed on streets above 35 mph). Ironton’s size is perfect for golf cart traffic.

> Like it or not, Ironton is no longer a community with thousands of jobs in industry. We have become a “bedroom community” and “retirement community” and we need to embrace that fact and market ourselves as such.

> With the success of Ironton In Bloom, the Farmers Market, Depot Square, the Spraypark, the Ro-Na restoration, old home and church architecture, the riverfront project and the refurbishing of several very nice downtown buildings, we are well on our way to defining ourselves as a very pleasant, casual place to live for those who work elsewhere in the Tri-State or who are retired. The slow moving, quiet golf cart will help us better define that image that we have begun to create.

> Ironton is one of the very most southern cities in Ohio so it should have at least one to two more months per year of weather warm enough to enjoy golf cart traffic as compared to some of the northern Ohio cities that have already approved street legal golf cart traffic.

I realize that new ideas and change are not always easy to accept. When they were still in their incubation stages I remember hearing opposition to the formation of Ironton In Bloom, Ironton Port Authority, Friends of Ironton and other changes. Some of the arguments against these new ideas were fairly compelling but most of the arguments were due to a fear of change or the fear of trying something new.

I am sure glad that that the minor opposition did not keep the city leaders from making the right decisions and proceeding with these ideas that ultimately are making our community what it is becoming today, a better place to live and somewhat marketable.

I do own a street legal golf cart but would probably not benefit much personally by the passage of this ordinance. I live outside of the city limits and would have to trailer my golf cart into town in order to take advantage of the new ordinance.

I will, however, commit to keeping my golf cart in town and using it for a few months following the passage of the ordinance in order to promote the new city image.

No one will really be able to predict all of the impacts — good or bad — that will come out of council passing this new street legal golf cart ordinance. I would encourage council to give it a try, pass the ordinance with the plan to revisit the law in a year or two and decide at that point in time if they wish to continue with the ordinance or suspend it. We’ll never know until we try.

Let’s embrace some change again Ironton and see where it gets us.


Rob Slagel is an Ironton resident and the owner of Portable Solutions Group of Companies (Johnny on the Spot, Storage on the Spot, DropBox, Inc. and MSSI) in Ironton.