GF&P eyes golf cart use by campers at state parks
CUSTER -- Electric golf carts could become vehicles of choice for campers staying at South Dakota parks and recreation areas.
The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission at its meeting last week formally proposed rule changes that will allow electric golf carts on designated roads within parks and recreation complexes.
The carts will need headlights, brake lights and rear-view mirrors. They also will need park-entrance permits and the drivers will need to show they have valid driver licenses and proof of insurance.
The commission will hold a public hearing June 6 in Pierre and make a decision that afternoon or the next morning as part of its regular meeting.
The proposed rules also call for requiring mopeds and motor scooters to have park-entrance permits. They currently are exempt.
Gas-powered golf carts that are licensed for normal street and road travel currently can be operated in state parks and recreation areas.
"It'll level the playing field," Bob Schneider, a state Division of Parks and Recreation official, told the commission.
"It makes sense," said commission member Duane Sather of Sioux Falls.
Explaining why some carts have been allowed and others weren't has been a challenge for parks personnel, according to Schneider.
"It's really going to offer the public a better service," he said.
The commission's action is in response to a state law approved last winter by the Legislature allowing golf carts of any kind in state parks and recreation areas.
The original legislation was sponsored by Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, with Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, as its lead sponsor in the Senate.
The House Local Government Committee rewrote the original version of Rounds' bill to add requirements for lighting, mirrors and horns. The Senate Local Government Committee removed the horns requirement.
The Senate version won approval 33-0 and 61-6 from the House of Representatives.
The new law takes effect July 1.
Electric carts and unlicensed gaspowered carts won't be allowed on any roads where the speed limit is higher than 35 mph.
In Custer State Park, where many segments of the state highways are posted at a maximum 35, the carts will be allowed only in designated campground areas, according to Schneider.
There could be other places where use of carts is likewise restricted.
"We don't see a lot of golf carts in the parks, some more than others," Schneider said. "We don't anticipate a huge increase in the number of them."