Parks Commission walks back Lions Club's child policy

The El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission has temporarily suspended a policy that sets an age limit for children who visit Lions Club Municipal Golf Course.

During a regular meeting Tuesday, commissioners said they and city officials have received an earful about an EPPC decision last month to support the enforcement of the existing policy, which prohibits children under the age of 12 from visiting the golf course unless they are playing golf and are supervised by an adult.

Ken Goudy, chairman of the EPPC, explained that the policy was implemented years ago as a safety measure.

However, he said he has not been able to find any documentation showing when the policy was adopted.

Lions Club manager Danny Carelock broached the issue with commissioners in April, citing recent instances that raised safety concerns -- one in which parents placed an infant in a golf cart while they were playing.

"If a ball comes flying, the infant can't move. He can't get out of the way," Carelock said.

In another incident, Carelock said an underage child took off in a golf cart and drove dangerously close to a 30- to 40-foot drop-off on the east side of the golf course.

"The dad had no clue the kid was driving the cart," he said.

To drive a cart at LCMGC, golfers must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver's license.

"We don't even allow them to drive with a (learner's) permit," Carelock said.

On Tuesday, Goudy inquired about a draft of a waiver that had been proposed by Commissioner Glenn Faust to address children who visit Lions Club for "non-golf-related activities and without the ability to drive a golf cart."

When Faust noted that the EPPC had authorized Carelock to enforce the policy, Goudy said the matter had been rescinded since the EPPC last met on April 25.

"Did you not know that?" Goudy asked.

"No, because we haven't had a board meeting since now and then, so ...," Faust began.

Goudy said an "emergency ruling" was enacted sometime after the EPPC's monthly meeting in April, adding later that the discussion included Mayor Paul Choate.

"As far as I'm concerned, Danny can still apply rules as he needs to. It's our job to help him," Faust said

Choate echoed concerns regarding the incidents that Carelock cited.

"There have been comments made about people on the golf course with children in a stroller and an infant in a car seat in a golf cart and there's nothing to protect them from an errant golf ball," Choate said. "I don't know enough to be sure as to what we really need to do. We need to think long and hard with young children and to encourage children to get involved in outdoor activities, golf being one of them, but how young do you start them?"

"My attitude is that I would rather err on the side of caution for the safety of the very young who can't protect themselves. Someone needs to be doing their homework," he continued. "There needs to be some serious study. Let's see what some of these other courses do for these types of situations and what the rules need to be for Lions Club."

During the EPPC meeting Tuesday, Goudy said he has since learned that the EPPC possibly enacted "something along those lines" years after the initial policy was set, adding that former Commissioner and El Dorado City Council Member David was a member of the EPPC when the updated policy was enacted.

Hurst, who was in the audience, nodded in agreement.

"So, we're trying to locate that. So, we knew there was something else after the fact," said Goudy.

Faust said he wanted to solicit feedback from Carelock about the draft waiver.

"For me, it wasn't so much about the legalese or the waiver portion of it being sued. It was more for guardians acknowledging that their children were not supposed to be driving the carts and that there was inherent risks to bringing them out there," Faust explained.

Goudy said the group can review the draft and discuss again next month with any proposed changes.

Added Faust, "Getting it out there and getting the conversation going was the goal."

Commissioner Alexis Alexander said she favored the "idea where it (the waiver) puts it back on the parent to understand the responsibility they have of their children out there."

Commissioner Greg Harrison made similar statements, referring to the incident in which Carelock said a boy drove dangerously close to a ravine on the east side of the golf course.

"So there needs to be something in place so that the parent understands that it's their responsibility," said Harrison.

Commissioner Karen Hicks inquired about how the policy affects the Kids-N-Golf junior golf program that provides instruction and tournament opportunities for young golfers at Lions Club.

Goudy said the program "is a separate situation," explaining the Kids-N-Golf participants are supervised by parents/guardians and coaches.

Alexander pointed out that when commissioners discussed the existing policy last month, they focused on safety.

"The more that has come out about it, the more it seems that it's one or two bad applies that have spoiled the bunch," she said.

Alexander said she subsequently spoke to Robert Edmonds, director of public works, about the issue and sought clarity on the proper chain of command.

"That would be the hierarchy, right? Robert would be over the golf course, over Danny?" she asked.

"Good question ... I think so," Goudy said.

Goudy said the EPPC will continue searching for documentation about the existing policy and any updates and consider the proposed waiver.