Slacklining advocates at the University of Colorado have cleared some hurdles in recent years. But the balancing act — both on campus and around Boulder — isn’t over.
Slacklining isn’t allowed in city parks, but it’s OK on campus.
Boulder City Code 6-6-6-c deals with trees on city-owned property — and therefore concerns slackliners.
“No person shall attach to or install on any tree or plant growing within or upon any city-owned or controlled property, including public rights-of-way, without first having obtained approval from the city manager, any metal material, sign, cable, wire, nail, swing, or other material foreign to the natural structure of the tree, except materials used for standard tree care or maintenance, such as bracing and cabling, installed by tree professionals.”
In promoting safe and legal slacklining on campus over the past couple of years, Matthew McAllister, a senior and a member of the CU Slackline Club, said he found that university administration has had three main concerns about the activity.
First, he said, they want students to know how to set up lines safely so no one is injured. They also don’t want students who are trying to study to be disturbed, so McAllister recommends not slacklining near residence halls.
Finally, there’s concern over trees.
“The main thing is tree protection,” McAllister said. “If they just wrap the line around the trunk, it hurts our efforts.”
“It could get banned again if we start hurting trees.”
In 2009, he said, CU’s Office of Judicial Affairs removed slacklining from the student conduct code as a prohibitive action. But that doesn’t mean you can set up a slackline wherever you please on campus.
Molly Bosley, spokeswoman for the CU Police Department, said that on campus, enforcement related to slacklining is handled on a case-by-case basis.
“At the moment, there’s not a special policy that expressly deals with slacklining,” Bosley said. “But we have been in situations where we have requested that people remove slacklines.”
Bosley said those cases have been when people were endangering themselves or others –like setting up a slackline across a sidewalk, for example — or damaging property, including trees.
“It really comes down to a safety issue, or destruction of property,” she said.
Beyond campus, the main law that affects slackliners is Boulder’s city code 6-6-6-c, on the protection of trees and plants, which prohibits attaching anything to a tree on city-owned property, said Paul Bousquet, spokesman for Boulder’s parks department.
Slacklining advocate Larkin Carey said that while he’s never heard of anyone getting a ticket for slacklining, he knows it’s not legal on city property and therefore can’t recommend it. However, he’s hopeful about seeing it legalized in Boulder — eventually.
“It’s pretty obvious that slacklining is here to stay, and it’s continuing to grow,” Carey said. “I think the city realizes that they need to get behind it. My goal is that we can work with the city forester, Risk Management and Parks and Rec to make it something positive for the city.”
“Everyone is very willing to work with us, but it’s a long process, to get it put in the city code.”
Following a few best practices for slacklining will help all slackliners in the long run, say Carey and McAllister.
First, always use tree protection — something that stops the slackline from cutting into the tree.
McAllister said tree protection can be a T-shirt, cardboard, bark that you pick up off the ground or almost anything.
“The key is to make sure the tree-trunk bark itself doesn’t chip off,” McAllister said.
Second, choose a medium-sized tree with an established root system. Carey and McAllister both said they never put a line on a trunk smaller than 12 inches in diameter.
“It needs to be living on all sides, it can’t have a dead area,” Carey said. “It needs to be a healthy looking tree.”
Finally, Carey said to make sure your slackline is safe for everyone else. You don’t want someone playing Frisbee to run into it, for example.
“Just being conscious of everyone else that’s using the space is important,” he said.