CSU hammock, slackline ban sees new enforcement

Austin Fleskes and Natalia Sperry

Video by Ryan Crist, CTV

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Many Rams relax between classes by hammocking and slacklining on campus, but they may not realize they’re breaking Colorado State University policy.

man in hammock
A Colorado State University student relaxes in a hammock between two trees near the Oval Sunday afternoon. Hammocking and slacklining are prohibited on campus due to concerns over campus safety, University liability and property damage. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

According to the campus facility procedure and policy manual, hammocks, along with slacklining, climbing trees and climbing or jumping on or from buildings and other structures is prohibited on campus because of the concerns for safety of the campus community, University liability and property damage.

Violators may be subject to warning, disciplinary action, fine or prosecution as appropriate, according to Facilities Management.

Fred Haberecht, campus planner for Facilities Management, said the ban predates his 17-year career at CSU, but it has been enforced in recent months to address changing trends on campus. 

“I think it probably starts out with a slackline ban,” Haberecht said. “I don’t think that complete ban in my time here (has) been a very big issue until the last couple years, especially with hammocks (and) the proliferation of (them) on campus.”

Haberecht said the concern for campus arborists is tree damage to small, young trees, but it is a lesser concern for big trees.

“There’s a concern from our risk management folks through the department of health of liability of especially slacklining,” Haberecht said. “It’s both the risk to the folks and the adverse effect to our trees.”

The University Facilities’ manual outlines that there are designated areas outside of the Westfall and Durward halls and the Corbett courtyard, where hammocks and slacklining are allowed.

“That’s a relatively new thing. It’s more that they have set up areas independent of trees to slackline,”  Haberecht said. “Housing and Dining Services through residents saw the need to provide that.”

The entire point of hammocking is that you can do it wherever there are two trees close to each other,” Tom Cronk, Master’s student

Tom Cronk, a masters student, wrote in an email to The Collegian that in his time hammocking at CSU he had never been approached about the ban until recently.

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“We were approached by someone who identified himself as the arborist, who told us that hammocking was not allowed anywhere on campus,” Cronk wrote.

Cronk wrote that before being approached by the arborist, he greeted one of the CSU Police Department officers from his hammock and the officer didn’t mention anything and responded in a comfortable and relaxed manner.

Cronk wrote that the current designated areas for hammocking defeat the purpose of the activity itself.

“The entire point of hammocking is that you can do it wherever there are two trees close to each other,” Cronk wrote.

He added that he feels this ban does not apply to modern hammocking, and that there is a better way to go about the issue.

“A much more reasonable policy would be to regulate hammocking without banning it by establishing a minimum size for available trees for hammocking or requiring straps, rather than ropes, which distribute the force and friction much more, and in the case of any tree being damaged,” Cronk wrote. “Then a simple sign could be hung on it asking students to use a different tree.”

Haberecht said that is exactly what he is proposing facilities does in this academic year.

“We’ll probably update the policy and have it correspond to what the City is doing so there’s a uniform policy,” Haberecht said. “So it would be one that allows hammocking and slacklining but with certain conditions.”

Haberecht said instead of an outright ban, facilities would implement a set of guidelines, including tree size, time of day and anchor location, in order to create a consistent policy for the campus community.

According to the City of Fort Collins’ slackline tree protection guidelines, slacklining is only allowed in developed neighborhoods or community parks. All trees attached to a slackline must be at least 18 inches in diameter, and the slackline itself must measure four feet above the ground.

Additionally, slacklines may only be attached to specific deciduous broadleaf trees, such as maple or oak, and no more than two trees may be attached to any slackline system at one time, according to City policy.

The Collegian could not find any similar City guidelines for hammocking prior to publication.

Sam Geyhart, a senior finance major and self-described “avid hammocker” on campus, said he was unaware of this ban throughout his time at CSU and has spent years hammocking outside of the Lory Student Center and near the Lagoon.

Geyhart said he feels an outright ban is not the correct way to solve the problem.

“I think it’s feasible, but at the same time I think a lot of people use tree-safe hammock straps, so I think most people are pretty responsible about that,” Greyhart said. “I think that maybe instead of enforcing a hammock ban, they should inform people about using stronger trees because you’re actually causing damage to the trees.”

Haberecht said the University Administration and Facilities Management has recognized the need to revise the University policy for students, and added that there should be some reasonable accommodations that are safe for campus and campus trees.

“We have our campus arborists who are very invested in nurturing these trees and they’re a legacy thing, so when they see a tree being — for lack of a better word — mistreated, then they’re taking it personally” Haberecht said. “They’re like the Lorax, they’re speaking for the trees and some behaviors are antithetical to their health.”

Collegian News Director Austin Fleskes and News Editor Natalia Sperry can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian. Collegian Editor-in-Chief Haley Candelario contributed to this report.