Slacking in Boulder – May Update

Update on our meeting with the City of Boulder, May 6, 2015.

A group of slackliners met with a number of City of Boulder staff today.  The slackers included CU students, old guys (me), and several representatives from Slackline Industries.  City representatives included staff from Parks & Rec, Risk Management, Forestry, and Economic Vitality.

Overall, I think the meeting was extremely positive.  The lead person from Parks & Rec is a climber and recreational slackliner, and is interested in adding slackining to the Boulder Parks activities.

Primary concerns come down to:

  1. Take care of the trees
  2. Risk Management / Liability
  3.  Park usage / co-existing with other park patrons

There were concerns about people not slacklining responsibly;  crossing sidewalks, using city and private trees, using playground structures for anchors, and of course, no tree protection.  The forester has been in touch with contacts with other cities, and had some anecdotes about breaking smaller trees, bark damage, and other issues.  I found it interesting that they keep good information and track 50,000 trees in the city.

We learned a few things about Boulder Parks.  For organized activities, they ask groups to register with the park ahead of time.  While we think that individual slackliners wouldn’t likely fall under that, if there were events such as Slacking for Trees, registering ahead of time would be good.  It might help us to be aware of other groups who have registered ahead of time to use parks so we don’t interfere.  In addition to City Ordinance 6-6-6 which addresses attaching things to trees, the forester said we should also be aware of City Ordinance 8-2-16, which discusses attaching devices to public property.  The City Manager does have the ability to allow use without any change in policy or regulation;  that may be the easiest path both for us and the city.

They were interested in an option of asking slackliners to register, using a permit system.  This would allow a census of the group, as well as an ability to educate people at the time of registration.  They asked about how the CU group educates new students, and they’re interested in how other cities have managed slackining.  Tyler did an awesome job of explaining how the CU club educates members and the general public.  Boulder does not have any other permit style system, so this would be breaking new ground.

Risk Management has a strong voice in the city, though with the great examples of Valmont Bike Park, Scott Carpenter Skate Park, it does not seem a real issue for us.  We do need to be concerned with ‘Path of Travel’, where a slackline might interfere with other park users, or pose a danger to other users.  The takeaway concerning this department is to develop rules and guidelines with other prak users in mind.

One strong take away for me was that they are interested in our ability to educate and self police.  I think we can begin that right now, and work with our community so that we’re always slackining responsibly.  Talk to people, and encourage them to join our Facebook group!  We stressed to them our ability to communicate with the majority of slackliners in the area;  we should continue to encourage people to join our BSA Facebook group, and post updates on our progress there.

Katie wrote up a proposed set of guidelines for slacking in Boulder:

  • Only slackline in approved parks
  • Only slackline on hard-barked trees  greater than 12 inches in diameter  (what trees are hard-barked?)
  • Use proper tree protection
  • Flag lines so they is visible from afar; especially important on longer lines
  • Do not cross any rights of way, sidewalks, foot paths, bike path, etc.
  • Don’t unreasonably interfere with other park users
  • Inform nearby patrons of your slackine so they can avoid it
  • Never leave a line unattended
  • Practice Leave No Trace, clean up after yourself and others
  • Educate the community about slacklining, its benefits, and how to do it properly and safely
  • Be stewards of the slackline community and the greater Boulder community

Be active on our Facebook pages: once we have guidelines posted on the Facebook page, we can share the pages with the city. This will be the forum for disseminating information to the community.  The guidelines should be pinned to the top of the Facebook group, so everyone sees them regularly.

We proposed a number of options, and more or less came down to identify three or so parks where slacklining would be regularly be okay.  This is a first step, and if the community respects the rules in approved locations, we are hoping for more areas for regular use.  Options we discussed included:

  • North Boulder Park
  • Howard Hueston Park
  • Martin Park
  • Bear Creek Park.

We should probably ask for permission for shorter lines in other parks, such as Scott Carpenter.  The city indicated we should select 6-8 locations in order of priority, with the hope that they approve three.

We (meaning me) offered to help raise funds to pay for signs to be posted in the parks about how to slackline responsibly.  I think all the slackers agreed we’d like to see something like the signs from Jackson, WY.  Slackline Industries may be interested in helping with a more formal slackline park with poles in Valmont Park, similar to what they have done in other cities.  Signs would be simple, listing the guidelines to follow, and possibly a map of the approved area.  We also discussed having a box for tree protection or brochures.  One idea would be to list an email or contact info where a user can call and receive free tree protection.

We offered to help educate people and groups, including the city, police officers and anyone else who has a stack in the process.

Next Steps

We’re going to pull together the following information for the city:

  • Maps that identify parks, and the trees in the parks, where we propose to slackline
  • Copy of the CU Slacklining Policy
  • Links to our Facebook pages
  • They asked what percentage of local slackers are CU students
  • Rules and/or contacts with other cities

The city staff will get together and discuss what needs to occur.  This seemed to be a ‘months’ time frame, not ‘years’.  I think once we deliver the requested packet of information to the city, we ask them for a time frame when we can follow up with a next meeting.

IMPORTANT:  We’re working as fast as possible to create a solution for Boulder slackliners and the City seems agreeable to taking action. Please be mindful in this time to police yourselves and others by not setting up illegally and informing others if you see someone rigging in an inappropriate place. A big reason they are willing to help us is that we convinced them we could reach the whole community and that they will police themselves regarding etiquette. We need to prove this so we can progress.

Huge thanks to all who attended!  Contact me at for more info, or if you want to get involved.

Ken Wagers

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