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

Pre-Boulder City Meeting thoughts

My thoughts for the meeting:

  • Focus on relaxing the tree rules as a primary goal, with an emphasis on common sense rules (the fewer the better), such as:
    • Always use tree ware
    • Choose appropriate trees
    • Lines should never cross sidewalks
    • Lines should never be unattended
    • Avoid crowded parks
  • Talk about the benefits of slacklining
    • Get outside! Boulder Parks and Rec’s master plan talks a lot about how to engage more people with the outdoors, and are interested in improving our community’s fitness. Slacklining is an approachable sport that requires minimal equipment. It fits in well with Boulder’s strong climbing, biking, hiking and other outdoor activities
    • Discuss what Tyler’s been able to accomplish with CU. That CU allows slacklining should be a big benefit.
    • If the city is concerned about risk, I think strong parallels can be made around other very acceptable sports – the Valmont bike park, the skate park, kayaking Boulder Creek, climbing/bouldering and other sports. Slacklining doesn’t seem to me to carry any additional risk or liability to the city (Katie – maybe weigh in on the legal side?).
    • Invite them out for a demo on campus! Let’s teach them to slack.
    • Do talk about the opportunity for poles at a park, but that should not be the primary goal. I think that would be too limiting for the community if we only had one place to go.
  • Economic affect
    • Slackline Industries has been in the Boulder / Louisville area for x (Jamie?) years, employs local people, sponsors competitions such as the Go Pro Games (Vail) and X Games, and has built and supported slackline parks across the US. The owners live in Boulder.
    • The Boulder Adventure Lodge has a dedicated ‘slack park’ to help attract athletes who stay in the area.
      Slacking for Trees – an annual event on the CU campus that raises funds to plant trees
    • Slackers from all over the world visit Boulder, and our slackers travel widely. Great goodwill for our communities.
    • Slacktopia Event in April at the Spot Climbing Gym in Boulder – over 250 people attended a recent event focused on slacklining.

From the general slacklining community, I think this group could help coordinate a public relations campaign around slacking in Boulder. The Daily Camera has written a number of articles in the past, and if we are successful in opening up access, we could offer up services to the community in general, such as:

  • Provide free tree protection. Tim Ross (I think), was able to get a slackline ordinance cleared through his city, and one of the things they did was make tree protection out of carpet scraps and give them out.
  • Distribute flyers to the slackline community, parks officials, police. They’ve created some great materials.
    Communicate which trees to use. Teach how to properly use treeware.
  • Encourage everyone to stay positive and respectful. I think it’s been pretty good in Boulder, however I’ve seen some attitudes in some postings that would not help out the cause.
  • Encourage good citizenship – pick up our trash, and everyone else’s. Educate other slackers we see that aren’t doing it right.

Materials for the meeting:

  • I’m a fan of keeping the handouts short; if they want more, we can follow up later. I would say we include: (look at the photo from Jackson, WY in the tweets; I think they have the BEST rules).
    I think all of those are awesome, and would get us going.
  • Maybe (just maybe) a sample regulation or law from another city.

I have notes from some of Tyler’s emails, and a summary of many articles, news, and other info on a website that Justin and I maintain on this site.

Slacking at University of Colorado – Tyler Shalvarjian

Hi everyone. I’d like to give you an update on my meeting with the CU grounds people last week:

First, I will explain to you the current policy as it stands and the current procedure required to reserve approved slacklining locations on campus. Second, I will explain to you the recent and ongoing changes to the policy. And third, I will explain to you what policy changes I am advocating for in our more liberal policy which will be implemented next year.

The current policy and procedure for reserving approved slackline locations:

1. All slacklining on campus must follow the guidelines illustrated in the CUUF policy accessible here:…/campus-use-university-facilities.
2. Locations for longlining (any line >50 ft. as stated in the CUUF policy) include Varsity Lake (Hale), Norlin Quad (furthest East side) and Sewall Field (next to the Rec Center). These locations are currently the only approved longlining locations on the UCB campus.
3. To longline, one must submit to me their requested locations and times 10+ days in advance so a group signer can submit an event management form (EMF) for approval by the eight departments on campus that handle our slacklining field requests. If/when approved, the group may longline using designated trees in the location only for the time block requested.

Recent and ongoing changes to the slackline policy:

1. Only the signer(s) of the group may schedule fields.
2. The field scheduling process requires at least a 10 day grace period to allow each department head sufficient time to approve each location.
3. Duane Lawn has never been approved for longlining and will not be approved for various reasons brought up by CU grounds and administration. Some of the concerns include academic (outdoor) class conflicts, traffic and weakness of trees.

New policy changes which I hope to implement in the next CUUF policy (I will be intentionally vague in this section as details are still being talked about):

1. Increased ‘short-line’ length.
2. Shortened reservation request grace period.
3. Longer longlines (the current limit is 250 ft.).
4. More field locations.
5. Ongoing research on the actual effects of slacklining on trees.

Please keep in mind the current policy and follow it to the best of your ability. Each rule that is broken brings down the credibility of our organization and the trust we have built with UCB and affiliates over the years.

If you have questions, I am willing to answer them in the comments section below.

Thank you,

Campus Use of University Facilities