Is Slacklining Legal?
Yes, and no.
In many places, such as Boston, MA, and many smaller cities, slacklining is unrestricted. In these locations, local communities have often developed good relationships with the city and park officials and have never or rarely been prohibited from slacklining on public land. In some places, including Jackson, WY and San Luis Obispo, CA, slacklining is officially allowed through negotiations with city officials and the addition of municipal code specifically allowing the activity. Often this approval comes with regulations.
In some cases, those regulations are quite reasonable (see Jackson regulations photo or Boise regulations below). In other cases, slackline regulations require permits and limit the height of a slackline to as low as 2 feet. Depending on the distances of the lines available, the 2 foot limit can actually be less safe and cause potentially more stress on the trees as it requires slacklines to be set at higher tensions to remain off the ground.
Across the U.S., many slackliners report slackline access issues in city parks and other public lands. In many cases, city and park officials, unfamiliar with slacklining, believe that it is a liability concern or that attaching slacklines may damage trees.
Most municipal codes do not directly reference slacklining, neither allowing or disallowing the activity. Instead, when citations are issued, the violation cited is often one prohibiting the attachment of anything to any tree, post, bench or other structure.
Example from Santa Monica, CA Municipal Code 7.40.140(c): No person, without the approval of the Director, shall attach or keep attached any wire, rope, swing, or any other object to any public tree.
In this case, the wording suggests a path to allowing slacklining through approval of the director. However, even if the wording were less flexible, slacklining can often be made legal through communication with the city and park officials. Materials that may support such efforts can be found in our Publications.
Slackline U.S. is actively working to enhance slackline access around the country by producing safety materials, communicating with officials, establishing draft policies, and assisting with access issues reported to us at https://access.slackline.us
Basics Guidelines for Slacklines in Public Places
- Always use tree protection (see Tree Protection)
- Minimum tree diameter of 12 inches
- Max tension should be less than the Working Load Limit (WLL) of the weakest piece of gear in the system (See Tension Calculator).
- Back up tricklines and longlines by tying the tail of the webbing around the tree, sling a ratchet back to the tree with a piece of rope, etc.
- Soft point longlines whenever possible (use a line grip or prussik to remove the pulley system from the line and minimize metal in the system)
- No carabiners in longline or trickline systems
- Be aware of spectators, especially while longlining. Never longline alone; friends can watch for approaching spectators, chat with them, prevent curious people from touching the line.
Tip: Demonstrate competence. When tricklining or longlining in the park, be aware of the surroundings. If a park or city official is observing, having an experienced slackliner performing confidently while being observed can go a long ways to easing concerns about safety. If a longline or trickline is rigged with only beginners practicing and observers consistently see people falling, they may be more likely to report a concern about slacklining safety and liability. Be able to answer questions about tensions, backups, the materials used in your slackline as demonstrating this knowledge will also help appease concerns.
Most policies include basic guidelines: Slacklines cannot cross paths, roads, or walkways; cannot be left unattended; and shall be attached only to trees or designated slackline posts installed for the purpose. Some policies are listed here. A comprehensive list is being compiled currently. Feel free to submit policies you are aware of to us on our Facebook or through our contact page. Please always follow Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics to minimize your impact on a slackline or highline location and help maintain access to public lands.
(Updated March 6, 2016) – Max length = 100 ft, Max height = 6 ft. Photo ID Slackline Permit required. Tree protection and required. Trees must be 12″ in diameter, but cannot be “Heritage Trees.” See regulations for more details.
(Updated August 19, 2016) – Max length = 80 ft, Max height = 30 inches. Tree protection required. ‘Use only nylon webbing’ (?). Spotters required. Mark lines with bright wind dampeners. 2 Hour time limit. No more than 3 lines in an area together. More lines must be 100 yards away.
(Updated August 19, 2016) – Allowed in city parks except for the following locations where slacklining is NOT allowed (Kathryn Albertson Park, Pioneer Cemetery, Morris Hill Cemetery, Platt Gardens/Boise Depot). Max height of 6ft. Minimum 10 inch diameter for trees. No conifers or evergreens can be used as anchors. Tree protection required and trees cannot be modified to enable slacklining; no breaking or restraining branches, etc. Cannot be left unattended, must be removed at sunset when the park closes, and only one person on a line at a time. (City memo from 2008 discussing policy. Current policy as of August 2016)
(Updated February 10, 2017) – Slacklining is allowed on designated trees in designated parks. A map is available online showing these trees and park locations. No length limitation, though lines over 50 ft in length must have wind dampeners to increase visibility. The slackline may not be elevated to a height of more than 4 feet at the center of the span when the user is on the line and weighting it. Tree protection required. See details on the Boulder CO website.
Boy Scouts of America
(Updated August 19, 2016) – Tree minimum 8 inch diameter. Max height = 3 ft. Troops require permission for slackline events as it is considered an ‘adventure’ activity.
Cleveland National Forest
(Updated April 18, 2017) -There have been some concerns about highline access at Ortega Falls (Cleveland National Forest / Lake Elsinore, California, USA) after recent media coverage. Slackline U.S. reached out to Cleveland National Forest and helped to coordinate an event with the rangers and local slackliners to demonstrate highlining, explain the rigging, and host a clean up in the area. At the same time, aged bolts were replaced with new glue in bolts. Moving forward, highlining is allowed at Ortega falls and no permits or other special permission is needed. No new bolts should be added, however.
Joshua Tree, CA
(Updated March 6, 2016) – Slacklines are not allowed in campgrounds. Slacklines must not be rigged on Joshua Trees. Highlining is allowed when lines are anchored in rock. Bolting is allowed, though bolting new lines may require a permit depending on the area. Contact park officials for more information.
San Francisco, CA
(Updated August 19, 2016) – Max length = 80 ft, Max height = not listed. Tree diameter minimum = 1 ft. Trees may not be climbed to affix anchors (see acrobatics Two-High as an alternative). Local SF Slackers group on Facebook recently attended a Recreation and Park Commission meeting to make the case for longer lines using the Slackline U.S. Access to Public Lands document and the International Slackline Association‘s Longline Recommendations document to support their case. Decision is pending, but hopeful.
Smith Rock State Park, OR
(Updated March 6, 2016) – Slacklines are not allowed in the picnic and camping areas. Highlining is allowed and many lines have been previously established, though recent rules place a moratorium on new lines while impact studies are conducted. Lines cannot be left up overnight or unattended. If left so, lines may be removed by the park. Smith Rock has recently expressed increase concern about the impact highliners have on the environment as the sport grows. If you are highlining at Smith Rock, please be especially careful to follow Leave No Trace ethics and minimize your impact.
Yosemite National Park, CA
(Updated August 24, 2016) – Basic slacklines are only allowed in Camp 4, not other areas of the valley. Tree pro is required, though the classic sticks method is no longer a requirement. Any effective tree protection is allowed. Highlining is currently allowed, though developing new lines should be done with careful consideration to protect our access to this highly public land. A previously existing rule prohibiting slacklines/highlines crossing roads and waterways will now be enforced. This means the Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls lines can no longer be rigged and no new lines should be established which cross waterways. Possibility may exist for special permission for these lines in the future if working through proper channels. Please be considerate of other park visitors when rigging highlines in Yosemite. Highlines cannot be left unattended for more than 24 hours and should not be in place for more than 2-3 days at a time. March 1 – July 15 every year marks the temporary closure of many Yosemite areas including Lost Arrow Spire and Rostrum. Please check closures while planning Yosemite adventures (Yosemite Slackline Rules, YNP Closures Information, Yosemite Climbing Information site may also relate)
Developing a Slackline Access Policy
Many communities are having success with developing mutually acceptable slackline policies in their municipal and park systems by developing a relationship with the officials involved. In many cases, simply demonstrating that slackliners are respectful of trees, safety, and public spaces goes a long way in enabling slackline access. The following fliers (also available on our Publications Page) may be of help in this area:
In general, access management is about communication and conservation. Read the guidelines in the Enriching Public Spaces flier for suggestions. Additionally, a Proposed City Ordinance is provided which is easily modified to address your City’s specific concerns.
PROPOSED SLACKLINE ORDINANCE
Slacklining shall be allowed in city parks as follows:
- At all times slacklining shall require the following tree protections:
- Protection shall be placed between the slackline anchor and tree of sufficient thickness to protect the tree from wear damage (e.g., carpet, cardboard, towels, felt padding, etc.).
- Protection shall be at least 8 inches wide so the entire anchor (> 2 inches wide sling or other material) is prevented from contacting the tree.
- Protection shall wrap all the way around the tree.
- Protection shall not be attached to the “anchor”, so if the anchor were to move, the bark would not be affected.
- Slacklines shall not:
- Be attached to trees less than twelve inches in diameter at attach point.
- Cross walkways, sidewalks, or bike paths.
- Intentionally interfere or displace any existing activities planned for or occurring in parks.
- Be left unattended or remain affixed overnight.
- Slacklining shall be allowed during normal park operating hours and lines shall at all times be designated with ribbons or streamers attached thereto for visibility.
Access issues? Let us know, write a report!