Slackline: officially illegal. Or not?

I’ve written about some access issues and confusion with parks employees in Seattle as long ago as 2009. This has mostly been an isolated issue. In the last three weeks, several people from our community have been ejected from parks around Washington.

On July 24, 2011, while slacklining at Cal Anderson park, I had yet another run-in with a park employee. This time it was a security officer, who asserted that the Park Rangers work for him (implying he is the ultimate authority). He stated unequivocally that I require a use permit, my line is illegal, is damaging city property, and I would be cited. In response to an inquiry of whether persons have already been cited by Seattle Police, he said yes. Countering my comments about Yosemite guidelines, he responded that SPR is a city agency, not federal, and thus the tree padding guidelines are irrelevant. Eventually when I could see he wouldn’t be convinced, I asked that we call the police to commence the process of getting a ruling on whether this was a citation-worthy offense. When the police arrived, in the space of 90 seconds he went from asserting to them that it was “illegal” to a “gray area.” Police confirmed, “There’s no type of violation that I know of.” The full episode is available in video form below:

So, as I said at the top of our slackline legality page, I am attempting to work with SPR officials to come up with an acceptable use policy. Intimidation and harassment from parks employees is not a desirable outcome, nor should our sport be involved in wasting the valuable time of Park Security, Park Rangers, or Seattle Police. As I point out in the video, Cal Anderson is a haven of drug use and public alcohol consumption — within 30 minutes of this incident several men were gathered less than 100 feet away drinking alcoholic beverages openly in the park — so we’d all rather that slackliners can safely and responsibly enjoy their sport, and the Parks folks can focus on other priorities.

The Rangers in the video, who were both quite friendly, gave me contact info for someone who handles use policy at Seattle Park and Rec, and hopefully in the next few days we can have a policy in place.


  1. Martin says:

    Great work Adam! We all need to be just as knowledgeable about this so we don’t get pushed around.

  2. Rob says:

    Thanks for representn’ Adam! I feel that much more confident about setting up around town after seeing this. Looking forward to having a slackline policy in place!

    On a side note: I’m going camping at a federal campground on Mt. Rainier later this summer and want to set up a line at our site. Is it legal? Where should I look to find out and/or what info should I have in my back pocket to “keep the peace?”


    ANSWER: Rainier, that I see, doesn’t have any policy one way or the other. I think as long as you’re respecting trees you shouldn’t have a problem, but it may technically fall into the realm of special-use-permit. I don’t believe it should, but you could call and ask for clarification if you’re uncomfortable making an assumption.

  3. Jono says:

    That was awesome! Them asking you to just walk it was priceless. Slackin started in ’87 and the world record length is quite a bit longer. Keep standing up to the man! Knowledge is power.

    ANSWER: thanks for the props. People were highlining in Yosemite as early as 82 or 83, I believe. Also, there are many different world records. The world record for nylon is definitely not as long as polyester. I am interested in walking nylon at the moment, which seems to be a neglected aspect of longlining.

  4. Robin A says:

    great work Adam! You are very well spoken.
    I’m interested to learn what process you go through to get it regulated/recognized. I’d like to do the same thing in Vancouver.

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