ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s an incredibly popular activity in Albuquerque, but the city says using its park trees to slackline is actually illegal.
Especially on sunny, warm weekends, it’s not unusual to find people stringing slacklines from tree to tree in City of Albuquerque parks. They walk along the flat webbing in balancing act, usually a few feet off the ground.
“Slacklining is very meditative and it’s always showing you something that seems really intimidating to you and challenges your ability,” Shane Mulligan said. “And then you always overcome them…you’re constantly shown that you’re capable of more than you think you are.”
Mulligan and his friends sometimes take slacklining to the extreme, tens of feet in the air and harnessed in, but most often, you’ll find them in parks like Hyder or Roosevelt.
“I always have families come up to me and ask if their children can try it and I help them out for the first time and they’re always really excited,” he said.
But as it turns out, it’s against City of Albuquerque ordinance to string up slacklines between city-owned trees.
“Nor shall any person attach any rope, wire, or other contrivance to any tree or plant,” the ordinance, 10-1-1-3, reads.
Over the past weekend, someone complained to 311 about slackliners at Hyder Park, citing that city ordinance. The person who sent in the 311 report said the slackliners are damaging trees.
“I don’t believe that there’s intent… they don’t have any intent to destroy to tree. They’re looking to have a good time, maybe not realizing that it’s prohibited by ordinance,” Mark Chavez, parks superintendent, said.
Chavez says slacklining is not just a safety concern, but that the city trees can be hurt beyond repair by slacklining rigging.
Mulligan tells KRQE News 13 he didn’t know about the ordinance, and defended the way he and his fellow slackliners partake in the sport.
They use tree protectors, that put padding between the tree and the slackline as to not disrupt the bark. They also only use trees of a certain diameter.
“We like to maintain good practice and make sure that we’re not harming the environment, so that we can continue to do it and so that people in the community can continue to get involve,” Mulligan said.
Still, Chavez says it’s not allowed and says the protectors might not do enough to help the tree.
The specific section of the ordinance was written in 1974 and hasn’t been amended since. Chavez says the city might consider revising it in the future, given slacklining’s increasing popularity.
It’s up to police to enforce the ordinance, but with all that happens in Albuquerque on a daily basis, it’s pretty low in priority.
Mulligan says he’s never had negative run-in’s with law enforcement before.
“I’ve talked to police officers,and paramedics and campus security over at UNM and they’re always really intrigued about what we’re doing,” Mulligan said.
Slacklining is allowed at some national parks, with exceptions like not using certain tree species to rig up to and requiring that protective padding.