Balancing Ideas- How to Build an MSU Slackline Park

A slackline set according to regulation in Romney Oval. Photo by Juan Marcos Dias.
A slackline set according to regulation in Romney Oval. Photo by Juan Marcos Dias.

The bell-ringers of spring are here: longboarders, people chatting in front of Montana Hall, students looking sadly out of windows — and slackliners.

Until last year, slacklining on campus was against university policy in order to avoid harming trees and people. A few dedicated students brought the issue to university officials, and the administrative response was admirably swift and fair. As the plan currently dictates: students can slackline between hard-barked trees, they must use some type of protection between the tree and their anchor webbing, the tree should be at least 12 inches in diameter, the line should be 2 feet off the ground and the line cannot be left unattended. 

The current agreement is a win for everyone involved and has been generally successful. However, it is a starting point and there is room for improvement at MSU, particularly in infrastructure — our campus would benefit from a slackline park.

 

All slackliners agree the balance and focus required for slacklining is relaxing, even therapeutic. Student and professional leaders on campus should not overlook this opportunity to create a social center for an activity students enjoy and benefit from. This meeting point could offer a single place for slackliners to meet and connect, similar to the climbing wall in the Hosaeus Fitness Center.

 

Slackline parks are simple: they consist of a series of long logs treated for weather and planted on-end in the ground using cement. They are relatively inexpensive and they have been built in numerous city parks and college campuses across the nation. Generally they are small in size and attract very little attention when they are not in use.

 

There are a number of practical concerns if a slackline park is going to be installed. Perhaps the largest will be finding a place in the interior of campus that will not be in the way of new buildings as MSU expands over the coming decades. However, these parks are small, and there are a number of suitable locations next to the Centennial Mall.

 

Other concerns include legal liability and cost. Liability is a reality that should be examined and considered because building a park condones the activity. However, legal risk does not seem to have stopped other cities and campuses from building parks and hopefully would not stop MSU.

 

As for price, a park could easily be built using ASMSU’s discretionary funding. Leaders who pursue this idea should consider finding corporate sponsors and community involvement to help with construction, such as the Greek community, slackliners on campus or scouting organizations.

 

Slacklining began over three decades ago in Washington, and now boasts national competitions, numerous variations in style and even appeared in last year’s super bowl halftime show. It is not likely to pass from campuses quickly. ASMSU should form a committee to examine and pursue a slackline park, with the diligence and community input the issue will require.