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Stay Strapped: Reconsidering Penn State’s Hammock Ban

Every year without fail at Penn State, if the sun is shining and temperatures reach shorts weather, you can bet that there is someone on this campus swinging in a hammock without a care in the world.

Penn Staters are more reliable than Punxsutawney Phil when it comes to predicting when spring is coming; all you have to do is count the hammocks hanging on Old Main Lawn to see if State College has finally escaped another brutal winter.

This past April, the Penn State Office of Physical Plant placed a ban on the use of hammocks and slacklines in an effort to protect the more than 17,000 trees that are currently on campus. Signs banning the use of hammocks and other tree-climbing devices were quickly placed in the popular hammocking spots, and there hasn’t seemed to be a sighting of a hammock since. 

According to the Office of Physical Plant, this ban was introduced because slacklines and hammock damage the bark and inner cambium layers of the tree. For those of you like myself who can’t even begin to guess what a cambium layer is, let me save you the Google search: it’s basically the inner tissue of the tree that helps with tree growth.

It’s not just Penn State that’s struggling with their students’ love for hammocks. They’re currently banned at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Michigan State, but Hammock Club in East Lansing is still alive, kicking, and swinging from the trees in secret. At the University of Florida, around 700 people showed up to the Hammock Club’s end of year party. 

Clearly, the bond between a college student and their ability to lay outside and swing in the breeze is strong. There’s something about it that can make studying for the worst test or writing the longest paper just a little bit easier, and there’s not much that some sunshine and fresh air can’t fix.

While we all love the trees, there might be some more eco-friendly alternatives to this hammock ban that don’t involve keeping our campus slackline free.

Tree-Safe Hammock Straps

A quick trip to Amazon revealed that there are a bunch of “tree-safe” hammock straps that supposedly don’t harm the bark of the tree. Amazon’s Choice goes for around $10, which is basically just the cost of two Thursday pitchers at Cafe or one hot ‘n ready order of Pokey Stix. 

You’ll just have to choose your priorities.

Educate Yourself

According to some outdoor enthusiast websites, when strapped correctly, using a hammock doesn’t actually harm the tree. The damage comes from people improperly placing their straps and tying their slacklines, not from the way the hammock was made. Maybe if students were educated more on how to properly assemble their hammocks, Penn Staters and the Office of Physical Plant could find a happy medium. 

But with outdoor and hammocking enthusiasts claiming hammock straps don’t cause damage to those cambium layers and the Office of Physical Plant saying they do, we might be at an impasse here. As Oprah Winfrey once eloquently said, what is the truth?

Hammock Farms

This last option is by far my favorite, and it involves following the example of the University of Central Arkansas. When faced with either allowing their trees to be damaged and killed or breaking the hearts of their students, Central Arkansas chose to think outside the box and built hammock farms in several places on campus instead.

The university built clusters of poles around campus specifically for hammocking. It looks fairly cost-effective and allows you to tie your hammock up right next to your friends. The problem is solved with minimal effort, and everyone ends up happy!

So, if you’re reading this, Penn State Office of Physical Plant, on behalf of sad hammock less Penn Staters everywhere I implore you to think of another solution this winter other than just placing a blanket ban. College kids struggle to get outside enough as it is, and all we’re asking for is the benefit of being able to relax between the trees. 

It’s your move. We hope you’ll swing in the right direction!

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About the Author

Katie Moats

Katie Moats is a junior majoring in English, and although she says she's from Chicago, she could spit and it would hit Wisconsin. One time she studied abroad for about a minute and decided to get an entire tattoo on her body about it. If you like seeing Penn State-themed retweets and other stupid memes, you can follow her @k_moats24 on Twitter.

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