The park, named Slackline Between the Bridges, was developed earlier this spring. Moab resident Deena Whitman worked with city staff to find somewhere slacklining – a sport that involves balancing and walking on webbing that is strung between two anchors – after the activity was banned from Swanny City Park due to the lines damaging trees.
Whitman worked closely with Jeff Foster, the city’s director of public works. They chose the site near Anonymous Park on 500 West and developed a plan for the area. Whitman said that members of the slacklining community helped build the seven separate routes, which are all of varying heights.
According to Moab City Engineer Rebecca Andrus, the city told the group who organized the area that they could leave permanent lines rigged on the condition that the lines were no more than two feet off the ground.
“Anything higher needs to be taken down unless there are people there that know how to use them and set them up,” Andrus said.
“The first few weeks we left the higher and longer ones up,” Whitman said. She added that the area’s popularity exploded, and many of the new users were not people who were already involved in slacklining.
“There were all these kids and adults who wouldn’t be doing it because they don’t have the gear,” she said. “It became less for the slackliners and more for the whole community.”
When city staff saw that the longer lines were being left up, they asked the slackliners to take them down. Whitman said the group didn’t want to remove the lines because the area was so successful.
Andrus said the city is concerned about liability issues since the slacklines are located on city-owned property.
“Our insurance company isn’t exactly happy with the park to begin with,” she said. “But if people are bringing their own lines and setting them up, they’re assuming the liability. When the lines are left up, the liability could fall back on the city if someone were to get hurt.”
The lines could also pose a potential threat to others who walk, bicycle or run along Mill Creek Parkway or Anonymous Park, Andrus said. Andrus expressed concern that someone moving through the area at night might not see the lines. She referred to an incident at Utah State University in August where a student was killed after riding his bicycle into a slackline on the Logan campus.
“The big thing is just trying to make it as safe as possible,” she said.
Whitman believes the two-foot limit is an arbitrary number.
“It’s ... the first slackline park,” she said. “There are no others to use as an example.”
Whitman said the BMX Park also located at Anonymous Park, and the Skate Park at Swanny City Park are more dangerous than the slacklines.
“If those are there, why can’t we have a line two-and-a-half feet up?” she said.
Moab resident Chad Niehaus has recently stepped in to help mediate between the city and the slackline park’s users. Niehaus is new to slacklining, and without his own equipment or knowledge of how to rig the line, he is benefiting from the group leaving lines rigged, he said.
“I probably wouldn’t have gotten into it if it hadn’t already been there,” Niehaus said.
“After a couple of months of using the park, I’m to the point where I’m thinking about buying my own line,” he added. “For better or for worse, they created an area that isn’t just being used by the slacklining community.”
Niehaus said he recently met with Foster to discuss the situation.
“Jeff told me the city would be contacting the organizers of the park ... soon to inform them that if they didn’t comply with the two-foot rule, the city would remove the park entirely,” he said.
According to Whitman, one person is responsible for leaving the slacklines up. She said that the rest of the community shouldn’t suffer because of one person’s choices.
“It’s between this one person and Jeff Foster,” she said.
Moab City Manager Donna Metzler said the city has made the two-foot regulations clear to the slackliners who organized the park on several occasions and city staff members are hoping the park’s users will respect the rules.
“We hope we don’t have to take any extreme measures,” she said.