Removal of slackline equipment at 500 West park sparks more controversy
by Laura Haley
Contributing Writer
Dec 19, 2013 | 1387 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The lines may have come down, but the tension hasn’t eased between the city of Moab and a group of local proponents of the slacklining area built near Anonymous Park on 500 West.

In mid-November, Moab City Public Works Director Jeff Foster sent an email to the organizers of the park asking them to remove any lines that were over 2 feet in height when those lines were not being used. When that didn’t happen, Foster went to the area and removed one of the higher lines. He said he left a note asking them to remove the rest. The higher lines still weren’t down Nov. 20, so Foster started to remove them.

Foster said when he began removing lines, one of the local slackliners showed up and started to put the lines back up.

Foster believes that person responsible for removing all of the remaining lines, even the ones that were lower than 2 feet in height.

“I wasn’t going to fight about it,” Foster said. “So I left. When I left, all the lines were up.”

Even though the lines have been removed, the area is still open for anyone to use, as long as people bring their own equipment, which was the city’s intention from the beginning.

The park was originally built to give slackliners a place to rig their lines and hone their skills outside of city parks. Prior to the area’s establishment, slackliners routinely set up at Swanny City Park.

Foster said the city worked with a group of local slackliners to plan to set up the dedicated slacklining area.

“We were trying to keep it out of the parks,” Foster said, citing damage to trees at Swanny as well as safety issues. “So we picked an area where we didn’t feel like it could do too much harm.”

Foster said city staff and the slackliners worked together for several months.

“We gave them a set of rules to follow,” Foster said. Those rules included posting signage about the park, and making sure that no one left lines rigged over two feet high. “As soon as they got the poles up, they stopped communicating with us,” he said.

Andy Lewis, a professional slackliner who lives in Moab, was heavily involved in the area’s setup. “The whole community did it,” he said. “We built the park ourselves.”

Lewis said he donated slacklines worth hundreds of dollars for the area.

“Most people don’t know how to set up a slackline,” he said. “Or they don’t have the money to invest in a line.”

Lewis said “Between the Bridges,” as the area is known, is really designed for beginners who may not have their own equipment yet.

The area has become an attraction for people of all different ages and cultures, he said.

“A vast age range of people use the park,” he said.

However, when the lines are taken down, people don’t use the park, he said.

Foster said the group had been asked repeatedly to remove lines that are rigged at heights exceeding 2 feet. When the lines stay up, city workers remove them, leaving any lines that are rigged at 2 feet or below.

“We’ve given them options,” he said. “We offered to put a job box with a lock on site that they could store the lines in it and not have to haul them back and forth,” he said. “We also told them that if they put some fall zone protection in, the city would be willing to consider higher lines. But they haven’t talked to us about any of it.”

Deena Whitman, one of the original organizers of the area, said the group hasn’t pursued the fall zone protection partially due to budget issues, but also because they didn’t think it would do any good.

“A fall is a fall,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s on sand or on wood chips. It’s still going to hurt.”

Lewis said the park is no more dangerous than other recreation opportunities provided by the city.

“I don’t understand why it’s an issue to even have a height limit,” he said. “What about play structures? Aren’t they like 10 feet tall? What about the jumps at the bike park?”

Due to the nature of slacklines, a 2-foot height limit doesn’t make sense, Lewis said. “The whole point is it sags,” he said.” A 100-foot line rigged at 4 feet is maybe 6 inches off the ground in the middle. You can’t rig lines at 2 feet high.”

Lewis questioned why there is such a big difference between the 2-foot limit that the city allows, and the 4-foot limit he feels would be optimal for the park.

“We make it a point to keep all of the lines rigged at a point where they are less than 2 feet off the ground in the middle [when someone is on them],” he said. “This is me and a couple of my friends’ project. It’s our gift to the community ... I feel like this is a personal attack on me. It feels like a slap in the face.”

Foster said there is nothing personal about it. The issue rests solely on the fact that the slackliners are not abiding by the rules that the city put in place from the beginning, he said.

Slacklining is a growing sport, and Lewis said the city should embrace it because it’s only going to become more popular. He said that the Slackline Moab Facebook page, where people can go talk to other local slackliners and keep up on events, has almost 200 members.

Lewis said he is not ready to back down.

“We’re going to re-rig the lines,” he said. “We’ll see if the city will spitefully ruin an area that’s loved by the whole community.”

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