West Seattle weekend scenes: Slacklining at Lincoln Park

Photos by Nick Adams for WSB

That’s Alan Thorne, left, and Jonathan Evans, right, tightening their slackline in Lincoln Park today, photographed by WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams. Slacklining – explained here – is legal in Seattle public parks, reports Nick; slackliners say the best practice to protect the trees from harm is to only put lines around thick trunks and also by padding the trunk. These two set up a 250-foot line. Here’s Evans, who usually practices on a shorter line, 150 feet:

And Thorne:

The sport kicked up some controversy two years ago …

… at which time the Parks Department clarified its legality.

There was talk of even setting up official guidelines for city parks.

Nick happened onto Thorne and Evans in Lincoln Park; you can see other examples on nwslackline.org.

Checking the WSB archives, we featured a reader photo of Alki slacklining in 2010.

20 Replies to "West Seattle weekend scenes: Slacklining at Lincoln Park"

  • Anne February 25, 2013 (7:23 am)

    I stopped to watch them while they were still setting up. Not many people in the park, but just about everyone who saw them stopped to watch for a while. It was quite a production getting it ready.

  • cj February 25, 2013 (8:52 am)

    I find it hard to believe that they can completely avoid hurting the trees. It just leaves me feeling like yet another group has no respect for what little nature is left for people to enjoy with in a city. The park has lost plenty of trees in the 11 years Ive lived in Seattle. It makes me sad when some people only see them as toys and nothing more.

  • Dale February 25, 2013 (9:50 am)

    It looks to me like they are making efforts to protect the trees. Only question I have is does the city require any type of liability coverage in case someone is injured in a fall or happens to run into the line in some fashion (say on a bike). Curious.

  • toodles February 25, 2013 (10:01 am)

    What happened to all the NIMBY’S who successfully stopped the zipline from being a fixture in the park? I guess this is ok though.. I expect this comment to be deleted. It’s too rash.

    • WSB February 25, 2013 (10:15 am)

      “Toodles,” not that I am championing this OR criticizing it – Nick shot it and we ran it as an interesting look at something happening in the park – but it’s not even remotely comparable to the Go Ape situation. That was a case of a commercial entity that was about to be given – without public notice except in the very last stage of the game a year after the city had started working with Go Ape, till one person who got wind of it flagged us – a significant chunk of public parkland for semi-permanent partitioning, to build an “attraction” with admission prices past $50. Some trees would have been cut; others would have had various components built onto them; I could go on but you’re welcome to read the coverage archive: http://westseattleblog.com/category/lincoln-park-zipline-proposal

  • Jon February 25, 2013 (10:34 am)

    The national park service has reviewed slacklining and have not been able to find any signifigant damage to trees (if padded correctly). This is their policy in Yosemite national park: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/slacklining.htm

    The forces put on the base of a tree by a slackline is much less than they would experience in even modest breezes. I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the slacklining community that has anything but awe and respect for the beautiful trees that surround us in the pacific northwest.

    In regards to liability, it’s no different from any other sport occurring in public parks, meaning the city is immune from litigation.

  • Neighbor February 25, 2013 (11:05 am)

    Here’s the thing, we really are just beginning to bark’s amazing properties. We are just beginning to understand why bark is shaped the way it is, the thickness and how that benefits the tree, and the millions of other amazing relationships bark contributes to. To say that something doesn’t degrade a tree when science isn’t completely certain is dishonest.
    To have this in a public park is wrong, the trees are not there so a select few can damage them.

    What would Shigo, the father of Arboriculture, say about this?

  • DBP February 25, 2013 (11:22 am)

    Yeah, this is obviously quite different from a zipline. But it looks to be just as much fun.
    Re: Future Guidelines
    Slacklining seems safe for the trees; however, I can still envision potential problems. This activity appears to take up a lot of space in the park and pretty much blocks that space off from other users . . . albeit only temporarily.
    If there’s only a few slackliners, and they come out just occasionally, there won’t be any problem. But if they were to start showing up every weekend, or if other folks started joining in, I can see how it might be a problem for other park users. So maybe the guidelines would be that you have to register with Parks in advance to do it, and there could only be one line up at a time.

  • G February 25, 2013 (12:20 pm)

    A few young guys are out having fun in the park and now it’s an environmental crisis. Slacklining appears to be no more damaging to trees then frisbee golf. I grew up in W. Seattle, and it is still the same park it was decades ago, despite all the human use.

    Good god, people, lighten up. Nature isn’t that fragile.

  • Greg February 25, 2013 (12:51 pm)

    Many certified arborists have been consulted with over the years about the potential damage from slacklines, and the consensus is that there is little to no chance of them doing any harm, given that the right trees are used and they are adequately protected.

    The bare minimum diameter for a tree is 12″. Personally, I prefer a minimum of 18″ diameter trees. Protective measures for the tree must always be used. The method used in the photos in this article is time tested and widely approved of. The more common method is to place carpet scraps, towels, clothing or commercially available tree protectors between the trunk and the slings going around the tree. This prevents abrasive damage to the bark should the slings slip.

    The pressure from the slings will not restrict or damage the underlying vascular system of the tree, nor will they cause “banding” type damage. Most lines are only set up for a few hours, or are detensioned if they won’t be used for a while or it needs to go unattended. This also helps prevent any damage.

    Slackliners are very conscious of the location that they set up their lines. That means not placing them across established trails or places with a potential for occasional foot or bicycle traffic. The last thing they want is for someone to get hurt by their line, or to hurt themselves if someone accidentally runs in to the line. On longer lines it is common for slackliners to hang high visibility ribbons along the line to make people more aware. Slackliners also try to locate their lines where their presence will not interfere with other people.

    The vast majority of slackline community follow these rules, and expect others to follow them as well.


  • arborist February 25, 2013 (1:33 pm)

    Shigo would say, “Touch Trees!”, which is exactly what they’re doing.

  • Lolaleah February 25, 2013 (2:35 pm)

    Worried they are taking up space in the park? Worried they are going to ruin the trees? Seriously?
    Let these guys have some fun. They have done their research to cause little harm. Parks are there to be used. Sheesh.

  • Mike February 25, 2013 (3:53 pm)

    They are not using line directly rubbing against the bark, the sticks they’re using to buffer between the rope and trees help a lot in that regard. People familiar with offroad recovery equipment also use specialized straps to prevent excessive damage to trees while pulling a 5,000 lb vehicle back onto the road, these guys don’t weigh more than 250 lbs I’d bet, probably closer to 180lbs.

  • Dan February 25, 2013 (4:10 pm)

    I agree with Lolaeah!

  • alkiobserver February 25, 2013 (4:15 pm)

    Looks cool! Have fun slackers.

  • JayDee February 25, 2013 (8:00 pm)

    I say go for it — I agree with the chances of damage if done correctly (and these were)–the bark protects the cambium layer, and if they were to have the cables cut through it, yes, a problem.) And as for it becoming popular it is highly unlikely. “It isn’t the fall, it is the sudden stop at the end that hurts” (I was very Anti “Go Ape”…what a crock).

  • thistle stairs February 25, 2013 (9:35 pm)

    There are more utility poles,concrete barriers and stables masses to slack line between in Seattle than there are trees.Why mess with living trees? They should span some pilings above the chilly Duwamish.

  • Sonoma February 25, 2013 (11:03 pm)

    Slacklining – that’s soooo 2009. “Do-rags” – sooooo 1980s. Yawn.

  • boy February 27, 2013 (8:44 am)

    Hearing all these people worry about the trees here we need to start a fund raiser to build a wind break so the wind won’t break the branchs or blow off the leaves

  • w.s. maverick February 28, 2013 (6:44 am)

    I heard they are cutting some of the old trees down this summer to stop the spread of a moth that is killing trees

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