Rest easy (for now): Hammock ban put off by Charleston City Council

A decision on banning hammocks tied to trees in the city’s parks was deferred Tuesday.

Trees are tough, and the city hasn’t presented any evidence that tying ropes to them causes damage, several citizens opposed to a hammock ban in city parks told Charleston City Council.

Council on Tuesday deferred a vote on whether to ban hammocks from the parks, while city officials consider alternatives.

Daniel Burbage, the city’s arborist has said that when hammocks and slacklines, which are similar to tight ropes, are repeatedly tied to tree trunks, they weaken and wear away the bark, which renders the trees susceptible to insect infestation and disease. He also has said that when hammocks are tied to large tree limbs, such as the horizontal branches of live oaks, they can weaken and crack.

But several City Council members said that after receiving complaints from many of their constituents, they would like more time to consider other options.

“I think this thing needs a little bit of work,” Councilman Bill Moody said of the ban. Perhaps the city could put up some posts to which people can attach hammocks, he said.

Councilman Gary White said, “Let’s just find a better alternative instead of just making this illegal.”

Several people spoke out against the ban during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Benjamin Toy, owner of On Purpose Adventures, said he thinks Council’s move to ban hammocks was extreme. “Why not do an educational process,” he said.

For instance, people could cut down on wear on the trees simply by wrapping a towel around the strap that is tied to the tree. Or, if a particular tree is being used a lot, park employees could put a sign on it saying “this tree if off-limits this week,” he said.

He also said he just doesn’t think hammocks in trees cause a lot of damage. “There’s less impact than throwing a blanket down and having a picnic,” he said.

Katie Conley, a student at Academic Magnet High School, said more young people are using the parks because they can use hammocks. The city is considering a ban without strong evidence that hammock use hurts the trees, she said.

Perhaps the city could do something short of an all-out ban, she said. For instance, it could ban hammocks after dark or allow them only on strong, sturdy trees.

Burbage said he has studied the issue, and he’s certain hammocks hurt the trees.

White said he would work with Jerry Ebeling, the city’s director of parks, to come up with some possible alternatives, and then bring the matter back to Council.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.