For years, a small group of slackliners have been setting up at Bidwell Parkway in a manner that doesn’t bother anyone. Slackliners tie a flat ‘rope’ from one tree to another and then traverse the line by carefully walking (balancing) from one end to the other. The activity causes no harm to people, nor does it harm the trees (slackliners place a piece of carpet around the trees to protect the bark). This is the type of activity that is fun to participate in and super enjoyable to watch.
Recently the Buffalo Police have ‘asked’ that the slack rope community vacate Bidwell Parkway where they have been setting up for years. There was apparently no reason that they vacate, other than they didn’t have permit. The police also told the slackliners, “Good luck getting a permit, it’s not gonna happen.”
“For 6 years I have been slacklining at Bidwell Parkway and unlike many of the other park-goers, we never make a mess, cause no damage, etc.,” Chris N. told me. “Well, this year I have been met with extreme opposition from the police. As told to me by the officer threatening me with arrest “by order of the Mayor” there is a “zero-tolerance policy on tightrope walking in public parks”. He went on to explain that apparently my idea of exercise was “having a performance without a permit”. This crackdown is strictly for “tightroping” and does not apply to the drummers, hula-hoopers and other activities that take place only a few yards away. The officer was “gracious” enough to let me off with a warning, after explaining to me that he was allegedly ordered to arrest us on our first offense.”
Now you would think that The City would have bigger fish to fry than putting a stop to an activity that appears to be bringing joy to a group of young people in a ‘thriving’ public park. Slacklines are fastened relatively low to the ground, so that the chance of injury is low – six years without an incident is a pretty good track record if you ask me.
If you ask Chris, he will tell you, “I’m not trying to imply that setting up a slackline somehow advances the city in any way, but surely regulating it is a step backward.”
In Seattle, the City has actually talked with slackliners about coming up with slacklining guidelines, instead of simply offering to handcuff the offenders. It would be nice to see Buffalo do something of the same sort. If the trees are padded, and the area in question is not disruptive to park-goers, there’s no reason not to allow slackliners to enjoy themselves. And if the City’s concern is about safety, then we might as well take down every playground in the city that has swings, monkey bars, jungle gyms, etc. Or, if the City was progressive in problem solving, they would install a set of designated slacklining bars where people could practice all they want. At least identify common ground that we can all agree on instead of simply closing the door.