OK to hammock in parks?

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:15 PM

Jason further tells us that his hammock uses what are known as "tree-huggers" that wrap around a tree to hold it up, and are designed to not cause any damage to the tree.

"I typically set up in the national forest or state parks where the DNR or U.S. Forest Service is perfectly fine with it," he added. "The DNR actually hosted a 'Park and Read' event a while back where they loaned hammocks to readers. Sadly, those spots are a bit of a drive away, and I was hoping to find somewhere much closer where I could ride my bicycle to and enjoy a few hours in the hammock."


Rest assured, Jason, that your local parks welcome you and your hammock. But caution is advised.

"So long as he does not damage any trees and does not obstruct streets or sidewalks, he can set up a hammock," Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis said of city parks. "He cannot 'camp' in city parks, but a nap would be just fine."

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Department told me you can hang your hammock, as long as you don't disturb the environment or other park activities. You must stay on marked trails and off sensitive areas, such as the fragile dune area of Rosy Mound Natural Area in Grand Haven Township.

And don't even think about cutting tree limbs.

The following is the full explanation from the county:

"Dear Hammocker,

"Your question on hammocking is a great one. We are just now seeing a little bit of this activity in the park system. As with other new activities, we do not want to discourage it but do want to make sure it is compatible with other park activities. Our possible concerns relate to environmental impact, safety and possible disturbance of other park users.

"Within our parks, as opposed to areas designated as 'open spaces,' we ask park users to stay on marked trails to minimize disturbance to natural features. Take Rosy Mound Natural Area, for example — it is a fragile dune area and just a few people walking the same route will create a trail that takes a long time to go away. We actually had some people in hammocks hike off trail and string hammocks up in trees on the very edge of the dune. Given the very fragile nature of that location, and the fact it was far off trail, we asked them to remove the hammocks. 

"So, any hammocking that is done should be done in picnic areas, developed areas or adjacent to trails. Designated 'open spaces' would be a different story, as we do not require people to stay on trails in these areas. The Map & Directory at miOttawa.org/parks has a list differentiating the two types of properties.

"Also related to environmental impact, we do not want limbs cut or other damage to trees as a part of the activity. And, as implied above, we would expect the hammockers to be sensitive to their impact on vegetation and other natural features in the area. It is easy to see how a large gathering of hammockers in a natural area could trample vegetation.

"Relative to park user safety, we certainly do not encourage the activity based on safety concerns. We obviously cannot guarantee how strong and healthy trees and limbs are, and the weight they will support. Extreme hammocking appears risky and is not something we encourage in the park system. We would reserve the right to disallow this activity based on a park rule that states it is against rules to 'conduct any activity ... that unduly threatens the safety of any individual.'

"Checking with other county park systems around the state found no experience with hammocking, and thus no rules or experience to draw from. With new activities, it is hard to anticipate all of the issues that might arise.  We will continue to monitor hammocking and only take action to limit the use when we are concerned with damage to natural features, fear for the safety of park users, or if the activity prevents others from enjoying a park."

— Ottawa County Parks & Recreation

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