Opinion | Implement sustainable ways to let students hammock

The University of Iowa needs to build more hammock parks to save the trees.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Photo Illustration by Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Signe Nettum, Opinions Contributor

It is that time of year again. Winter has almost lifted its imposing grip on campus, and we can see the warm spring sun in the distance. During the latest false spring day in Iowa City, I saw students enjoying the warmth on the various green spaces on campus, picnicking, studying, and playing spike ball.

One activity that soured my view was the colorful hammocks fastened to various trees, still bare of spring leaves.

I get the appeal of hammocking in the afternoon spring sun, but the trees should not suffer for our pleasure. There are three main reasons Iowa City should limit hammock use: tree safety, citizen safety, and placement concerns.

A possible resource that the University of Iowa can use to address these concerns is hammock parks.

The UI campus already struggles with tree care. Many of our trees have disappeared from campus due to disease, age, and invasive species. Straps and hooks from hammocks strip the bark from trees, leaving them vulnerable. Even Leave-No-Trace straps still risk hurting a tree. The best way to keep trees safe is to find a hammock stand.

The second is citizen safety. Thankfully, from what I have seen, students on campus keep their hammocks to small pockets of trees that are out of the way of other people on campus. They center on the Pentacrest, near the bridge by Hancher, and a few near the 2-3-1-1 sculpture.

However, this does not mean that students on campus are perfect. Laddering, the process of stacking multiple hammocks on one tree, causes serious health risks to those participating.

Even if a tree is mature enough to withstand the weight of a student, it can deteriorate over the years.

In Iowa, there are rules for hammocks in state parks. Strap only hammocks, no laddering, and hammocks are only allowed in a designated campground. This change reflects the three aspects the university needs to look at.

A worry branching off laddering, placement of hammocks causes some concern. There are only so many hammocking trees on campus, and they receive beatings from hammock straps and hooks. As available trees dwindle, the handful left struggle to bear the weight throughout the warm months of the year.

A solution to all of this is simple: hammock parks. There is already one in Hubbard Park, implemented in 2020. It is a small area with poles designated to hold hammocks without ruining any trees.

It can hold both straps and hooks for hammocks. It is put off in the corner, but still allows a wonderful view of both the river and the park for those who want to enjoy the sights alongside their hammock. The Iowa Memorial Union also rents hammocks for students who don’t have their own.

The hammock park has gone on with little fanfare due to its new status on campus. I believe that it will be a welcomed addition to campus life. Hammock parks are not a new phenomenon, and the university should implement more in hammock hot spots to both protect trees and appease students on campus.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.