Relax, there’s hope for your hammocking

A girl relaxing in a hammock between two trees.

Rosie Schrag | Washtenaw Voice

BY JENELLE FRANKLIN
Staff Writer

 

Swaying in the breeze and feeling one with nature may take the mind off school, work, kids, or whatever is keeping Washtenaw Community College students down, but remember where you hang a hammock is an important part too.

“There is not a formal policy prohibiting hanging hammocks between trees on campus,” said Jacques Desrosiers, WCC director of public safety. “In the past, we have asked people not to hang hammocks due to the potential for damage to the trees, and to prevent injuries to people getting in and out of the hammock. We recommend this approach to maintain a safe and secure campus for our students and members of the community who visit our campus.”

Surrounded by trees in the warm seasons, the Voice offers a few tips on responsible hammocking:

  1. Learn about the forest, or at least where you’re hanging for the afternoon.

Ann Arbor, city of trees, is thriving with different kinds of timber all over the map.

“We have 60 different kinds of trees here on campus,” Holly Herman, manager of landscape and grounds maintenance at Washtenaw Community College said.

Herman said there have been 2,000 trees planted by staff, and more species of trees grow in the wooded areas that replant themselves.

“We just had an Arborist from Oakland University come and talk to us. We are always learning,” Herman said.

18-year-old WCC student, Anatoly Light of Milan, owns a hammock and knows the value of observation – escaping the disturbance of bees in a tree above his hammock.

“I almost didn’t see a beehive above; observing the trees is definitely the most important part,” Light said.

  1. Choose a hammock that best fits your sits.

There are many styles of hammocks made all across the world that are available for purchase in stores and online. Hammocks come in sizes fit for one or more people. Hammock weight limits go up to 400 pounds from the brand Eagles Nest Outfitters who sell in stores, online, and tour music festivals each year with the “Lotus Lounge” multi-hammock chill zone. ENO uses nylon taffeta material.

An 869-pound weight limit hammock, found online at Hammock Universe USA, the “family XL,” is hand-woven by Mayans who reside in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Nathan Hill, an 18-year-old WCC student said, “I prefer harder surfaces.”

Hill and others who are unsure of the idea, would want to think about their options like choosing a sturdier style spreader bar hammock or opting for a picnic date to stay grounded.

  1. Secure it safely, for people and trees.

Hang from straps sewn to secure a grip around a tree, instead of rope that can slide up and down, to minimize damage to the bark.

“Anytime you damage a tree it can get infected,” Herman said.

Hammock straps should be designed to wrap securely around a tree trunk and not “bore into the trunk for support,” said Herman.

Straps are usually a separate component when buying a hammock, which gives you options to choose from.

Hammock manufacturers are also offering more recent lightweight stands that you can carry with you and hammock without needing trees to do so; ENO will be releasing these in 2016.

  1. Size does matter.

“The size of the tree is more important than species,” Herman said.

Look at the trees you choose to hang from. Be conscious of choosing trees that have trunks too small to hold the weight you are adding to them to keep peace of mind when swaying in the breeze.

Holding up her hands, Herman made a circle roughly 8-diameters around, stating anything smaller would be unsafe for all involved. ENO states their standard hammock is nine feet long, and to keep this in mind when searching for the perfect tree limbs.

Altogether, safety and comfort go hand in hand when in the trees and although there are options galore, some students prefer a more solid surface like Hill. All around the state, hammocks are finding their way into the forests on campuses.

Students at Michigan colleges such as Northern Michigan University are gearing up for hammock-friendly days. NMU even rents hammocks to students and the public for daily or week-long use. Christopher Smith, the outdoor recreation manager, offers maps with suggested spots to hang out.

“We have many students on campus that go out to Presque Isle, Harlow Lake, Sugarloaf Mountain, on campus, Wetmore Pond, as well as many other hidden locations that students always find,” Smith said.

Hang tight hammockers, warm weather breezes are on the way.

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