Walk the line - Moab Sun News: Get Out & Go

Walk the Line

Walk the line

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Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 7:49 am | Updated: 1:25 pm, Thu Apr 11, 2013.

Slackliners now have a new playground.

A new slacklining park with seven routes has been built next to the Mill Creek on the southeast side of 500 West, across the street from the bike jump and pump tracks at Anonymous Park.

Slacklining is reminiscent of tightrope walking, as there is the act of balancing on a suspended line. However, the line is not "tight", and adds the dynamic of webbing that both stretches and bounces with the weight of the walker.

Those wanting to participate must bring their own equipment. And, as a safety precaution, equipment must be taken down after being used.

Five posts were installed that allow for six different slackline routes of 100, 90, 80, 75, 40 and 30 feet.

Deena Whitman, who discovered the sport last summer, heard complaints from fellow slackliners that there was no place to slackline in town.

She decided to take action and built the course.

The City of Moab had put in posts for slackliners to use at Swanny Park, however, the posts would bow as slackliners tried to cross the 50-foot gap. When some slackliners used a tree and broke a branch, they were asked not to set up in the park anymore.

“It’s nice that we can have a place to set up lines in town,” said slackliner Larry Harpe “We haven’t been able to set up lines in town for quite awhile.”

Harpe has been slacklining in the area for eleven years. He discovered the sport after a day of climbing in Joshua Tree National Park in California.

“After I crossed the line the first time I was addicted,” Harpe said. “You’re trying to figure out how to balance and your muscles start freaking out because they aren’t used to that kind of exercise.”

He has done some highlining, which takes the concept of slacklining to new heights, such as a highline he crossed a thousand feet above the Colorado River between Moab Point and a finger of rock near The Portal.

“Moab is a huge slacklining community and we have a lot of professionals here who need to work on their techniques,” Whitman said.

Dean Potter, whose daring highline walks in Yosemite were recorded in the short film “Moonwalk”, is a former Moab resident. Moab resident Andy Lewis, also known as Sketchy Andy, is well-known as a highliner and trickliner who was featured during the in 2012 Superbowl half-time show.

Whitman talked to the City of Moab for permission to build the slacklining course on its property on 500 West and then asked the Grand County Recreation Special Service District for an $800 grant to pay for construction.

She was able to keep the project below the proposed budget by using old telephone poles that were originally intended to be used for benches at the bike jump course across the street.

Final budget was less than $300.

“There were some old poles on the bike track that were getting buried,” said Jeff Foster, Moab’s public works director. “They said they’d be good for the structures. It was a good use of the poles.”

Whitman had originally planned to use “dead man anchors”, made of concrete and rebar for the posts. However, Terry Acomb, who has set up a slacklining park in his backyard in Fruita, Colo, made a suggestion when he heard the telephone poles were available.

“He said, ‘We can just bury these eight feet deep.’ I started number crunching and realized that would save so much money,” Whitman said.

Whitman said that they rented a backhoe for an hour to dig five holes. She and other volunteers shoveled dirt around the posts for about seven hours.

“It was insane,” Whitman said. “We were able to put up five posts with seven routes on them.”

Foster said that building the slackline park was a good solution.

“There have been issues regarding safety hazards at other parks,” Foster said. “Now they can put up their slacklines without affecting other users in the parks.”

Whitman had intended to have the slackline park on the northwest side of the 500 West, near the bike jump and pump tracks. But when she and Foster walked the area, he suggested that it be built on the other side of road, easily accessed from the bike park through a culvert tunnel under 500 West.

“Jeff Foster was supportive all the way. He said, ‘Let’s do a few lines here and see if they use it and accept it,’” Whitman said. “I was in love with the idea. It’s right by the creek and it’s beautiful.”

The area is known as Anonymous Park, named after an anonymous donor who gave the creekside property to the City of Moab.

“This and the bike park are private ventures on city property,” Foster said. “The city allows them to do the construction and provide the maintenance.”

Cyclists in the area worked together to build the jump and pump tracks on the northwest side of the road. Money for the bike park was granted by the Grand County Recreation Special Service District and raised by Chile Pepper Bike Shop’s annual Ho-Down Mountain Bike Festival held in October.

“It’s neat to see all the different sports and activities in Moab. This is another one that is creative. The bike park is another example of how the community comes together to get something going,” Foster said.

While Harpe is an experienced highliner, he appreciates the opportunity to practice closer to earth.

“It’s like a form of yoga; a form of meditation. You concentrate on your breathing,” Harpe said. “Mentally it is the same thing, but you’re walking across the line instead of doing a yoga pose.”

He does simple yoga poses, like tree or warrior.

“It’s hard to balance on something that is wobbling around,” Harpe said.

He said if someone is interested in learning how to slackline, they should come to the park and meet experienced slackliners..

“If somebody is slacklining - ask to get on the line,” Harpe said. “Slackliners are a friendly bunch and eager to get other people into the sport.”

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