Sweeping across college campuses nationwide — including Hillsdale — “hammocking” is a favorite activity among students and nature-enthusiasts alike. But it’s not good for the trees.
Slinging portable hammocks between trees can damage the bark, leaving the trees prone to infection, Slayton Arboretum Director Ranessa Cooper said.
She and campus Horticulturalist Angie Girdham ask that students refrain from using hammocks on campus or in the arb.
“We want to do our best to protect and maintain healthy trees on campus,” Cooper said.
Hammocks found in use on campus might be confiscated or simply returned with a warning, and the offender could be asked to make an appointment with the deans, Director of Campus Security Bill Whorley said.
A hammock’s straps, weighed down by the occupants, can tear at a tree’s cambium layer, the tissue between the bark and the heartwood that conducts nutrients from the roots to the leaves, Girdham said. Damaging this nutritional pipeline can cause it to dry out, leaving it susceptible to decay, insects, and disease.
Hammocking has exploded in popularity over the last few years because hammocks are now portable, lightweight, and — although somewhat pricey —worth the investment, according to many proponents.
“Hammocking is like Christmas,” junior Savannah Falter said. “Imagine it. Swaying above the ground. The stars are so crazy beautiful, all bright and freckly. You’re with all your friends, and you’re too excited to sleep. It’s like Christmas Eve; that’s the best way I can describe it.”
Some campuses applaud hammocking as an opportunity for students to commune and enjoy nature. Many universities — including Michigan State —have hammock clubs. In a viral video from last spring, students at Kansas State University crammed themselves into a stack of 14 hammocks stretching 30 feet high.
Hillsdale is not alone in cracking down on the trend. According to The Wall Street Journal, MSU and other colleges across the United States have banned hammocking. Concerns include tree damage as well as personal safety risks.
At least one university is pursuing alternative hammocking options. The University of Central Arkansas bypassed the hammock debate altogether by erecting clusters of wooden poles that can hold up to nine hammocks at a time.
Senior Ben Strickland said, despite the ban, hammocking at Hillsdale will never die.
“We will still hammock between the library colonnades,” he said. “I also hammocked inside the library.”