For many students, enjoying nature is an essential part of why they choose to attend NMU. Their love of nature is so prominent that I would estimate more students possess a hammock than a vehicle on campus. Rather than being cooped up inside, students can be found outside, and on sunny days, even more students can be found stretched out in hammocks overlooking Presque Isle.
On February 23 of this year, however, Marquette community members and NMU students were shocked by a citywide “hammock ban” enacted by City of Marquette Code of Ordinances. For many students, myself included, this ban felt like a loss of identity, like a part of my culture was uprooted.
Even though the specific ordinance has been in place since 1985, many community members were unaware of its existence and significance because Marquette officials had not previously enforced it. Following a crackdown on the city ordinances, however, students and community members alike can no longer hammock in the city of Marquette.
Chapter 22, Environment, Article V, Trees Sec. 22-135 states that a person cannot “Attach any rope, wire, nails, advertising posters or other contrivances to any tree” nor “intentionally damage” trees. Violation of this code results in a $25 fine and a civil infraction that can be escalated with each successive offense.
I was outraged by the hammock ban, mostly because I didn’t know what I could do to change it. When looking at any “unjust” situation from an individual perspective, the solution can seem impossible. I’ve often found myself asking, “Well, what can I do? I’m only one person.”
I’m sure many others have felt and continue to feel the same way. If every person who wanted to speak, did, then there would be a real possibility for change.
Unfortunately, this was not the case when the hammock ban was introduced. People were initially shocked by the sudden crackdown, but slowly became accustomed to the new way of life. As Dylan Thomas stated, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Complacency is a dangerous attitude to have.
Comfort does not cause change, only discomfort can do that, and large changes often follow times of hardship. As Americans, and as members of the Marquette community, we have been given an incredible privilege to speak freely. It’s time we started using that privilege to our advantage.
Due to potentially negative impacts of hammocks, environmentalists are concerned about the prosperity of the trees. Along with an overwhelming percentage of students at NMU, I also consider myself a nature-lover. We would like to be able to protect the trees where we have spent sun-soaked afternoons binge-watching Netflix so that we can pass this legacy on to upcoming students.
The Code of Ordinances does not specifically state the word “hammock” in its content, nor does it forbid the use of hammocks, only the use of any rope or “other contrivance.”
Certain tree etiquette should be followed, but a complete ban is unnecessary.
Instead, the code should be changed to accommodate today’s modern society. Many companies offer “leave no trace” hammocks with built-in padding and protection for trees.
Therefore, I suggest the addition of the line, “except for the use of tree-friendly straps” to the ordinance code. If used
properly, these types of straps wouldn’t harm trees. More so, they could be allowed on
Marquette city property within the parameters of the code.
Through education and support, the complete conservation of our much loved trees can be spread throughout the community. However, only by amending the language of the ordinance code can we revive the spirit of NMU, and bring hammocking back for everyone in Marquette now, and in the future.