Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Legalize Hammocks!

Parks Department seeks repeal of ordinance outlawing hammocks in county parks.

By - May 8th, 2024 10:07 am

Hammock. Photo by jchapiewsky. (CC BY-SA 2.0.)

Legalize it! Hammocks, that is.

All across Milwaukee County, when the weather is nice, hammocks are strung up in county parks by local residents seeking leisure in a county park. What they probably don’t know is they are breaking the law.

That’s right, Milwaukee County actually has an ordinance banning the use of hammocks in county parks. It’s not enforced, according to the parks department, whose leaders assume most people have no idea about this curious prohibition.

The department is asking the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors to pass legislation striking the ordinance from the books.

“I don’t know what year this ordinance was drafted,” Milwaukee County Parks Deputy Director James Tarantino told the Committee on Parks and Culture Thursday. “It feels from a different era.”

The ordinance in question (47.24) offered this stringent language: “No person shall lie down upon any bench or table in any park or parkway, nor shall hang, occupy or use any hammock, excepting those used for placing infants therein.”

The parks department assumes the ordinance was created to address vagrancy in county parks. However, park rangers are able to address people living in the parks with other statutory authority, Tarantino notes.

There’s also a separate process that our park rangers use working with [The Department of Health and Human Services] in instances of vagrancy where people are sleeping in the park,” Tarantino said. 

The county also has ordinances prohibiting damaging trees in public parks. So, however unlikely hammock tree damage might be, the county already has rules against it.

The department wants the ordinance repealed, clearing up potential confusion about using hammocks in county parks. The department is also considering special events that might encourage their use. Hammock Day, anyone?

“The reality is people do use hammocks in parks,” Tarantino said, “whether it’s just hanging out on a nice summer day, whether it’s attending special events — July air show — just taking it in, sitting in a hammock, there really is no problem with that.”

The parks committee voted unanimously in favor of repealing the hammock ban, which will go to the full board later this month for a final vote.

Unless there’s strong showing of anti-hammock activists, the proposal seems likely to pass.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks, Politics

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