Photo: Trust for Governor’s Island, Hammock Grove at Governor’s Island in New York City.
Anyone can find a park with trees to hammock, but not everyone can find a park specifically built for hammocking. In July of this year, Kristin Smith and her Girl Scout troop set out to make this a reality for the community of Fayetteville, AR. Since its grand opening on September 12, the hammock hotel in Wilson Park has experienced great use from people of all ages. We decided to pick Smith’s brain on her troop’s successful project and the impact it has had on their community.
LA SIESTA: Can you briefly describe for us what a hammock hotel is?
Kristin Smith: In our case, it is a group of poles (we have seven of them) designed for people to hang their hammocks and enjoy a park atmosphere. On ours, you can have up to 12 in a single layer. You can also hang them in two layers.
LA SIESTA: When did you first hear about hammock hotels?
KS: My daughter brought it up in April of this year. She got the idea from reading the book “Ultimate Hang” by Derek Hansen. Hansen actually stepped in later and helped us in designing the blueprint for the project.
LA SIESTA: So what made you and your troop want to put this idea into action for Wilson Park in Fayetteville?
KS: In May, my girls went to Wilson Park for a school outing. They wanted to build the hammock hotel because while they were there, they observed trees that were damaged from hammocks being hung from them. There were some that even put hooks in the trees. Mostly, though, it was from people wrapping the slack line around the tree incorrectly.
LA SIESTA: People often view the park as a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. How does the hammock hotel further promote this idea?
KS: The hammock hotel gives people a place to relax in groups. We’ve passed by regularly and have seen up to six hammocks at a time being used. Someone is always using it. It gives them a place to hang their hammock without damaging the tree.
LA SIESTA: How is the Hammock Hotel set up? Are the poles arranged in any particular way?
KS: The poles are 12-foot-tall utility poles. They’re sunk five feet into the ground with seven feet sticking out. They’re arranged in a hexagonal formation with one in the center. The poles are all 14 feet apart. There are hooks in each of the poles at approximately six feet from the ground, which accommodates a hang for a standard 10-foot-long hammock or even a custom hammock that’s longer. No matter what the length, it’ll still hang at a sitting level.
LA SIESTA: How has the Fayetteville community responded to the hammock hotel?
KS: We’ve had lots of great response. We had a good showing come out for the grand opening. A lot of local outfitters donated prizes for the event. In addition to that, a lot of outfitters have blogs and have written about the girls on their sites…even the Girl Scout council has contacted us for advice about other troops building hammock hotels and building similar structures at Girl Scout camps.
LA SIESTA: You facilitated the kids in your troop building the hammock hotel. How have other kids responded to the hammock hotel?
KS: I think it has inspired them. It wasn’t my whole troop that built it; it was just three girls. But the project has inspired the other girls scouts to build similar projects in their communities. The girls that built the hammock hotel had just finished fifth grade, and at the grand opening, there was a good number of high school and college kids. It has had an influence on kids of all ages, not just the same age of ours. Most kids our age don’t even have hammocks.
LA SIESTA: Having said that, do you think kids their age will be inspired to take up hammocking as a result of the park?
KS: Very likely. Hammocking is mostly popular among high schoolers and college students. It has no age limit. I saw a lady in her fifties backpacking with a hammock on a trip we took. The only thing holding the kids back from using hammocks is that they have to rely on their parents to take them places and buy things for them.
LA SIESTA: Will the hammock park change that?
KS: Plenty of kids already use Wilson Park. It’s already an attractive park in that lots of people of all ages use it.
LA SIESTA: What do you think the overall message the hammock hotel sends to people?
KS: I think it says, “Get out and enjoy nature.” I also think it says that kids can do great things for the environment. People need to give kids the kids the tools to let them lead. All they need is a little help and encouragement.
LA SIESTA: Are you and your troop planning on building any more hammock hotels in the future?
KS: Not right now. But we would love to help others build them and see others built … Springdale is a neighboring town with tons of Girl Scouts. The Girl Scout leadership unit in Springdale has encouraged them to mimic our hammock hotel in multiple parks across the town.
LA SIESTA: So what would you say is the best thing about hammock hotels?
KS: The best thing about hammock hotels is that it eliminates the problem of improperly hanging hammocks on trees. The best thing about our hammock hotel is that it taught my girls to step up and make a difference in the community.There are many ways to sit in a hammock. How many of them do you know?