Just a little drama for those of you that, like me, want to spread the word about hammocks. You may or may not know about a meetup.com group I started here in Denver. It is about hammock camping and hiking. Iíve got a little over 40 members right now, all of whom are chomping at the bit to get started. Easy enough, right?
Well, here are the problems. First of all, Colorado has the same rule as many other states concerning attaching anything to the trees in their State Parks. I should actually say, at the campground in their State Parks. Fair enough, State Parks off the list; check. The events also need to be easy to get to, especially early-on. Once Iíve got a core group then we can start doing some camps away from town and there are no problems. But, for the time, I need these events to be local. ďHow about City Parks?Ē say the voices in my head. ďGood idea!Ē I reply. Same rules, but they take it up a notch. Not only can you not tie to trees, but you also canít put any stakes in the ground. OK, no crossed 2x4 stands staked out and no tarps; check. So I need to get some stands bought, built, and borrowed and I can do this in the City Parks, great! Just a minute, how many people will be attending? Since Iím an optimist in matters of this nature, Iím going to assume ALL of my hammock newbs will show. So letís say 40. Well, the Park rules very specifically state that any gatherings of more than 20 people require a Permit. Seems fair and I want to play by the rules, so off go my fingers to the phone to get a Permit.
O.M.G.! I sooooo should have taped that phone conversation. It was many days ago and I canít really quote it anymore, but wow! I think the woman on the other end of the phone thought I was some kind of terrorist. I would say what I needed and why, she would then stammer for a few seconds and ask me to ďplease holdĒ. After what was usually about 45 seconds she would get back on and ask me to please explain it to her again. We went through this about 6 times for probably 10 minutes. Finally, and quite exasperated, she tells me that she will have to have her Supervisor contact me, but he is on his way to a meeting right now. OK, I know the process so I wait. And I wait. And then just when I thought it was over, I wait some more. Nothing, Nada, Zip! Surprised?
Flash back in time a few months when Iím speaking with another gentleman about the idea of a Hammock Fair. He is the guy that plans all those things here in Denver for the Park and Rec. Dept. Pretty good contact, huh? Anyway, after several emails and phone calls from both me and Genuine Draft, we were able to explain to him what the ďhammock thingĒ was all about. Actually, made him become somewhat of a fan I think. As luck would have it, I received an email from him this morning asking how things were going. I told him of my current woes and asked for any guidance he could offer.
Hereís the part I love about government. Within 10, yes 10, minutes I had 3 phone calls and like 5 emails from various people within the bureaucracy we call civil service. This guy apparently carries some weight! The original supervisor was one of the calls. The first 5 minutes of the conversation were so confrontational I was astounded. I began the conversation quite cordially and continued to be at least professional while being Ďput into my placeí. I guess it was just something he had to go through, but by the end of the conversation we were both laughing. I guess it was time well spent.
Hereís the thing, after a week of fighting, kicking, clawing, and playing nice what do you think I learned? Never tell a lie, but donít tell the truth either. The cincher was when I asked the Supervisor what the difference was between what I wanted to do and a large family picnic in the park. He got kind of quiet for a minute then said, ďI suggest when you come in for your Permit that you simply say you are going to be having a picnic for several friends. The hammocks would be no different than chairs if they are in stands. Yeah, I think you should just ask for a Picnic PermitĒ hint, hint, wink, wink. He actually told me that he would not give me permission for the hammocks, but he could not tell me no either. He said that part of my problem with Ďthe systemí is a result of them not having any rules about hammocks. Remember, this is government service, they donít (arenít allowed) to think for themselves, so if there are no rules about themÖ.they must be bad.
Anyway, Iím going in for a Permit on Monday and Iíll be choosing a City Park with grills so I can make a legitimate claim that it is a picnic. Since some of the stands that will be there were made possible by a donation from Speer Hammocks, Iím going to take a cue from him and be sure to have some Hot Dogs at my Ďpicnicí.
It gets sweeter. You ready? June 13th is apparently National Get Outdoors Day and the Denver Parks & Recreation Dept holds a big event. The Supervisor suggested that I should be a vendor (told him a gazillion times Iím not selling anything). It would be a good way for a few hundred people to see what Iím talking about, he says. So, he fired off an email to the person who is coordinating the event. Iím talking to him on my cell phone while at lunch, but when I get back to the office I see that he had copied me on the email. I gotta say that this guy is pushing pretty hard to get me included in the event. Iím very impressed and grateful for that action on his part.
So thatís the very condensed version of my last week. I started out just wanting to set-up a few hammocks in one of the beautiful City Parks here in Denver. In the process, I made a few friends in the local government and am now looking at something much bigger than I was thinking about at the beginning. Looks like today was the day that hammocks got a tiny bit of legitimacy here in the Mile High City. I learned something very valuable too; Never tell a lie, but donít tell the truth either. Probably never be a Golden Rule, but maybe it should be a Bronze one.
Hope this information is helpful for anybody else out there that wants to organize an event, for hammocks or otherwise. It has certainly been an adventure for me.