Folks say ‘yes,’ city says ‘no’ to public declarations of devotion
GRAEME WOOD / RICHMOND NEWS
OCTOBER 22, 2015 04:53 PM
Love is: Patience. Understanding. Passion. Whimsical. Fun.
And for the City of Richmond, love is fleeting.
For a brief moment in time, Richmond — more specifically, Steveston — joined the growing list of cities and towns where a love lock bridge was borne out of a few symbolic gestures from lovers.
At Steveston’s Phoenix Pond, last month, about a half dozen couples appeared to have intended to lock in their love for eternity by attaching padlocks to the bridge’s mesh wiring.
The notion of two people in love inscribing their names on a padlock, attaching it to a bridge (or some other structure in a popular public space) and throwing away the key to symbolize unbreakable love sounds innocent enough, but it is rather controversial.
Last week, after the Richmond News posted a photo on Facebook of the locks attached to the bridge, the City of Richmond immediately removed the locks.
“As has happened in Paris and with other locations, if allowed to proliferate, weight can become an issue,” said the city’s spokesperson Ted Townsend via email, after describing the few locks as a safety issue.
Townsend went on to explain that the city has not done a precise load analysis of the bridge, however, as it’s a pedestrian bridge, it does have a limited capacity.
“Concern is more with the design of the bridge. The mesh where the locks are being attached is intended as a safety barrier and if too many are applied they could compromise the integrity of the mesh. While there’s only a few locks there now, precedent in other locations has shown that the numbers can increase rapidly so we’re taking preventative action now,” explained Townsend.
Nowhere in the world have love locks been more popular and controversial than in Paris, France, where more than one million padlocks had been affixed to the 100-plus year-old Pont des Arts.
Weighing a reported 45 tonnes, the locks were removed this summer by municipal authorities who noted they were causing structural damage to the railings.
Notably, several other bridges were afflicted/graced by the love lock phenomenon. People flocked to the Seine River while others protested the act.
According to the New York Times, the love locks didn’t start in Paris, but in Serbia around the time of World War I. The Serbian town of Vrnjacka remains a popular destination for love lock bridges, with 15 in total, presently. Over the last decade love locks took off in various parts of the world, from Rome, Italy to Seoul, South Korea.
Not all the love lock sites are bridges. For instance, on Mount Huang, China, stone and chain-link walls are covered in love locks. In Seoul there are tree-like structures, not to mention a large wall surrounding an observation deck at Seoul Tower in Namsan Park.
No doubt, the locks have stirred conversation, if not controversy.
In New York, for instance, hobbyist lock pickers took to the Brooklyn Bridge to remove the love locks, according to the New Yorker.
In Vancouver, this summer, city engineers removed love locks from the Burrard Street Bridge, claiming structural integrity as a factor. The Vancouver Park Board launched a survey to ask Vancouverites where a love lock sculpture should be placed.
The Richmond News asked Richmondites what they thought of the Phoenix Pond love lock attempt and got mixed reactions. It also found similar results at Richmond city council.
Not a fan of the love lock bridge (at least at Phoenix Pond) is Coun. Carol Day.
“Richmond needs to have an original idea to celebrate love. This could be an amazing art project idea for students, kids or (anyone)” said Day, via text.
Day suggested other ideas, like love tokens placed beneath plexiglass somewhere, name carving on a wood sculpture or painting outdoor ceramic tiles.
“Just use our imagination and create a ‘Made in Richmond’ idea,” said Day.
Councillors Linda McPhail and Derek Dang both said it is right for the city to be concerned about proliferating padlocks on the Phoenix Pond bridge.
McPhail raised concerns about aesthetics on the waterfront.
“My initial thought is ‘no’ — I don’t want to spoil the natural beauty of the Phoenix Pond area,” said McPhail, who just so happened to visit Paris this summer days before its locks were removed.
Only Coun. Alexa Loo replied ‘love’ to the News questionnaire while the rest failed to respond.
While the majority of people responded negatively to the Phoenix Pond love lock concept on an online News poll, most passersby the News spoke to at the relatively new, wooden bridge were in favour of the locks.