By Nina Wu
Love those locks, not.
While the notion initially seems romantic, the fad of leaving love locks affixed to fences, bridges and public structures is, when compounded, a littering problem not too different from unauthorized graffiti. City authorities in Paris finally began removing thousands of locks weighing 45 tons from the Pont des Arts earlier this month as a safety measure and effort to preserve the historic bridge. (A chunk of fencing fell from the weight of the locks last summer).
I wrote a story about our local love locks problem in Tuesday's paper.
Whatever its origins — some believe it was inspired by an Italian film — the love lock fad has made its way across the globe. On Oahu, the most popular spot for love locks is the fence at the summit of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline.
At one time, there were 800 to 900 locks that volunteers from 808 Cleanups removed in September 2014. The next day, they removed another 119, and an average of 10 to 20 a week in following weeks. There is a sign up there that informs folks that the locks will be removed on a weekly basis.
But as we all know, signs don't stop people from doing what they want to do. On a recent Sunday, only two locks were up there, including the one pictured above. Sorry Aleso, sorry Roxanne, but your lock came down. On the following Thursday, I only found one. Side note: What's up with all of the people who climb past the barrier with their selfie sticks - is it a quest to get the ultimate selfie shot?
With the salt air, those locks rust pretty fast. So does the fence.
Social media perpetuates the practice of leaving love locks, mostly by visitors that don't know any better. In this YouTube video, a happy-looking couple places the lock on the fence, then throws the keys "away." It's a sweet video. Except that "away" is down on the rocks below, and eventually, the ocean.
Perhaps there are solutions. In Moscow, they put up artificial "lock trees" along the banks of the Moscow River instead of the bridge at the site. 808 Cleanups volunteer Lanipuakea Pila-Newville suggested people put the lock on, take a photo, and then take it home with them as a souvenir.
At any rate, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is also repaving the trail and replacing the steps with a new walkway, fencing and railings at the two top lookouts (lots of dust if you're hiking during the construction and watch out for the tractors passing by). DLNR assistant parks administrator Curt Cottrell says the new design, with vertical bars too thick to attach padlocks to, should help deter the love locks fad. Renovations began in February and should be completed this summer.
Kudos to the volunteers who hike up there with bolt-cutters to keep the summit fence love-lock free (plus pick up litter on the way down). Photos by Jamm Aquino.