For three years, couples have been using padlocks to symbolize their love and locking them to a section of fence overlooking Portland Harbor on Commercial Street. Now, seen as a safety hazard, Portland officials will be replacing it.
In the last two weeks, according to Christopher Branch, the director of Portland Public Works, a portion of the chainlink fence separated from the metal support beams. City workers used clamps as a temporary fix to reattach it along with a barrier and caution tape.
Branch also said that a new fence has been ordered, and the fence will be built while the current one is being torn down.
The fence separates foot traffic on the sidewalk from a sewage and stormwater outflow into the harbor. There are between 5,400 and 6,000 locks on the fence, according to our decidedly unofficial estimates.
Portland spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said that only the gate of the fence, locks included, will be preserved. It will be displayed in a parking lot by DiMillo’s Restaurant, according to the Portland Press Herald, which first reported the story.
The Love Locks tradition has origins back to World War I, but picked up steam after a the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris was covered in an estimated 45 tons in locks by visitors. Since then, fences all over the world have adopted the tradition, according to a report from The Forecaster.
David and Dava Lackey, from Denver, North Carolina fixed a golden lock to the fence, commemorating their 20th anniversary.
“Our daughter has always dreamed of one day going to Paris to do a lock on the bridge,” Dava Lackey said. “Last night we sent her a picture of it and said you could stay in America to do it.”
Ryan Bell and Sabrina Haney, from Limestone, Maine, traveled to Portland to put a lock on the fence. They were disappointed, but understood why the city was removing it.
“It’s probably better [to move it] if it’s going to fall in,” Bell said.