Love locks are a modern phenomena that have caused problems all around the world.
In 2006, an Italian young adult novel-turned-film invented the idea of attaching locks to a Roman bridge and throwing away the key to symbolize a couple’s love for each other. While it was originally thought to be good for tourism, it became harmful to the bridge. First, officials set up posts for people to add their locks to when the weight of the thousands of locks threatened to collapse the bridge. In 2012, they banned the practice and said they wanted to “restore decorum” to the bridge built in 206 BC.
While the practice was first considered charming on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris, they had to remove all the locks when the weight threatened the bridge. More than 700,000 locks added the combined weight of 20 elephants to the bridge built in the 1800s. Sections collapsed, and other railings had to be removed before the bridge fell to ruins. When the railings were returned, they were covered in glass, so people couldn’t add locks.
Some people think the practice is cute; others consider it disgusting. Now, the practice has come to America’s national parks. Usually, when we talk about people misbehaving in national parks, the poor behavior is obvious. We’ve written about people golfing, walking where they clearly shouldn’t, licking toads and more. But love locks seem innocent. The National Park Service says they are litter, graffiti and a serious problem.
In a Facebook post, the Grand Canyon National Park stated, “Love is strong, but our bolt cutters are stronger.” They shared photos of locks they had removed. People throw the keys into the canyon to show their love is unbreakable. Then, the critically endangered California condor can encounter the keys. Several birds have required surgery to remove keys after they swallowed them.
“Condors are curious animals and much like a small child will investigate strange things they come across with their mouths,” according to the post. “Condors are not meant to digest metal and many times cannot pass these objects. If a condor ingests too many objects like this, it could die.”
Condors have been protected by federal law since 1967. Human activities are their main cause of death. Other birds and animals are also attracted to keys and shiny objects. Only 347 known wild condors are left, with an additional 214 in captivity.
We’re taught as kids not to litter. Most of us wouldn’t dream of throwing our trash into the Grand Canyon. But somehow, this act has become romanticized. On the surface, it is sweet and symbolic. But when it is causing damage and harming endangered animals, it’s time to stop trying to leave a mark on the world and just leave an impact on the people we love. After all, saying “I love you” and proving it through your actions will mean more than a lock you hang and then never see again!