When Mike Field came back to Jacksonville after vacation, he returned to the spot along the Northbank Riverwalk where he and his fiancé secured a padlock engraved with their names to the fence around the walkway near the Acosta Bridge.
The couple made their contribution to a movement that has people in cities worldwide attaching “love locks” to fences on bridges and other public structures as a memorial to their love and commitment.
When Field returned to the site, he realized his and Caron Streibich’s heart-shaped padlock, along with about 30 others, was gone after being on the fence for about a year.
“The fence wasn’t cut, just the locks,” Field said Monday.
His first assumption was the locks were removed from the fence by the city.
He was right.
City spokeswoman Aleizha Batson said Tuesday morning the locks were removed by the parks maintenance staff because the area supervisor considered them to be blight and graffiti.
She said the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department will review the issue for consideration to allow the locks in designated park locations yet to be identified.
On Monday and early Tuesday morning, she had told the Daily Record she didn’t believe the city removed them.
Under city code, any artificial or man-made object illegally placed within a public right-of-way or attached to an object on public property is defined under the law as “litter” and therefore subject to removal.
Love locks already are being hung on the fence again.
The “love lock” custom began about 15 years ago in European cities, then spread to America and other countries.
While Jacksonville’s display was just a few locks, in some locations, hundreds, even thousands, of the locks have been placed on bridges and pedestrian walkways over water.
In 2013, the New York City Transportation Department removed more than 5,000 locks from the Brooklyn Bridge
In June 2014, The Los Angeles Times reported a section of the Pont des Arts footbridge across the Seine River in Paris collapsed under the weight of the locks.
In Cologne, Germany, Deutsche Bahn railway company threatened to remove a multitude of locks attached to a bridge, citing safety concerns over the weight added to the bridge, which was causing the structure to exceed its design. After a public outcry of protest, the company decided against removal.
In Moscow, after so many locks were attached to a foot bridge across the Vodootvodney Canal that its structural integrity was compromised, Russian officials commissioned iron trees to be provided for people who wanted to lock in their expression of love.
Part of the tradition is that after the love lock is secured, the keys are tossed into the water, symbolizing that the couple’s love is eternal and never to be undone.
St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said she personally appreciated having the locks displayed along the Riverwalk, similar to the tradition in other cities.
“It was interesting that a tradition from Europe made its way to Jacksonville,” she said. “It’s sad to see them gone.”
Asked whether keys from the locks being tossed into the river could have a negative effect on the ecosystem, Rinaman said there’s policy and then there’s reality.
“Obviously, we don’t encourage throwing anything into the river that doesn’t belong in the river, but it would take a lot of keys to have an impact. Other pollution issues are more important,” she said.