A chainlink fence along Highway 4 is covered with locks and garbage. It has a sign that says "please leave no garbage".
Photo Credit: WestCoast WILD Adventures / Facebook

Sweet “Love Lock” Fence Turned Foul

Stop with the locks already

Because nothing says “I love you” like piles of garbage

When abused, cute romantic acts can cause harm. That’s what happened to the “Love Lock” fence at Wally Creek along Highway 4, on the route between Port Alberni and the Pacific Rim. Roughly fifty-six kilometres west of Port Alberni there is a popular roadside pullout with a fence where tourists would attach padlocks as a sentimental reminder of their trip to the West Coast.

The tradition of Love Locks dates back at least 100 years to a bridge in Serbia in south easten Europe, but the most famous example is the Pont des Arts in Paris, France

Although the traditions vary by locale, generally sweethearts lock a padlock to a bridge, fence, gate, monument, or similar public fixture to symbolize their unbreakable love. Often couples will write their names or initials, and perhaps the date, on the padlock and then throw away the key (often into a nearby river).

That’s what has been happening at the “Love Lock” fence at Wally Creek.

Only over the past few years, it became a bit of a nightmare.

People still left locks alright, but they also started leaving garbage. Lots and lots of garbage.

Anne-Marie Gosselin, Kelly Bedford and Teyah Little from WestCoast WILD Adventures tried to clean it up at the beginning of May. “We all stood there for probably about two minutes not even knowing where to start,” Gosselin told Westerly News. “It was disgusting. We cut off as much as we could.”

But around May 20, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure took the fence down. They consulted with First Nations and other folks in the area and decided to remove it, even though it means the area is a bit more dangerous. They say a new barrier will be built in the coming weeks.

Mid Island–Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne is thrilled that it’s gone. “I drove home from Victoria on Friday night (May 21) and as I drove past Wally Creek I saw that the fence was gone and I let out a ‘Hurrah!’,” she told Westerly News.

Central Westcoast Forest Society (CWFS) executive director Jessica Hutchinson is also happy with the move. She told Westerly News that the fence sat along a sensitive ecological area. It was at the place where Wally Creek and Kennedy River meet, and the trash was blowing into the river. The garbage was affecting the salmon.

Salmon in the Kennedy River have been struggling over the past few years. Now that the “Love Lock” fence is gone, CWFS wants to work with the ministry to put up signs that can teach people about how to not only love their sweethearts but also how to love Wally Creek and the salmon that live there.