The first thing Ayse Kiil noticed Monday when she walked to the end of the Bridge to the Beach at Chambers Creek Regional Park was the top cable of the protective barrier, sagging under the weight of roughly 60 padlocks.
Taking advantage of Monday’s summerlike weather, the University Place resident and her husband, Glenn, were in search of a padlock they’d left there a month earlier.
“It just makes me sad that it’s falling,” Ayse Kiil said.
Pierce County officials say the problem with the drooping cable goes beyond aesthetics. The growing popularity of fastening a lock to the public bridge and throwing away the key has created a romantic symbol in the UP park — and that’s not all.
“Right now those locks have created a hazardous condition,” said Brian Ziegler, the county’s Public Works and Utilities director.
The cable barrier can no longer keep a small person from falling to the water below. And while it would take a lot of work for a child to fit between the top solid steel rail and the sagging cable, the county is working on a solution to prevent that possibility.
“Legend is people who are in love cement their relationship in a permanent place where it can’t be unlocked,” Ziegler said. “We know that and we respect that, but we do have serious safety concerns about what happens when the weight of those locks drags one of those cables down as low as they do.”
The county can tighten the cables to restore the tension to some degree, but it’s not a practice that can continue indefinitely.
“The cables are designed to prevent people from falling through; they’re spaced to prevent particularly young children from falling through,” Ziegler said.
The few hundred locks affixed at Chambers Creek are nowhere near the hundreds of thousands of locks that adorn the wire fencing of the Pont des Arts in Paris — one of the world’s most famous “Love Lock” bridges. But their charm among couples such as the Kiils can’t be disputed.
When the Kiils returned to see their lock this week, it took some searching because it was no longer alone.
While some locks are randomly placed along the sides of the 950-foot bridge, the majority are clustered at the end.
Last summer a county spokesman said the locks would be taken down when it came time for a 350-foot extension of the bridge over the water, but Ziegler said that’s no longer the plan. The locks will be moved, but not removed, at an uncertain future date, he said.
“We respect the intentions of all the people who came out and left their mark,” he said. “The hope is that we can put in a temporary and more rigid, more robust rail design.”
Design options include a mesh or rod system that would allow the locks to slide from the cable to a new rail on the bridge.
Once the new rail is in place, the county anticipates it will need to move the locks on a regular basis. Ziegler said it won’t involve cutting the locks.Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467 email@example.com