On Newport's Cliff Walk, 'love locks' may not be forever

Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:17pm EDT
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By John Larrabee

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Reuters) - They say the whole world loves a lover, but in Newport, Rhode Island, at least, not everyone is fond of the so-called "love locks" that sweethearts are leaving along the resort city's famed seaside Cliff Walk.

Hundreds of the padlocks left behind by tourists as romantic tokens now cover sections of a chain-link fence along the route. Each is meant to represent the bond lovers shared during their visit. By custom, the key is thrown away. 

At a Wednesday night meeting, the city's Cliff Walk Commission is expected to discuss a plan to remove the locks with bolt cutters.

"When the locks first started to appear a few years ago, we didn't pay much attention," said Robert Power, the commission's chairman. "They were pretty nondescript and you hardly noticed them. But now someone has spray-painted them bright orange."

The "love locks" trend began in Europe about 10 years ago, and has since spread around the globe. Some are enchanted by the sight of lock-festooned bridge railings. Others call the dangling padlocks blight, comparing them to graffiti.

In Newport, Power suspects a vigilante wielded a paint can to force the commission to take action. "It's targeted vandalism," he says.

The commission has also added a plea to its Facebook page: “Please refrain from placing locks on the fences along the Walk - they despoil the experience and views for all.”

The Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile (5.6-km) trail, is one of Rhode Island's most popular attractions, drawing thousands each year. On one side, walkers see the Atlantic stretching to the horizon; on the other are Newport's renowned Gilded Age mansions.   Continued...

Locks hang on a fence along the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder