KODIAK, Alaska — They’re locks of love, inspiration and memories.
Take a stroll down the sidewalk atop Fred Zharoff Memorial Bridge, and you too might feel inspired looking at the padlocks known as “love locks” that sporadically decorate the safety fence.
Similar to the “love locks” on the famous Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge in Paris, more than 30 locks decorate Kodiak’s only major bridge. The idea is simple: couples write their name on a padlock, lock it to the bridge and throw the key in the water below as a symbol of their permanent love.
The Pont des Arts was the original home of the “love locks,” but the concept has gone global. Each lock has a story behind it.
At the start of the school year, Kodiak High School senior Courtney Ibabao put up a lock with her boyfriend of two years, Myles Wilson.
“We found out about the lock tradition because a lot of other teens have done it and since it was our senior year we wanted to put up our own lock,” Ibabao told the Daily Mirror in a Facebook message.
Their lock includes their initials on the front, “6-16-11″ on the back for the day he asked her out, and an infinity sign.
Ibabao said the lock signifies that no matter what happens in their near future, as they both apply for college and make life-changing decisions, they’ll always have a place for each other in their hearts.
“Senior year is a pivotal point within our lives, and we’re in the process of applying for colleges and deciding where we want to go,” she wrote. “The lock just shows our love for one another.”
Other locks bear similar initials and dates, while others are decorated with quotes or phrases: “Love that we can not have is the one that lasts the longest, hurts the deepest and feels the strongest,” ”Katy and Carly do good!” and “Can’t phase us! 11/19/2012 JM + JV.”
While the locks – a symbol of love – are barely noticeable to passing cars, the state considers them vandalism.
Fred Zharoff Memorial Bridge is maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation, which manages the state’s highway bridges. ADOT is the organization that has the authority to make the decision on whether the locks stay or go.
“In the strict sense of the word, it’s vandalism,” ADOT media liaison Jill Reese said. “We don’t let people put up signs if we can help it.”
In Anchorage, ADOT frequently deals with people hanging advertisements or political signs on bridges, and they quickly get taken down.
“We can’t have anything hanging on the bridges that way at all,” Reese said. “Mainly because it’s a distraction to the drivers.”
While the locks aren’t legally allowed, Reese doubts they’ll be taken down anytime soon – if at all.
“Something like this would be low on the to do list,” she said. “In the strict sense of the word, yes we would go out and take them down. In the real world, everything we do like that costs money and our budget keeps us from doing things like that.”
ADOT evaluates and addresses incidents of vandalism on a case-by-case basis to decide which cases require action.
Reese hasn’t heard of the “love lock” trend on bridges anywhere else in Alaska.