In the great romantic tradition of Paris, “love locks” have come to Duluth.
The padlocks, adorned with initials, hearts and other marker-drawn doodles, have mysteriously appeared on some wooden poles from an old pier along Lake Superior. People strolling down the Lakewalk in Canal Park began noticing the so-called “lock trees” recently, though it’s not known when the first lock appeared or who put it there.
Love locks have sprung up worldwide, mainly on bridges, to commemorate relationships. The most famous collection was in Paris on the Pont des Arts. So many people fastened padlocks of love that the city had to remove them to prevent damage to the bridge.
In New York City, the Department of Transportation began issuing $100 fines to anyone fastening a lock to the Brooklyn Bridge, after a wire on the bridge snapped under the weight of several locks last year. The city regularly removes the locks at a cost of more than $100,000 a year.
Duluth isn’t the first place in Minnesota to join in the trend. Last summer, locks appeared on a chain-link fence in Vermillion Falls Park in Hastings.
Clusters of locks have appeared everywhere from a walkway in Seoul to a distillery in Toronto.
Critics say they’re a form of littering. But fans of the locks say they’re romantic.
Duluth resident Shelly Tarnowski regularly walks by the lake, and first noticed the locks on a wooden post in March.
“I am a sucker for love and art so I had to snag some pictures,” she said.
Tarnowski has watched the number of locks grow in the months since. Though she hasn’t added her own yet, “I definitely plan to in the future.”
So far, Duluth doesn’t have any plans to stop anyone from doing likewise, though parks authorities are monitoring the locks for safety and infrastructure issues, should they arise.
“We just leave them alone,” said Erik Birkeland, property and facilities manager for the city. “There’s not a ton of them out there. It’s not like in Europe.”
Birkeland first became aware of the global phenomenon on a trip to Cologne, Germany, where he noticed stores selling the locks near a bridge. “I don’t know if it’ll get like that in Duluth,” he said. “But it certainly could.”
Mayor Emily Larson told a local Fox affiliate that the locks are a point of city pride.
“We can understand how Duluth’s beauty and the lake reaches people at their core,” Larson said in a statement. “It’s a powerful feeling. We love that people have an emotional connection to Duluth.”