DULUTH – Sara St. Clair and Jason Siwek secured their purple-initialed "love lock" among hundreds of others attached to wooden pilings on Duluth's Lakewalk one November day in 2017, sealing their commitment with a kiss.
On a recent trip to Duluth, the Hinckley couple noticed the pilings were no longer part of the Lakewalk, newly constructed to withstand megastorms.
"We've been wondering, is our love doomed in a dump somewhere?" St. Clair asked.
Well, at least the lock is. About a year after they hitched their lock to a post, a massive storm tore through the area causing heavy damage to the Lakewalk. That post was uprooted along with benches and boardwalk planks.
"There was a frantic cleanup of strewn debris: concrete, posts, rebar, a flipped-over boardwalk," said Mike LeBeau, construction project supervisor for the city of Duluth.
While some benches with plaques were rescued, the posts weren't in good shape, he said, and a quick decision was made to remove them with the rest of the debris.
"No one remembered how [the piling locks] started and no one felt like it was an officially sanctioned thing," he said. "It would be poetic to say the storm washed it away and it floated to the bottom of Lake Superior," but the pilings are likely in a demolition landfill.
It's not clear when the locks, which typically symbolize love and commitment, began appearing on Lakewalk pilings, but it was at least early 2017. The idea stems from the famous Paris Pont des Arts bridge over the River Seine, laden with locks. Couples often tossed the keys into the water for good measure. The bridge eventually deteriorated under the weight and the locks were removed in 2015. A Hastings, Minn., bridge also bears locks.
Weathered pilings with just a handful of padlocks remain intact along a different section of the Lakewalk, and LeBeau noted some locks are also attached to the fencing along the nearby railroad tracks.
St. Clair and Siwek are considering a replacement.
Duluth is special to them, Siwek said, and a lock "is our way of showing each other and the universe our eternal love for one another."
Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450