A wooden sculpture by the Falls of Feugh Bridge was unveiled today, which is intended by Aberdeenshire Council to be an alternative to “love locks”.
There are currently over 200 love locks on the bridge, and the “exponential” rate at which their numbers were increasing was causing the council concern for its structural integrity, as well as generating complaints from residents.
These factors led to the wooden sculpture of two salmon within the shape of a heart being commissioned - the council hopes that instead of clipping engraved padlocks to the mesh of the bridge, couples will instead opt to take a selfie of themselves by the sculpture.
Donald MacPherson, Bridges Manager, said: “We noticed a rapid increase in the number of padlocks about six months ago.
“We were extremely worried, both from the aesthetic point of view, but also the structural as well.”
The council’s worries come with a precedent - last year a section of the mesh of the Pont Des Arts Footbridge over the Seine in Paris collapsed under the weight of thousands of love locks.
Speaking before the unveiling, Councillor Karen Clark said that she had been recieving complaints from her constituents in March, when the number of locks was around 100.
She added: “I contacted our Bridges Manager at Aberdeenshire council who assured me at the time that they would come up with some idea that would not ‘dampen the romantic spirit’ and show the council up to be kill joys, and I am delighted as a local councillor that this wooden love heart sculpture will enable couples to still plight their troth at the beauty spot of the Feugh without disfiguring the look of the historic bridge.
“Certainly my constituents were worried about the safety aspect of the padlocks and the fact that it did not look attractive covered in them.”
Councillors Jill Webster, whose company, Rubberatkins, sponsored the cost of the sculpture, and Moira Ingleby, both spoke at the unveiling alongside the artist.
Cllr Ingleby said: “The popularity of affixing locks to this bridge has increased to such an extent it led to concern for the safety of the bridge, so the council looked to find an alternative way for couples to show their love for one another.
“Couples are now invited to take a selfie by this sculpture and then upload it onto social media, using the hashtag ‘LoveWithoutLocks’.”
Cllr Webster added: “The amount of love locks being attached to the bridge over the years has increased exponentially.
“I hope this alternative will become the preferred option of couples.”
Local resident Sadie Wilson, who lives less than 100 metres from the bridge, welcomes the new alternative to the love locks. She said: “Lots of tourists come here and many of them bring children. With the padlocks being at a child’s eye-level, you often see parents lifting their children up above the barrier to get a better view of the falls, which isn’t safe at all.”
Sadie added: “It started happening about two years ago with just one or two - now it’s gotten to the point where there’ll be 10 new ones a week.”
People are being given until October to remove their love locks from the bridge, then the council will remove them, and hold on to them in case people still wish to reclaim them.