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Love locks to be removed from bridge at state park

Locks are attached to a bridge at Sunken

Locks are attached to a bridge at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, Sept. 9, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

Sunken love.

The State Parks Department plans to remove padlocks from a footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park secured by couples and families to express their love and affection.

Park officials say the 22 locks on the 2-year-old bridge must be removed because of safety concerns, ending a romantic ritual before it takes root.

"Over time, mounting locks can add unsafe weight to the bridge as has been the concern in other parts of the world where love locks have been removed," said George Gorman, deputy regional director at the state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation office. "Locks are also subject to rust, which can affect other parts of the bridge."

Placing "love locks" on bridges to symbolize enduring devotion was popularized in Paris on the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge over the River Seine.

But even with a year's notice, a heartfelt wail could be heard from tourists who had participated in the tradition, when, in June, Paris officials removed hundreds of thousands of locks on the bridge near the Louvre, over concerns for the structure's integrity and how the locks could encumber walking.

Now, one of two footbridges that traverse Sunken Meadow Creek in Field Three at the Kings Park facility has become a magnet for the love-struck to join in the ritual. It's unknown if the accompanying tradition -- to ditch the key to the lock in the body of water beneath the bridge, a potential environmental hazard -- is also practiced here.

Superstorm Sandy washed out the original bridge built in 1967. It was rebuilt in 2013 for about $600,000. A second bridge that serves as a walkway over the creek that leads to a picnic area has not attracted similar demonstrations.

On a recent sunny afternoon, pedestrians using the bridge to reach walking trails and other areas of the park debated the issue: romance or practicality.

"I think it's cool to see couples do that," said Eric Pagane, 26, of Smithtown. "But it's hard; I guess if I owned the bridge, I might have concerns that it could compromise the bridge or was vandalism."

Autumn Sugrue, 22, of Rocky Point, found the tradition amazing and said it was unfortunate that it may end. "It's symbolic," she said. "People don't want to hurt the bridge, but I don't think that's what people's concerns are. . . . It's something they do to show their love."

Charles Wallin of East Northport, who visits the park a few times a year, said the sentiment is fine, but park officials should act on their concerns.

"If they believe it's compromising the integrity of the structure, then once a year come and hack them off," Wallin said. "This way, everybody has their time."

His daughter, Jessica, 26, also of East Northport, said the small number of locks makes it "charming. But I can see how if it became a huge thing and they were everywhere and it became obnoxious," she said.

But Gorman said they must come down -- this week.

"We encourage our visitors to express their friendship and love in other ways that do not interfere with others' enjoyment of the natural setting and park property," he said.

"Those who placed a love lock on the footbridge and wish to have it back do have the opportunity to retrieve their special memento at the park office," Gorman said.

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