The West Coast’s ‘Locks of Love’ fence has again become a frustrating eyesore as visitors continue to bizarrely cover it with garbage in what’s become a frustrating and harmful ritual.
Visitors have long been stopping at the chain link fence along Hwy. 4 at Wally Creek on their way in or out of the Tofino-Ucluelet region. Many have placed a padlock on the fence as a romantic gesture to commemorate their West Coast experiences.
But a horrifying trend of stringing up trash has also popped up in recent years, exacerbated by the pandemic as disposable face masks have become common ‘mementos’ left behind.
A team from WestCoast WILD Adventures recently did its best to clean the fence as coworkers Anne-Marie Gosselin, Kelly Bedford and Teyah Little tackled the site on May 2.
Gosselin told the Westerly News they had seen a Facebook post showing the fence strewn with trash and were “disgusted” by it, agreeing to leave for work early the next day to remove as much as they could. They arrived at the fence a little before 9 a.m. armed with garbage bags, gloves, scissors and other debris-tackling tools.
“It hit a few nerves. It really got us passionate about what was going on up there. Somebody had to do something and we had time” Gosselin said. “We all stood there for probably about two minutes not even knowing where to start. It was disgusting. We cut off as much as we could.”
“The creativity of what people use to put on that fence is amazing. What people find in their cars or have in their back pockets that they think is OK to leave, credit to them, they’re being creative, but I had no idea how much junk was on that fence,” she said.
She said the area is an important wildlife habitat and the microplastics on the fence could be catastrophic.
“We live and play in that water,” she said. “It’s really important for us that we keep it clean and pristine as much as possible.”
She said the WestCoast WILD Adventures team left signs asking people not to leave litter and plans to keep their eye on the spot.
“We’ll do our best, but I think it’s going to take the entire community,” she said.
Goslin posted photos of the fence and the team’s work to clean it on the company’s Facebook page on May 2 and said she and her crew were surprised and inspired by the response they received.
“When I posted that, I had no idea it would go that far and reach that many people,” she said. “It was great to hear the majority of the community celebrating what we had done. It made us feel good because you never know what reaction you’ll get for taking off peoples’ potential memories.”
Local interest in removing the fence from the area gained momentum last September when Ucluelet locals Dan and Jessica Rutherford spent a day clearing debris off of it and raised their concern about how grotesque it had become.
The area sits outside the jurisdictions of both Tofino and Ucluelet and is the responsibility of B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
A ministry spokesperson told the Westerly News last week that the ministry is aware of the COVID-19 masks and other garbage being hung on the fence and continues to investigate potential signage for the site.
“There is no regular litter pick-up at this location, like there would be at a rest area. The ministry is looking at installing ‘no litter’ signage to remind people not to leave garbage on the fence itself, and in the area. While there is no regular litter removal, the ministry does remove debris once it is over a certain size and in accordance with our provincial maintenance specifications,” the spokesperson wrote via email.
“Enforcement of regulatory signage, or any applicable laws, is the responsibility of the local police agency or RCMP.”
They added that the fence will not be removed.
“Wally Creek, at the Kennedy Love Locks location, can have dangerously heavy water flows, especially when the river is high. The chain link fence was installed as a safety measure to both limit people from accessing the water and to provide a small platform for people to view the river without danger of falling in,” the spokesperson wrote. “The ministry reminds people that littering is prohibited in British Columbia and encourages people to refrain from leaving face masks on the fence.”