A dispassionate look at the locks of love bedecking the Robert Redden Footbridge points up the long-term damage to public property.
But the Rome Public Works Committee is considering a solution that won’t put a damper on romance.
“I’ve personally seen two proposals on the bridge ... it’s pretty touching,” said City Commissioner Jamie Doss, who sits on the committee with Commissioners Sundai Stevenson and Wendy Davis.
The committee is considering shifting the love lock focus to a community art project — much as the city of Paris did when it noticed the weight of the padlocks was overloading the fencing on its famed Pont des Arts bridge.
“Ours has nowhere near the number of they had,” said Public Works Director Chris Jenkins. “Our concern is, as the locks move back and forth, they knock off the paint and cause the mesh to rust.”
It’s just a surface issue now, Jenkins said, but repainting a bridge over water is not a simple matter because of the environmental protections required. A bigger issue, though, are the cuts in the mesh appearing at intervals along the walkway.
“When people fall out of love they go over and remove their lock, and it’s easier to cut through the mesh than the locks,” Jenkins noted.
The problem was brought to the committee’s attention by resident Joan Ledbetter, who’s been researching the saga of Paris’ bridge and the imitations that have sprung up around the world. She said communities are becoming aware of the cost of what is essentially vandalism on public property.
Ledbetter suggested an art installation as an alternative, and committee members brainstormed a location that could become a tourist attraction in its own right.
“How about Unity Point ... where the two rivers come together,” suggested Engineering Services Director Aaron Carroll.
“I love the concept,” said Davis, as other members murmured approval. Ledbetter’s suggestion that the city sponsor a design contest for local artists also netted informal support.
Stevenson, who chairs the committee, said the idea merits more thought. The discussion is slated to continue at the June meeting.
Meanwhile, Jenkins said room for a locks of love installation could be factored into the rehabilitation of Unity Point. The 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package has $1.8 million set aside to stabilize and beautify the eroding park at the confluence where the Oostanaula and Etowah rivers merge to form the Coosa.
The project was put out for bid last year but pulled back after potential bidders had too many unanswered questions about the foundation.
“When people are dealing with unknowns, they tend to bid high,” City Manager Sammy Rich said.
Plans are to do the engineering and design in-house, then put the construction project out for bid again in the late summer or early fall.