One of the West Coast’s most frustrating litter magnets is no more.
The ‘Locks of Love’ fence was removed from its perch alongside the Pacific Rim highway on May 21.
“I drove home from Victoria on Friday night (May 21) and as I drove past Wally Creek I saw that the fence was gone and I let out a, ‘Hurrah!’ I was really happy,” Mid Island – Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne told the Westerly News.
Osborne’s enthusiasm was shared by many on the Coast who have watched the fence become an environmental nightmare in recent years.
The chain link fence was originally installed to prevent people from falling from the popular viewpoint along Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and the Tofino-Ucluelet junction. It earned its nickname as tourists began locking padlocks onto it in what became a misguided effort to leave a memento of their West Coast experience.
In recent years, that morphed into a bizarre trend of leaving garbage on the fence, including COVID-19 masks, and the resulting mess became a frustrating point of contention and environmental hazard.
“Unfortunately, over the past few years, there have been many incidents where garbage and debris has been left on the fence and at the Wally Creek site. Recently, and in consultation with First Nations and local stakeholders concerned with this area, the ministry reviewed the option to remove the fence and staircase to help mitigate the littering issue,” a ministry of transportation and infrastructure spokesperson told the Westerly News via email.
The spokesperson said the fence was removed by a maintenance contractor and a new roadside barrier will be installed “in the coming weeks.”
“In the interim, the public is reminded to adhere to the temporary signage and limit their access to this area, in order to ensure their ongoing safety,” they said.
Osborne, a longtime West Coast resident and former mayor of Tofino had reached out to the ministry as well as the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Central Westcoast Forest Society early this year.
“It’s always been my experience that we find solutions when we work together. Collaborating means listening to each other, trying to understand somebody’s perspective and then working to find a solution,” she said. “It’s not always easy and sometimes it takes longer than people wish it would and so it takes a patient and respectful approach, but time and time again I think we find solutions when we do sit down and work together and this is a great example of that.”
Central Westcoast Forest Society executive director Jessica Hutchinson told the Westerly that Wally Creek is a tributary flowing into Kennedy River and the garbage covered fence bordered the spot where the two collide.
“We’re just so happy with this outcome…It was a point source for pollution in Kennedy River because unfortunately people were stringing up more than just locks and garbage and that keys were being encouraged to be thrown into the river itself,” she said. “It’s pretty disappointing to see that it could be treated this way.”
She said the Kennedy River’s salmon stocks have plummeted, with only two Chinook counted in 2020 and added that, with the fence now gone, the CWFS is hoping to continue working with the ministry to install signage explaining the area’s ecological sensitivity.
“It’s kind of sad that we even need signage to remind us that these are sensitive ecosystems. Perhaps in the romantic notion of a lock and a key, we’re losing sight of a more romantic notion that these ecosystems we are a part of and we need to treat with respect and take care of them,” she said.