Lake Havasu City Fights British Attack On London Bridge
Visitors Bureau demands immediate retraction from U.K.'s The Sun newspaper and seeks volunteers to counter false story.
July 15, 2014
Imagine being the mayor of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and coming to work one day to learn that your city's iconic bridge, shipped to this desert oasis and painstakingly reconstructed stone-by-stone in the late 1960s to become Arizona's number-two tourist attraction and reading in a London newspaper that it was, in fact, falling down - just like the nursery rhyme.
Such was the case when a concerned citizen returning from a visit to London gave Mayor Mark Nexsen a story in the U.K.'s The Sun that said the famed bridge is scheduled to be "bulldozed."
While the English Village built beneath London Bridge has seen higher visitation in the 1970s and 1980s and is currently being revitalized, the bridge itself is as solid as ever, save for a few ghosts said to have been transported within the stonework in 1969.
To counter the story, the city's Visitors Bureau demanded that The Sun print a front-page apology and retraction for having published a complete fabrication.
"An article like this is a stain upon our honor," says Doug Traub, president and CEO of the Lake Havasu City Convention & Visitors Bureau. "For over four decades we have been dedicated custodians of British history.
"We stand to lose millions of dollars in tourism revenue if our friends in the United Kingdom stay away out of spite.
"The Sun claimed bridge maintenance stopped," Traub continues. "We invite them to return to write another article - on top of their retraction - as we invest $624,000 more this year in bridge maintenance, in addition to the $2.5 million in bridge maintenance we've invested over the past 10 years.
"We are a small town and our hard-earned taxes pay for all of this upkeep. We can't afford a hit like this. It's just awful to us, a slap in the face."
Volunteers Can Help
The Bureau is not stopping with just a strong demand for a retraction. It has begun reaching out to volunteers for help in spreading the word that the London Bridge is well maintained.
Starting June 29, the plan was that anyone with a U.K. passport, or anyone else with confirmed airfare to the U.K. in July or August, would be provided with a thumbnail-sized piece of the bridge and a brochure about the historic structure. The idea is to have returning residents of Great Britain, and Americans traveling to London on work or vacation, testify that all's well with what's been called the "world's largest antique."
Says the City's Mark Clark, PE, PTOE, Maintenance Services Division manager, "All these improvements that we continue to make keep the bridge intact to avoid any major failures. Once our work is completed this summer, we should have a bridge that lasts another 40 years or more."
Repairs In The Works
The bridge has been holding up well these 43 years, but water has leaked into one of the support piers and now needs to be pumped and dried out. Lake Havasu City also plans to create a maintenance entryway into the mainland side of the bridge to better ensure the safety of workers.
Also on the repair schedule: There's sand on the bearing pads that prevent the bridge from smoothly expanding and contracting in various temperatures. Those pads will now be cleaned.
The CVB's Traub continues, "The Sun story also says the bridge will be torn down to attract drug tourism. Last time we looked, this was illegal in Arizona."
'Chips Off The Old Block'
The city's Visitors Center, located in the shadow of the bridge, regularly sells bridge fragments to tourists. The stones are literally "a chip off an old block" that was transported to Lake Havasu by founder Robert P. McCulloch, but never used in the reconstruction.
U.K. residents and Americans heading to Great Britain can claim their souvenir fragments by visiting the Visitors Center at 422 English Village.
Read All About It
Read The Sun's story here:
Learn more about the history of the bridge here: