FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The London Bridge is not falling down, despite a British tabloid saying that the western Arizona tourist attraction could be bulldozed to make way for drug tourism.
Lake Havasu City officials heard about the story in The Sun after a local resident from a London suburb showed them a copy of the tabloid. They say it was a slap in the face, particularly when more than $600,000 in bridge improvements are planned for this summer. They demanded a retraction and an apology from the newspaper.
The bridge, which spans a channel between the shoreline and an island in Lake Havasu, was sold by the British government in 1968 to Robert P. McCullough, the founder of Lake Havasu City. The bridge was dismantled in London, transported to Lake Havasu and reassembled over a three-year period.
It is the only bridge leading to the island where boats launch on Lake Havasu and one of the state's major tourist attractions. Some 12,000 vehicles cross it daily.
The article in The Sun claimed the bridge is cracking and that the city is so desperate for tourism dollars that it has decided to create a haven for marijuana users called Hemped in Havasu. Marijuana is illegal in Arizona, except for the treatment of certain medical conditions.
"From a cultural standpoint, not only have we been ripped in terms of our caretaking for this heritage monument but for the adherence to the laws of Arizona," said Doug Traub of the Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The city got a partial victory with the article no longer appearing on The Sun's website, Traub said. An attorney for the tabloid wrote to Traub saying editors were reviewing what he contends are several inaccuracies.
"It's not a great situation to be in," Traub said Tuesday. "On one hand, we know we can't believe what's in these publications and take them seriously. But there are a lot of people who take it with less than a grain of salt."
Sylvia Want, originally from Hampton on the outskirts of London, said she began receiving calls from friends and relatives in Britain shortly after the article came out asking if it was true. She took a copy to city officials, afraid it would hurt tourism and create the impression that Lake Havasu City would become a mecca for drug users.
While the English-style village surrounding the bridge is in need of work, she said the bridge that her brother-in-law helped construct and that lured her to Lake Havasu is beautiful.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau is offering anyone with a U.K. passport a thumbnail-piece of granite from the bridge and a brochure to let people back home know the bridge isn't going anywhere.
McCullough's grandson, Michael, said Tuesday that he would get involved if the city wasn't taking care of the bridge.
The improvements planned this summer - to drain water from one of the support piers and to create an entryway into the bridge to ensure workers' safety - would extend the life of the bridge by at least another 40 years, city officials said.