TORONTO—Nik Wallenda has been dreaming of walking a high wire across Niagara Falls for years, but his plan has hit a roadblock from the Niagara Parks Commission which calls his act a “stunt.”
Wallenda has been on the wire since the age of 2 and has set six world records, four this year alone. The Discovery Channel is chronicling his dangerous occupation in a show called “Life on a Wire,” expected to air later this year.
Now he wants to fulfill his lifelong dream to walk to another country in mid-air, and he has the support of the City of Niagara Falls in Ontario and the New York Senate, once Governor Andrew Cuomo signs a bill that passed without a problem.
But his plans have invoked the falls’ daredevil past, a reputation the Niagara Parks Commission wants to leave behind. Without the commission’s approval, Wallenda won’t walk.
“I have reached out to the parks commission. So far I have not got a return call. I know they are busy,” Wallenda told The Epoch Times.
Refocus on Natural Wonder
The commission was created for the express purpose of stopping stunts around the falls, explains interim chair Janice Thomson.
“It was made to reduce the sort of carnival atmosphere that has sort of built up and refocus people on the natural wonder of the Niagara Falls itself—of the beauty of the nature and not about people risking their lives,” she said.
“Anybody doing any kind of a stunt—I don’t know exactly what he’s going to do, where he’s going to start and finish—but anything along those lines definitely has a negative impact. It takes us backwards, back to what the Niagara Falls used be known for, rather than what we have evolved to now.”
Wallenda said he takes offence to people calling his craft a “stunt.”
“It is much more of an art than it is a stunt.”
A seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallendas, a family of tightrope performers, Wallenda thinks walking over the gaping maw of the falls on a high wire will attract attention and money to the area.
Thomson said it constitutes a short-term gain and could damage the branding of the falls.
Wallenda has yet to submit a formal proposal to the commission, but plans to travel there in the coming days to make his case and find out what exactly he needs to do to get approval.
He has a crew of divers, people in boats, and a helicopter ready should anything go wrong, he said, and will bring in Canadian and American crews on either side of the river to set up the rigging for his walk.
But none of that seems likely to address the commission’s main concern.
In his opinion, the area has always been a little carnivalesque, and to this day features haunted houses, Ripley’s Museum of the bizarre and unbelievable, a midway of games and rides, and all the accompanying glowing neon lights.
But Thomson says that has nothing to do with her commission.
“We don’t oversee what happens in the city. We only oversee what happens within the Niagara Park system,” she explained.
“You look at the pictures of Niagara Falls and it’s a beautiful, natural wonder. And that’s what it should remain. It doesn’t need anything to make it more attractive or more interesting. It’s stupendously interesting on its own.”
‘Life is on the wire’
But for Wallenda, it is about more than just that day. His family has been walking the wire for over 200 years, long before they left Germany for America in 1928.For him, walking the falls is a rite of passage for the great tightrope walkers like Charles Blondin who rose to fame after his walk across the falls.
“My great grandfather said ‘life is on the wire and everything else is just waiting,’” said Wallenda.
“It’s something personal. My whole life I’ve heard about Blondin. I have always said, wow, if I could be the next one to do that it would be so awesome.”