Nik Wallenda Niagara Falls Wire-Walk Request Rejected By Parks Commission

Niagara Falls

First Posted: 12/07/11 08:58 PM ET Updated: 12/07/11 11:54 PM ET

TORONTO - Canadian officials may have turned him down, but an American man says he's not ready to give up his dream of walking a tightrope suspended across Niagara Falls.

Nik Wallenda, a stunt artist hailing from seven generations of circus performers, was told by the Niagara Parks Commission late Wednesday that he wouldn't be allowed to go ahead with his stunt even though U.S. officials provided their permission weeks earlier.

"I'm a little bit disheartened," Wallenda told The Canadian Press from his house in Saratosa, Fla. "But it's another page in the book and I'll continue to pursue it."

The 32-year-old said he respects the parks commission decision but now plans to take his proposed stunt to Ontario's tourism minister with backing he says he's already received from the region's provincial member of parliament and the mayor of Niagara Falls.

"Hopefully he'll see something in my proposal that may be the parks didn't," Wallenda said.

"When I was six years old was the first time I visited the falls and I remember looking over the edge and saying this would be cool to be able to walk across ... this is what I do."

After studying Wallenda's proposal for three weeks the commission decided the stunt didn't fit with its goal of celebrating the natural beauty of the falls.

It also refused to allow the wire-walk over worries it could set a precedent for similar requests and potentially encourage others to attempt unsanctioned and dangerous acts.

"We respect his skills, his confidence in his abilities, we certainly recognize that. Simply it's not the right time for this for the Niagara Parks Commission," said commission chair Janice Thomson.

Before making its decision, the commission took public response to the stunt into account, reviewed a document detailing the economic benefits the wire-walk would bring to the region and took in a presentation by Wallenda himself.

In the end though, the commission found that the stunt wasn't in line with its mandate and raised concerns over the safety of the public and emergency responders who might have to go into action if the wire-walk went awry.

But Wallenda countered that saying any emergency crews at hand would be his own private team and the public would be kept well away from the actual wire site during a walk which wouldn't be as dangerous for a trained professional as it's perceived.

"The worst that could happen is that I would reach down and grab the wire and wait for help," he said. "If there's ever an issue within 35 to 45 seconds we'll have a rescue pilot plucking me off the wire."

Wallenda also said unsanctioned imitation stunts would be highly unlikely as rigging a wire across the falls would cost a quarter of a million dollars and take four days to set up.

He added that with such a stunt expected to draw some 125,000 people on the Canadian side, the region would benefit greatly from extra tourism dollars and media attention showcasing the falls.

"The eyes of the world are watching," said Wallenda, whose proposed stunt has already garnered attention as far as Australia.

"You can't pay for that kind of commercial, it's a two-hour live TV special."

Despite not having the permission to go ahead with his walk, Wallenda has already started training for it and plans to continue doing so. His rigorous regime includes practising in conditions that simulate the high winds and misty conditions he could encounter.

Ultimately though, he wants to pursue his tightrope walk because he sees it as a homage to the history of the performance art.

A dozen people have walked a wire across the falls, the last one did so 125 year ago.

"It's about paying tribute to wire walkers of the past," he said. "I will never give up."

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Filed by Christian Cotroneo  |