Nik Wallenda makes another pitch to cross Niagara Falls
High-wire artist Nik Wallenda is making another pitch Friday to take his act over Niagara Falls, personally appealing to the tourism minister of Ontario, Canada, where official opposition has stalled the spectacle.
Wallenda's idea is to anchor a wire over Horseshoe Falls, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border and is the largest of the three cataracts comprising Niagara Falls. New York state lawmakers approved the plan last year, and it also has won support from officials in the city of Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Supporters say the event would bring millions of visitors to Niagara Falls and give the region in upstate New York -- where former industrial cities such as Niagara Falls have fallen on hard times -- a much-needed economic boost.
But just across the river on the Canadian side of the falls, park officials have rejected the plan, saying it would create too much of a circus-like atmosphere and undermine the park's natural beauty. They also raised safety concerns.
Wallenda has said that, if Canadian officials don't change their minds, he'll find another way to take to the high-wire without entering Ontario.
He hopes that Friday's meeting with Ontario Tourism Minister Michael Chan won't make that necessary. Chan could overrule park officials' denial of a permit for Wallenda if he decides the high-wire act should go ahead, the Buffalo News reported. "I'm still very optimistic," Wallenda's manager, Winston Simone, told the News.
The planned show has been in the works for months. New York state lawmakers in June passed a bill that lifted a rule against "stunts" and other daredevil actions at the falls to clear the way for Wallenda's walk. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill -- which would lift the stunting ban for Wallenda's act only -- in September.
But in December, park officials in Canada voted to deny Wallenda permission to bring the act onto Canadian soil, throwing a wrench into Wallenda's hopes of making the walk in June.
-- Tina Susman in New York
Photo: Niagara's Horseshoe Falls, which Nik Wallenda hopes to cross on a high-wire. Credit: Tina Susman/Los Angeles Times