Walk the Walk

Today’s a big day in my adopted home town of Niagara Falls.  Word came this morning that Nik Wallenda will get to do his tightrope walk from the Canadian side to the American side after all.  And quite frankly, I’m surprised it took this long to begin with.

For a quick refresher, the reason it hasn’t happened until now was the Niagara Parks Commission pointing to the “no stunting clause” in their ruling back on December 7th.  To quote from their ruling:  “Approving Mr. Wallenda’s proposal would undermine these objectives, set a precedent for other similar requests and, potentially, encourage other individuals to attempt unsanctioned acts which could put themselves and the lives of others at risk.”  So the big concern was that this isn’t what the Falls were about.  The Falls are a natural wonder, and anything that promoted a circus-like atmosphere would undermine what the Parks were trying to do.

Please note the letterhead the NPC used when they issued their ruling back in December:

It’s one thing to say you don’t want to showcase the Falls in a certain light. It’s a slap in the face to have your media release promoting adventure when shooting it down at the same time.  Janice Thomson, the NPC Chair, noted ” Safety and our responsibility to preserve and protect the Falls, and all those who wish to view its beauty, are our paramount concern in reaching the decision we have.”  I had the chance to speak with Nik the morning of the decision, and he went over the details of what he wanted to happen, the safety protocols that were in place, everything that had been taken into account and how everything was going to be taken care of.  You can argue that it’s a smart or stupid thing to do until you’re blue in the face.  One thing you can’t argue over is the coverage this will bring to the city.

Niagara Falls is an international destination.  How was Niagara Falls viewed in an international light last year?

You can do searches all over the internet…different countries, different times, and honestly, the only time this city gets a look from the international community is when someone goes over the brink and either lives or doesn’t.  There are MANY great things about this city that are offered to local residents and visitors from around the world, but the only time the Falls themselves get mainstream coverage is for something either miraculous or disastrous.  The decision today will finally give the world a reason to turn their collective heads for a moment, stop what they’re doing and watch what’s happening here.  The moment itself is of course a spectacle:  Will he make it?  Will he fall?  But what we do with that moment is the key to everything.

Wallenda wants it on TV, and apparently it’s going to go live internationally.  What spots are going to run during that time?  What interviews and requests for information are going to come flooding in before the summer?  How many people are going to come see it happen in person? (Wallenda has stated research puts the number over 100,000.)  It’s about time that something BIG happens here to grab the world’s ever fleeting attention.

I understand the NPC was resting on it’s laurels.  I understand that we don’t want random people jumping in and over and around the Falls.  I understand stupid people are going to try to do these things anyways, and frankly, I call that Darwin at work.  The people who have to risk their lives to save these idiots are the ones I worry for, and anyone who gets caught being an idiot and surviving anything they decide “seemed like a good idea at the time” should have to pay hefty fines and do more than a little jail time.  THAT is your deterrent (outside of the whole dying stupidly thing).  You can’t let the potential idiotic actions of a few take away the oppourtunity to do something that so many people will be involved in and enjoy, whether they agree with it happening or not.

As noted in today’s result, “This decision was approved in part in recognition of the role that stunting has played in the history and promotion of Niagara Falls.”  There are stipulations that it’s a one time deal once every 20 years on a case by case basis.  So after this, we’re probably not going to see anything else happen until 2032.  I get the reasoning behind this; they don’t want to be deluged with requests and offers.  And from the beginning, I’m not sure how many people were arguing that we should let everyone who wants to do something go ahead and do it.  What the majority of proponents wanted, myself included, was the chance to show Niagara Falls on an international stage in a positive light.  And it’s not that it hasn’t happened in other ways, but not on this big a scale, with this big an audience, as a one off event…how could we not go for it?

Nik’s a big boy, he makes his own decisions.  And frankly, I don’t care how much money he’s going to make off it.  This is Niagara Falls’ chance to show off the goods, to people who are looking for nature, gardens, heritage AND adventure.  The War of 1812 has it’s 200th anniversary this year, and adding this event just makes the year that much bigger for Niagara Falls and for all of Niagara.  I’m just glad the NPC finally saw the light and remembered what’s on their letterhead.

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