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Why the government allows this dangerous sport once a year

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Posted at 4:22 PM, Oct 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-23 16:22:27-04

FAYETTEVILLE, West Virginia — When it comes to the extreme sport of BASE jumping, government officials are constantly at odds with thrill seekers who flaunt the law to leap from America’s majestic peaks and buildings.

But one small West Virginia town is proving that peace can be possible.

Every year on the third Saturday in October, adrenaline junkies from around the world flock here to jump legally from the New River Gorge Bridge. At 876 feet tall, the bridge is one of the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and perfect for the sport. For just six hours one day a year, the state allows BASE jumping as part of an annual festival celebrating the bridge.

Enjoying what is a crime every other day, jumpers free fall from the bridge before parachuting into the gorge, where National Park Service rangers and safety crews provide support–instead of citations–below.

“When we do it here one day a year we can monitor it,” said Dave Bieri, a National Park Service ranger. “We can make it as safe as we possibly can.”