Sinking Ship?: Kentucky “Ark Park” Faces Funding Shortfalls, Delayed Groundbreaking

Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has backed this project under the guise that it will create jobs. Maybe that’s true, but so far the state’s $40 million incentive package has not created a single useful thing for anyone.

As time passes, the “Ark Park” in Kentucky is beginning to look more and more like a sinking ship.

Americans United has been highly critical of the proposed theme park, which would include a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark and models of dinosaurs, which Answers in Genesis (AiG), the group heading the project, insists were carried on the biblical boat.

According to multiple reports in LEO Weekly (Louisville), AiG said in January that ground would be broken on the project in the spring of 2011. Then in May, AiG said groundbreaking would be over the summer. In June, AiG said construction would begin in August. By early August AiG still had not broken ground but promised that it would happen “in the next few months.”

Then in late August, AiG bumped the timetable way back, saying groundbreaking would begin in the spring of 2012.

In the meantime, AiG continues to take donations even though it is well short of the total it needs to build the “Ark Park.” According to another article in LEO Weekly, the project has received just $4.3 million of the $24.5 million sought. Donations have totaled a mere $1.3 million in the last seven months. 

In an October email to Todd Cassidy, executive director of the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet’s office of financial services, AiG Senior Vice President Mike Zovath said:

“Todd, we actually considered an official ground breaking earlier this month but too many complexities got in the way so we ended up putting it on hold until everything is worked out. Funding is progressing, a little slower due to the very slow economy.”

Zovath also said in the email that there have been problems with permits and purchasing property, meaning it could take an additional three to four months before construction can begin. Nonetheless, Zovath optimistically predicted the park would open earlier than the planned spring 2014 opening.

The “Ark Park” is a classic case of state officials using bad fiscal policy to appease the Religious Right. Kentucky has committed more than $40 million in tax incentives to this project, which is being headed by a prominent fundamentalist Christian ministry that believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time and that unicorns once existed – ideas utterly rejected by mainstream science.

Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has backed this project under the guise that it will create jobs. Maybe that’s true, but so far the state’s $40 million incentive package has not created a single useful thing for anyone.

Even if the “Ark Park” does eventually create jobs, the state is still wrong to be backing a fundamentalist religious organization. If AiG wants to build the park on its own, that’s just fine, but government should not be subsidizing a project like this.