A Slate article the other day compared the Ark Park to Coleridge’s Xanadu: “an extravagant vanity project born out of boundless narcissism and ambition.” An apt comparison, except of course that in the poem Kubla Khan actually builds his stately pleasure-dome – and he does not float junk bonds to do so.
Recently in Ark Park Category
The Creation “Museum” in Kentucky recently acquired an Allosaurus fossil, according to an AP release by Dylan Lovan yesterday. The proprietor of the Creation “Museum,” Ken Ham, seems to think that the mere acquisition of a dinosaur fossil gives his “museum” credibility and makes it a real museum. The fossil was donated by the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation of Maryland, about which I have so far managed to learn virtually nothing.
The article quotes geologist Dan Phelps, a perpetual thorn in the side of the Creation “Museum”:
Several weeks ago we reported that Daniel Phelps had received a “Dear Danny” letter from Ken Ham and the Ark Park. You may have noticed that on the third page of the letter, “Danny” was specifically invited to “join Ken Ham and other leaders of the Ark Encounter project … for one of two special events on either October 4 or 5, 2013.” Alas, poor Danny received a very terse letter, which says in its entirety
[Update, October 4, 2014. Earlier today I received a press release, which I summarize in the 17th comment below, dated today at 3:15 pm.]
By Dan Phelps
On September 12, 2013, I received a letter (see Appendix) signed by Ken Ham and a slick advertisement from the Ark Encounter touting funding the Ark Park via bonds. The bond issuer will be the City of Williamstown, Kentucky. According to the website mentioned in the letter, the co-borrowers will be Crosswater Canyon, Inc., a non-profit organization controlled by Answers in Genesis, and Ark Encounter, LLC (co-borrower, solely owned by Crosswater Canyon, Inc.).
Reporter James McNair recently reported in a Cincinnati newspaper that the attendance at the Creation Museum has dropped for four consecutive years and that Answers in Genesis lost over $500,000. These tidbits inspired my colleague Dan Phelps and me to look at AIG’s Forms 990. These are tax forms that must be submitted by nonprofit organizations to the US Internal Revenue Service and may be found if you have a (free) account on GuideStar.
According to various Forms 990 through the tax year ending June 30, 2011, in four consecutive years, AIG has run surpluses of approximately $2.1 million, $716,000, and $940,000, and a loss of $540,000. Not exactly a monotonic decline, but certainly a steep drop from a surplus of $2.1 million to a loss of $540,000 in three years. Can we expect similar losses due to the Ark Park? Maybe: Joe Sonka in the Louisville newspaper LeoWeekly reports that “… correspondence between Ark Encounter and the Tourism Cabinet reveal an application process that proceeded with remarkable speed, little scrutiny, and standards that appear different from that of [another applicant].”
The 2010 Form 990 (for fiscal year ending June 30, 2011) has some interesting information.
Dan Phelps, author of a recent PT article on the Creation “Museum”, sent us this link to a “documentary” on “replicating” the Ark. The “documentary” is a three-part series and has supposedly been produced for PBS stations.
Mr. Phelps says he could not find any PBS stations that are actually airing the “documentary.” Can any reader point to a PBS station that has shown it or plans to show it?
***Update, October 10: Joe Sonka, in an article for the Louisville newspaper LEO Weekly, reports that PBS has no knowledge of any documentary. He quotes Ken Ham, however, as saying that PBS had agreed to three documentaries. Perhaps Mr. Ham is exaggerating.
The director of the “documentary,” Johan Bos, incidentally, is associated with an oddball outfit that offers classes in film production and guarantees, “This class is a Christian safe environment. This class does not teach secular or worldly views.” A Christian-safe environment. I had no idea that Christianity was so fragile.***
Dan Phelps, right, armed for battle, with his new friend, Ken Ham.
On July 28, 2012, Answers in Genesis (AIG) held a “Behind the Scenes” event at the Creation “Museum’s” Legacy Hall. The event was free but with RSVP required via the Ark Encounter website. I made it a point to register well in advance and ask for a space for a guest. I invited reporter Joe Sonka from LEO Weekly to come along since he has done numerous critical news articles and blog postings on the Ark Park. Indeed it was Joe who asked Governor Beshear and Ark Encounter representatives some embarrassing questions revealing that the Ark would have dinosaurs on it when the project was announced in December, 2010. What follows is my account of the event and summary of the status of the proposed park.
The governor of Kentucky plans budget cuts of $350 million over two years, including $50 million from public education and substantial cuts to higher education – but has managed to find $11 million to build an interchange to a phantasmical Ark Park, according to LEO Weekly, a Louisville alternative newspaper. Presumably the interchange, which will connect to a 1-mile road between Interstate 75 and a town of 3500, will go to roughly the same place as the Bridge to Nowhere or one of its brethren.
The governor, Steve Beshear, reportedly understands that his state “struggles due to the lack of an educated labor force” and admits that his proposed budget “is inadequate for the future needs of our people.” Maybe he should read a recent editorial in Science magazine and ponder whether the poor performance of US students in science and mathematics can be traced to politicians who cut education budgets and pander to anti-scientific crackpots.
LEO Weekly, an alternative weekly published in Louisville, Kentucky, reports that fundraising for the Ark Park has gone virtually nowhere since last May. Groundbreaking, if it was ever planned at all, has been postponed and postponed and postponed until next spring at the earliest.
LEO Weekly reports that the Ark Park has raised only about $1 million since last May and has raised a total of $4 million altogether. Its goal is to raise approximately $25 million. A representative of the Ark Park says, “Funding is progressing, a little slower [sic] due to the very slow economy.” He says further that they are 3-4 months behind schedule and adds, “We are considering a few options to help speed up the construction and possibly open to guests earlier than our original schedule. Once we have more information developed I’ll update you – probably by the first of the year.” LEO Weekly estimates that at the present rate groundbreaking might be scheduled for 2024.
My own estimate is that their timescale is skewed by their belief that the Earth is around 5000 years old. It is in fact more like 5 billion years old. Thus, if we take 3-4 months and multiply it by the ratio of 5 billion years to 5000 years, we estimate that the groundbreaking ceremony will take place in 3 million months, or 250,000 years.
Anyone who wonders where the money may be going in the meantime might consider the review by a volunteer named Roxy, posted at Charity Navigator. Additionally, comments to the LEO article claim that the Ark Park itself is a for-profit venture, but the Ark Encounter Website is not completely clear (to me, at least), and I cannot independently verify the claims. I cannot, however, find Ark Encounter in IRS Publication 78 .
On the evening of August 9, 2011, the City of Williamstown, Grant County, Kentucky, and Ark Encounter (AE)/Answers in Genesis (AIG) held a “Listening Session” at Williamstown High School to discuss local concerns about the Ark Park. Government officials present included Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner, the entire Williamstown City Council, members of the Dry Ridge City Council, Wade Gutman of the Grant County Industrial Board, Sally Skinner of the Williamstown Independent School Board, members of the Grant County School Board, the Grant County Planning Board, the Grant County Tourism Board, the Rural Development Board, Royce Adams of the Kentucky House of Representatives, a representative of the Veteran’s Cemetery, and Judge Executive Darrell Link of the Grant County Fiscal Court. Representing Ark Encounter/AIG were Mike Zovath and attorney Jim Parsons. Tad Long of the Kentucky League of Cities served as a facilitator. The local cable access channel videotaped the meeting. I made an audio recording.
Approximately 450 to 500 citizens attended the meeting; all seats were taken and a number of people had to stand along the walls. Interestingly, the majority of attendees appeared to be forty or older. The event was well organized and friendly throughout. Mayor Skinner briefly introduced the various people giving presentations and those available to answer questions.
A reader sent me this link with the subject line above. The state and the county have committed $40 million in tax credits, as well as other perks, to a for-profit venture to build an Ark Park in order to spur “economic development.” Someone may correct me, but unless I am mistaken such enticements for sports stadiums and other ventures almost never pay for themselves. Besides, a state senator notes at the bottom of the article, the developer said it did not need the incentives, so why were they offered?
See also an earlier article here.