The Ark Park is a grifter’s dream

I’m afraid this article on the Ark Park and their plans for expansion is a little too subtle. It’s main thesis is that the people behind Answers in Genesis are glorified carnies, working to rake in the bucks from the rubes, while pushing an oddball version of Christianity. Ken Ham is talking out of both sides of his mouth: to his co-religionists, he declares his collection of carnival rides to be a sacred mission for the church, but when he’s talking to anyone else it’s a commercial enterprise that deserves state support because it will bring in jobs.

Except that it doesn’t.

But the project’s single largest source of funding was actually $62 million in junk bonds floated by the town of Willamstown, population less than 4,000, home to the Ark Encounter and the county seat of Grant County, which faced bankruptcy this spring.

“In terms of revenue for the county, we don’t get too much from them,” says the county’s chief executive, Stephen Wood. The Ark Encounter negotiated a vastly discounted 30-year rate on property taxes in 2013 under a previous administration. “I hate it, but that’s the deal,” says Wood.

A town smaller than the one I live in can float $62 million in bonds? I do not understand economics.

And what few jobs it does create have some rather restrictive limitations.

As a condition of employment, the museum and ark staff of 900, including 350 seasonal workers, must sign a statement of faith rejecting evolution and declaring that they regularly attend church and view homosexuality as a sin. So any non-Christians, believers in evolution, or members of the LGBT community — and their supporters — need not apply. (Although, due to less stringent hiring requirements for contractors, an actor who allegedly operated a gay porn site was hired to portray Adam in one of the Creation Museum’s original videos.)

The article is fine on explaining how the Ark Park is a tourist trap constructed with subsidies of dubious legality, but once again, the bad science isn’t adequately highlighted. I guess I’m going to have to do it.

I’m attending the 2017 Midwest Zebrafish Meeting in Cincinnati next month, and on Friday, 16 June, before the meeting starts, I’m planning to visit the Ark Park, take pictures, put together some commentary and rebuttals, etc. Anyone else care to join me?

Unfortunately, one other thing I learned from the article is the cost of admission: $40 freaking dollars per adult. They really are trying to fleece the flock. I’ll go once to catalog the lies, but never again.


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I would really like to try defrauding them back, using a credit card.
    Pay admission with a credit card, then leave, call credit card, and cancel payment saying card was stolen that morning. The admins will go over most recent charges, when they ask about the “Ark Museum”, response will be “not me”.
    Doubt it will work (other, unmentioned details, make it a hassle also), would still like to TRY.
    Maybe on my next road trip through the area the day after never.

    probably would only screw my credit card company as the payment would still go to the “museum” and get written of as a loss in the CC accounts. oh well, at least still a black mark on Ark “Museum”.
    45 is just making me a radical in every aspect.
    I’ll sit for a minute.

  2. robro says

    I saw this in the daily “First Reads” email I get from the WP. The article title in the email is: HE BUILT AN ARK. WILL NONBELIEVERS COME?

    “Well, I know that answer to that,” I thought. I’m not interested in supporting these phonies even to mock them, but I look forward to seeing what you have to say about it, PZ.

    It might be more interesting if it actually replicated the environment inside an enormous box with only one window shut up with a bunch of animals, wild and domestic, and no plumbing or ventilation system. Perhaps experiencing could be a requirement for becoming an official YEC member.

  3. says

    “Water Park” by the way? Do they have a flume? That could be worth it.
    (I am mentally picturing a jesus flume ride, where you ride a cross down a river. Or maybe a moses in the rushes flume ride.)

  4. says

    As a condition of employment, the museum and ark staff of 900, including 350 seasonal workers, must sign a statement of faith rejecting evolution and declaring that they regularly attend church and view homosexuality as a sin.

    I really don’t understand how this shit can be legal. Religious-based hiring discrimination is against federal law. Exceptions are made for private organizations like churches, but if it’s open to the public then that exception clearly doesn’t apply. And at any rate declaring yourself a church makes you ineligible for government subsidies.

    Maybe a law-talking guy can explain this.

  5. davidc1 says

    I hope you will be on your best behaviour doc ?,not .
    If you get thrown out ,i will chip in £5 towards your entrance fee.

  6. robro says

    Area Man — “I really don’t understand how this shit can be legal.” I believe that as a religious organization they can require conformance to their religious policies. What is definitely illegal, I think, is getting state money to build their damn church…because that’s what it is. However, when a bunch of religious ideologues run things, they can miraculously look the other way.

    Hmmm…perhaps the Church of Satan should ask the Kentucky state government to fund building a Hell Park. I’m betting that would be considerably more entertaining to tourists.

    “Watch the philandering preachers roast in the fire pit.”

    “See the popes frozen in ice.”

  7. tccc says

    I do not think I would commit fraud to try and mess with them, especially for 40 bucks.

    However, they do claim to be a museum, if it turns out not to be a museum and is instead a fairy tale type entertainment venue, I think a charge back on your credit card would be wholly appropriate. In that case, they advertised one thing and then did not deliver that product. Hence the charge back. if the credit card company does not agree, they do not agree. On my Amex, it is as simple as clicking a button online and entering my reason for why the charge back is justified.

  8. DanDare says

    I imagine there could be a case for the payment of public funds, ostensibly to get an increase in jobs and tourists, where the employer has restrictive employment rules based on religion.
    Could the deal be declared unconstitutional and scrapped?

  9. gijoel says

    @4 they could have a underpaid teenager baptize you as you’re drenched by the flume ride. They could make money and save souls at the same time.

  10. raven says

    A town smaller than the one I live in can float $62 million in bonds? I do not understand economics.

    It’s real simple.
    The town of Williamstown has zero obligation to pay off that $62 million in bonds. None whatsoever.
    The only one responsible is Ark Park.
    And they can default on them any time if their revenue projections don’t happen.
    Which so far, haven’t happened.
    It’s quite likely that at some point, Ark Park will default. That is exactly why these were junk bonds.

    PS IIRC, the employees have a 2% charge on their paychecks that go towards paying off those bonds. I imagine they are thrilled about that.

  11. microraptor says

    Marcus @4: It’s probably a “how Noah’s flood carved out the Grand Canyon (but not the Channeled Scablands)” ride.

  12. wcorvi says

    PZ: Use your university ID to get the student discount. Usually it doesn’t specifically say faculty on it, and they probably aren’t bright enough to see the difference. Or, take up a collection – I’d chip in a couple bucks. I miss ‘Sunday sacrilege’.

  13. blf says

    Monterey Bay Aquarium […] doesn’t suck.

    There are numerous tentacles and arms there with suckers. And jobs which suck, I’m a volunteer kelp forest vacuumer!:

    My job sucks — kelp, that is!

    Most weeks, my job on the team is to slurp up the drift kelp from the exhibit, using a siphon — basically an underwater vacuum! […]

    Our Kelp Forest exhibit is a living, breathing, constantly exfoliating exhibit. The giant kelp on display can grow over four inches every single day, and with several dozen algae species in the same tank, there’s a lot of sloughed off detritus to pick up to keep the exhibit clean.

    We do this by inching over the bottom little by little — being extra careful to move sea cucumbers aside away from the siphon hose! A good haul may be over 30 pounds of kelp that can be used to feed other animals in the Aquarium, or create excellent compost.

    There is almost certainly more plausible, indeed, accurate, information / facts in the above quote than at the entirety of all of Ken “piglet rapist” Ham’s boondoogles.