Very few reporters know the ins and outs of Ark Encounter as well as the Lexington Herald-Leader‘s Linda Blackford because she’s been reporting on Ken Ham’s attractions for years now. So when she writes about how the Ark isn’t having the impact that Ham suggests to his followers, it’s especially infuriating to him because Blackford is one of the few mainstream media reporters who covers what he does.
It also infuriates him because she’s right.
In a recent opinion piece, she even wrote about how sad it was to see Ark Encounter take so much from the community while giving back something so useless:
… People are free to believe anything they want, but in a country founded by those trying to escape religious dogmatism who made the separation between church and state a pillar of our society, it’s very trying to see Kentucky’s limited tax dollars being spent on this fundamentalist Disneyland.
… [Ham’s] hefty payouts from Williamstown and Grant County have yet to bear fruit.
Just not in Williamstown. By his own admission.
It’s interesting that many secularists and others like this reporter continue to attack the Ark for not greatly impacting Williamstown. Now, even though the address of the Ark Encounter is Williamstown, the actual city of Williamstown is a half a mile off the interstate. Because it’s not very visible, Williamstown sees very few Ark visitors, plus there are no major hotels or restaurant chains there. But the next city two exits north of the Ark exit, Dry Ridge, has been greatly impacted by Ark visitors because there are hotels (with new ones being built), restaurants, and shops, and they are easily visible from the interstate.
So the city that approved Ark Encounter is struggling… but other cities in the area are improving and Ham’s taking all the credit.
The Answers in Genesis “Answers News” took a similar approach against Blackford saying she’s wrong about the Ark getting tax dollars from Kentucky.
… this ridiculous article was so full of, just, outright lies and misinformation and rehashing this ridiculous tired lie that taxpayer money was used to build the Ark Encounter — which we’ve said eight million times it’s not true! But it continues to be spread by people like this reporter who do not do… their due diligence but seem to purposely want to malign the Ark…
This is the problem with the people at Ark Encounter. They live in a bubble where they assume everyone is against them, so that when someone tells the truth, they assume it’s made up.
There’s the $1.825 million they’re eligible to get every year for a decade, courtesy of Kentucky taxpayers. It’s part of a tourism-related tax rebate based on attendance and sales. (Even though Ark Encounter is a religious attraction that discriminates in hiring, the courts said they could receive the money.)
There’s the $62 million in junk bonds that the city of Williamstown gave them to build the Ark there.
There’s the deal says that, over 30 years, 75% of any increase in property taxes in the 800-acre region will go back to Answers in Genesis.
That same deal also requires all Ark Encounter employees to pay 2% of their pre-tax salary toward that bond as well. In other words, money that might be spent in the local economy is being taken out of the paychecks of employees to help pay back a loan.
And there’s the $175,000 that the Grant County Industrial Authority gave to Ark Encounter because Ken Ham’s people said the land was overpriced.
And there’s the $19,000 that the city gave to Ham’s real estate agent.
And there’s the nearly 100 acres of land that was sold to Ham’s people for (literally) $1.00.
And there’s the $10 million for highway improvements to improve traffic to Ark Encounter.
And then, when the city asked the Ark people to pay a small safety fee per ticket to help cover the costs of additional security (more fire trucks and the like), the Creationists fought and fought and fought until they eventually gave up.
The point is this entire Ark has been subsidized by Kentucky taxpayers even if there’s no line in the state budget that says “Here’s cash for Ken.” Millions of dollars that could be helping the people of Williamstown and the local economy are paying for the eventual sinkhole that is Ark Encounter.
The Creationists are lying to you when they pretend they’ve been nothing but a benefit for the city. The city is suffering. And bringing the Ark there was a financial and educational mistake. It’s too bad the people have to find that out the hard way. But they can’t say they weren’t warned.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Dan for the link)