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Inroads for the ark park?

The developers proposing to build a creationist theme park in northern Kentucky are now asking the state to improve a highway interchange to accommodate the park's expected visitors, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 23, 2010). A spokesperson for the state Transportation Cabinet commented, "At this point, no commitments have been made." Although it is not yet known how much the proposed improvements would cost, the spokesperson noted that the state spent $45 million on road improvements to accommodate traffic at the Kentucky Speedway in northern Kentucky, which opened in 2000.

The news prompted a further editorial from the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 29, 2010), which previously (in, for example, its December 2, 2010, editorial) expressed serious concern about the state's entanglement with the park. The new editorial complained, "Ark Encounter, the creationism theme park proposed for Northern Kentucky, looms as a more expensive proposition than state officials first suggested," citing both the request to the Transportation Cabinet and the prospect that "sooner or later someone is likely to want help building hotels, restaurants and service stations for park visitors."

The editorial also alluded to two ongoing controversies involving the park. First, the developers have applied for development incentives that would allow Ark Encounter to recoup 25 percent of its development costs by retaining the sales tax generated by the project. The estimated budget is 150 million dollars, so the incentives would amount to 37.5 million dollars over ten years. "[Governor] Beshear argued that the state would not be out any money if the park failed," the editorial reported, adding parenthetically, "Actually, the state would be out taxes the park could collect before it went under, but who's counting?"

Second, there is the question whether the park would be able to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring if it receives the state incentives. Answers in Genesis already requires its employees to endorse its statement of faith. Governor Beshear told the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 9, 2010), "We’re going to require that anybody that we deal with is going to obey all of the laws on hiring and not discriminate on hiring." The editorial commented, "In other words, if a gay Muslim with an advanced degree in evolutionary biology wants a top job at the park, he'll be welcomed by the creationists with open arms. Right?"